Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How To Prepare for a Dressage Show - Guest Blog Post From Our Friends at Equestrian Clearance

 I'm going to introduce my first ever guest blogger, from one of my new found favorite online shopping sites for horse and dog enthusiasts!  Equestrian Clearance is an online clearance centre filled with all your favorite horse, rider, and even doggy goodies at a fraction of the price you will find at your local tack shop.  I'm pretty excited about their selection of bits, as you know I am going through a bit of a bitting dilemma at the moment.  The bit I want is about $100 at the tack store near me, and I see it on this site for about $20, no brainer for me!  

Thank you Equestrian Clearance for writing this post and sharing how to prepare for a dressage show!

How to Prepare for a Dressage Competition

Practice Makes Perfect

  Firstly it is important to choose a test at a level that you are happy with. The stress of competition will make the test seem more difficult on the day – for both you and your horse. For this reason you would be well advised to opt for a test at a slightly lower level to what you are comfortable at when riding when at home.

  Get a copy of the test as early as possible before the competition and then learn it off by heart. There are many ways to help you do this; from drawing the test repeatedly to imagining it in your head or you physically ‘walking’ through the test. If you fear that you may forget the test in the heat of competition, in lower levels of competition you are often permitted a ‘caller’ – a helper who stands at the side of the arena calling out the next movement.

What to Wear

 The Rider

It is important to check the rules for which ever organisation the competition you are participating in is run under, to ensure that what you plan to wear is permitted in the arena. In the UK, most dressage competitions are run under rules set out by British Dressage (BD).

  Standard dress for an adult competing in dressage would involve white, cream or beige breeches or jodhpurs with a blue or black jacket and a pair of black or brown long boots. However, short boots and gaiters (rather than chaps) are fine, as is a tweed jacket in lower levels. Ideally you would wear a blue or black velvet hat; however a skull cap with blue or black velvet cover is equally suitable.

  The small touches are equally important; a white or cream shirt with tie and pin, or stock and stock pin, and a hairnet all help to ensure a smart appearance. Gloves must be worn and most classes permit a whip to be carried and spurs to be worn. You may usually wear a body protector, but this is not compulsory.

  As you move up the levels of difficulty, towards advanced level and beyond these dress codes change, but for most levels it is more important to wear smart, well fitted clothing. This will present the right image to the judge and ensure that you can ride to the best of your abilities.

The Horse

As well as ensuring that your clothing is appropriate, you need to make sure that your horse’s equipment is correct for the class. Ideally you should use a dressage or GP saddle in black or brown, with stirrup leathers and girth that match the saddle. A white saddlecloth is most common.

  At Preliminary and Novice levels a standard snaffle bridle is compulsory, whilst in classes from Elementary to Grand Prix you are permitted to use either a snaffle bridle or a double bridle.

Only in the top levels of Grand Prix and Prix St Georges is a double bridle essential. Flash and cavesson nosebands are permitted.

There are many rules and regulations surrounding bits, so it is important to double check whether the bit you intend to use is ‘dressage legal’.

  Bit guards, boots or bandages of any kind and martingales are not permitted. However breastplates, breast girths and cruppers are (in most classes). Also, for young horse classes and at Preliminary level a neck strap or balancing strap is allowed.

Alongside clothing and tack, your horse’s turnout is another great way to give the right impression to the judge. Plaited manes and a trimmed or plaited tail gives the high standard of appearance that is appreciated throughout the dressage world. Small touches, such as a glossy coat and hoof oiled hooves can make all the difference.

On the Day

Warming Up

  The warm up for a dressage test should be exactly that; you should be warming your horse’s muscles up and preparing him for going into the arena. This is not the time to practice the test in its entirety, however if you are particularly worried about a movement in the test it can help your nerves to run through this a couple of times.

  Only you will know how much of a warm up your horse requires. This will depend upon how comfortable the horse is in the competition surroundings and his general personality – for example sharper horses will often need more of a work in order for them to settle into work.

In the Arena

  As you are circling the arena prior to starting your test, make sure you pick up the rein that the test starts in, for example if you are expected to turn right at the end of the first centre line, then circle the arena on the right rein. As you ride down the centre line for the first time, make sure you keep an even pressure on both reins and with both legs to help keep your horse straight.

  As you ride through the test make sure you ride into all the corners and be as accurate as possible. This means starting each movement or transition at exactly the right point, so make use of half halts to balance your horse and prepare him for each change in pace or direction.

  If you make a mistake in a movement or do not ride it to the best of your ability, try not to dwell on it and instead proceed with the rest of the test and try to improve as you go along. If you go wrong during the test, the judge will sound a horn and you can either recommence from the correct point.

Top Tips

* Practice the test at home in an arena of the same size that you will be riding in at the competition.
* Seek help from an experienced riding instructor to help improve your chances.
* Whilst dressage classes can be a nervous time, remember that this is meant to be fun so smile - it’ll create a great impression for the judge!

A wide range of horse and rider dressage clothing and equipment is available at the best prices from Equestrian Clearance.


  1. wow, very interesting..we learned something new today. Our cousin is going to college in Kansas cause they have the best equestrian stuff
    Benny & Lily

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  3. Great work. I would like to thanks for sharing this interesting and informative post. I love riding so much and I'm learnt a lot from yours post.
    Posted by: Caitlyn | Equestrian Clearance


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