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Having a go at Elementary

  • Posted: 20 May 2012

As avid dressage riders ourselves we like to keep on top of our training and what better way than to try out one of our own Practice Tests. Ruth, from our Dressage Anywhere team had a go with Elementary before riding the test at a live competition. Here's what she had to say in a Q&A session.

How long have you and your horse been a partnership?
I've had Geoff for over five years and although we have a go at a bit of everything, competitive dressage has become our main focus. He's a 14.2hh cob with a very cheeky nature.

What level do you ride at?
We've been riding at Novice level for a little while and have 'dabbled' with Elementary in the past - we weren't quite ready so took it back a few steps. This year we've been going really well, particularly as I took the pressure off competing regularly and just enjoyed riding again.

What are your dressage goals?
This year it's to ride at affiliated Elementary level. It may not mean much to some, but it's a big deal to us!

What challenges have you faced?
Confidence is a huge challenge for both of us. Geoff isn't built for dressage and he can be rather sensitive at times so if you ask too many questions before he's ready it really can go completely wrong and I might as well get off and go home, start afresh the next day. It can be a viscous circle - he needs confidence from me to help him work correctly and set him up for each movement but I need confidence in my own ability to be able to get him there!

How did Dressage Anywhere help you?
I didn't dare go out to try Elementary so rode Elementary 42 in Class 11 BD Practice Tests. I remember being quite nervous even at home in front of the camera, hoping for some really good feedback that would give us something to aim toward.

Best thing the judge said to help?
For change rein in medium trot: 'Needs to push more through from behind through a more supple back for a longer frame and more ground cover. Would putting him deeper but keeping the neck long at the start help?'

Medium isn't our strong point and although we've got past going really fast like a pocket rocket he still has a tendency to hollow and just get a bit quicker. I've always collected a little in the corner before medium to try and show some difference, although we've had comments about this in the past so I was really stumped about how to get that uphill movement for more than a few strides. The idea of getting him deeper most certainly helped him over his back and with balance and then by asking him to extend his frame a little I found he could maintain a softer outline and be more uphill.  

What score did you achieve?
65.94% which I'm still over the moon with!

What next?
We went out last weekend and rode this test at an unaffiliated competition. Although the score wasn't as good (I really didn't expect him to achieve this away from home) the comments were similar showing we still have things to work on, but the test itself was more accurate and he was far more relaxed than he had been previously. Having the test judged before helped pinpoint the areas that needed work and I rode every single stride as a result!

What's more, we placed and came home with a rosette!