What would you give for a magic wand to make learning dressage tests easier? If you’ve ever spent hours studying your dressage test on paper and in the saddle and then found your mind goes blank the moment you enter the arena, you know how frustrating it can be. It can also be disastrous for your score if you take a wrong turn. All that preparation and hard work to then feel as though you’ve let your horse, trainer and support team down on the day. Learning dressage tests can be a real pain, but there are some great techniques and ideas out there to help you nail it.
Successful dressage rider and coach Tracy-Anne Ormrod has shared 7 top tips to make learning dressage easier. If you want some ideas to help you remember those tests every time, it’s a must-read. Over to you, Tracy!
1. Make sure you use all the different tools of learning
Humans learn by seeing, hearing, listening and doing. e learn by seeing the test drawn for us, by hearing it being read out or called out to us. Then, we learn by doing, so drawing the test on paper for ourselves and riding the movements when we’re in the saddle. If you include all these elements, you’ll give yourself a great chance of success.
2. Don’t leave learning your test to the end of the day
If you know you’re better at absorbing new information first thing in the morning, that’s the time to spend some time every day learning your test. If you’re a night owl and are wide awake at 9:30pm, that’s your time to get studying!
3. Break the test into sections
Once you’re practicing in the saddle break the test down into sections that chain a couple of movements together. Once you know each section really well you can begin to link them together. I’m a big fan of learning a test in this way and always recommend it to the riders I coach.
4. Look after your brain and body
Make sure that on the day of your test, you look after yourself as well as your horse. So many riders get pre-competition nerves, don’t eat or drink properly and get brain fog when they finally enter the arena. No-one thinks clearly when they are dehydrated with low blood sugar.
5. Practice with online dressage!
If you know your test but you’re not ready to go out and compete, try an online dressage competition. You’ll find out how you perform under pressure with less pressure than an in-person test! And, as a bonus, you’ll get some helpful feedback. Just make sure that you check the requirements for videoing and dress code for your chosen competition.
6. Find out if there are any test clinics nearby
These events give you the opportunity to run through the test in an arena at a competition venue and get some feedback from a judge. You can have a caller if you’re not confident you know the test completely and it’s a great chance to introduce young or green horses to the environment.
7. Upload the Dressage TestPro app
I developed this amazing series of apps with my husband after he saw me learning a test and proclaimed that there must be ‘an app for that!’. We’re proud to combine some leading-edge app technology (such as the ability to ‘draw’’ the test onto the touchscreen of a smartphone or tablet) with all the up to date dressage tests from British Dressage. There are also a British Eventing, Dressage Ireland, FEI Dressage and Para FEI Dressage versions.
I truly hope these 7 tips help riders learning their dressage tests! It should even help them enjoy their competition days that little bit more. I’ve spent decades learning tests and have put all my knowledge and experience into the TestPro apps. We’re very close to releasing a freestyle test app and have been busy working with the US dressage and eventing federations on their versions of TestPro apps. Take a closer look at how Dressage TestPro works here: http://dressagetestpro.com/