Your First Dressage Show
Many horse people find that while riding at home is fun, they are interested in trying to show their horse. If you have been working on dressage at home, or even if you are mostly just riding on the flat, you might want to check out a local dressage show for your first venture into the ring.
Most dressage shows have pre-selected tests that are published at the beginning of the season. These may be official tests that are published by the regional dressage association, or they could be specific to the show you plan to attend. Contact the facility or organization that hosts the shows to find out what tests they are using and where you can find those tests.
Dressage tests need to be learned ahead of the show. They can be quite simple, or more complicated, so it is important to look over the tests and choose one that is within your range of riding experience. Memorizing the test is best, but many shows will allow you to bring a reader who will read the movements to you as you ride through the test.
You will need to pre-enter for a dressage show. Because the show’s schedule is based on how many riders are riding each test, they need to know who will be coming at least a week before the show. Generally the show will post an order of go, including specific times for each ride, a few days before the show. Tests are usually spaced 10 minutes apart and it is important that you arrive on time to keep the show moving.
After you ride your test it will take a while for the results to become available. The judge will need to finish with all the other riders in your class before handing in the completed tests. After that the steward will have to add up the tests and figure out the final scoring. The results are then posted in a central location for everyone to see. To receive your prizes you will need to go to the show office where they will return your test and hand you your ribbons.
One of the nicest things about dressage shows are the tests you receive back. On these tests all of the movements are shown with the scores you received on them and comments from the judge. Because a scribe works beside the judge it is easy for the judge to add comments and thus help you to improve your overall ride. With this kind of feedback you have plenty of opportunities to learn from your mistakes and improve your skills for the next show.
Dressage schooling shows can be very friendly and because of the set schedules are less stressful than shows that run based on the division sizes. There is lots of opportunity to gain useful input on your horse and your riding so that you can improve in the long run. Because dressage is an essential part of any English riding horse’s training you don’t need to be a dressage rider to enjoy the lower levels.