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#trainingtip Learning Dressage Tests

With the new July tests just released today, here’s a few thoughts on how you can learn and practise your test over the next few weeks.

People learn in different ways. Working out your child’s learning style can really help – do they learn visually (by watching), audibly (by listening) or kin-aesthetically (by doing?)

Most people will start by reading through the test, which is great to give you a rough idea but it often isn’t the best way to truly learn a test, especially for children. It's important to read the test carefully and pay heed to the described movements - the letters they start and finish at, where the transitions take place for example - but to try and learn a test by simply reading words on paper rarely makes sense for children.

MiniD (7 years old) has for the past couple of years worked well having me call the movements, just a few at a time, and then after she has ridden them, we discuss them - the shape, the size, whether she was accurate to her markers, what aids she needs to use on a particular movement. She’s quite an ‘adult’ learner in that sense – but she is as yet unable to remember a full test this way. Don’t forget at Demi Dressage you are allowed a caller at all levels – and whilst no ‘coaching’ is allowed, we have no problem with you repeating the movements or reminding your child which way is left or right! In fact you may have heard me calling out on some of the demo vids ‘ to the stables’ or ‘to the fields’!

Many children find it far easier to have the test visually laid out, especially if there are any new movements. Using poles or cones like we suggested in our Ice Cream and Shallow Loop #trainingtips can make it much easier for them to understand where they need to go. Sometimes we’ll have a demo video of one of the tests ridden by MiniD that your child can watch – even if it’s not the same level test they will be riding themselves, all the tests follow a common theme each month, so the shapes and movements will broadly be the same.

Away from the yard, you can draw out the test – maybe you’ve already bought our Welcome Pack and are making good use of the wipeable test diagram in that. Or you could make mini markers and set out an ‘arena’ in your lounge or garden – a great way to exercise the children by getting them to ‘ride’ their tests in order to learn it! Tip: if you have hobby horses this can become quite a fun game! At Pony Club one evening, the children made markers on the kitchen table and then used MiniD’s Crafty Pony to ‘ride’ round the test. All of these interactive/playful methods are usually far more effective than just trying to read and learn the test as ‘words’.

For older children, you can start to encourage them to visualise riding through their tests. What do they need to be thinking about as they approach each marker, for example? Not just ‘where do I go next?’ but ‘what aids will I need to use here?’ This will help your child to become much more of an independent ‘thinking’ rider.

Even if your rider always has a caller, it still pays for them to learn their tests so that they can ride more confidently as they will know what is coming up next.

If you are a rider yourself, how do you learn your tests? Or what method do you find works best for your child?

child dressage arena demi dressage test
A young MiniD using her Crafty Ponies play arena and a dog (!) to learn a Demi Dressage test

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