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That's it, I give up, I will never understand bloody dressage!

16 replies

Velociraptor · 10/07/2015 20:30

I love eventing, but am generally not a fan of the dressage bit. I have been working really hard over the last year to improve, doing loads of some schooling, and a few weeks back I got my best ever score of 32. I came away really chuffed and feeling like I was starting to get it. Then last week, at another event, we did what felt like a similar test, and got a score of 46, the worst we've ever had. I really don't get it, what are they after?

OP posts:
WaitingForFrostyMornings · 10/07/2015 22:20

It can be really simple things like trotting 1 stride past/before A or that you lost the impulse in your extensions (not too sure what level you are at). Also if you practice the same test repeatedly then your horse can start to pre-empt the transitions and this will lose you points.

Do you practice with mirrors at home or have an instructor who can help identify where you may be going wrong.

I gave up dressage years ago but my DD is very good. I still make her practice the basic pony club tests just to make sure she keeps the basics perfected. Good luck.

Rosieposy4 · 11/07/2015 00:41

What level are you eventing at velociraptor, could be a judging problem, partic at BE 80/90, or unaff.

Gabilan · 11/07/2015 08:21

It can be one judge being a little harsher than another. A drop of 10% is only 1 mark per movement for example. I'd think more about your overall trend rather than what one judge said. Also check the scoring, read the comments and see if you agree. I don't know how the collective scores work in eventing but in dressage there can be quite a difference if a judge likes you and your horse and gives you higher collective scores.

And as PP have said, make sure you are accurate. You can throw marks away just by not doing the transitions in the right place. If you do them in the right place you pick up marks both by being accurate and because the tests are designed in a particular way and riding them accurately should help your horse's way of going.

"Also if you practice the same test repeatedly then your horse can start to pre-empt the transitions"

I used to have a horse who was a bit behind the leg. If you rode the same test 3 or 4 times he'd start anticipating, which in his case just made it look like he was going off my leg. Sometimes that particular problem can work to your advantage!

carabos · 11/07/2015 19:07

DH is a listed judge, Group 2 dressage rider and former international event rider. He says that eventers often throw marks away by presenting scruffy tests. The work may be there, but it does matter that you do the transitions at the markers, that your centre line is straight, that you use the corners.

Judges are told to give event riders a platform to carry them through the remaining two tests, so just as you would try to squeeze a wee bit more out of for example the XC time to save penalties, approach your dressage test the same way.

Now that the half marks are available, look over your recent sheets carefully to see where extra half marks can be had - easier to find a few extra half marks and they all add up.

Velociraptor · 11/07/2015 20:21

It is only unaffiliated. The good test was in a 90cm class, the bad one was at an 80cm. We are pretty good at accuracy, not so good at going forward consistently in an outline, although it is something we are working hard on, and it is starting to come. It just threw me, getting such a different score, when it felt like things were on the up. Good point about it only being 1 mark per movement losing you 10% though.

OP posts:
carabos · 11/07/2015 20:28

As its unaff, is this with listed judges or randoms? If the latter, then the sheets are a lmost meaningless and you're better focusing on what your instructor says.

Gabilan · 11/07/2015 20:40

"not so good at going forward consistently"

I'd say that's your problem. What's your horse like? A big warmblood can impress judges so that they give 7/10 because the horse looks good but the reality may be that it isn't really going anywhere. So a listed judge sees through that and may give the horse 5 or 5.5 because it isn't really "through" or working over its back.

A less well bred horse may do a very technically correct test that a listed judge will score well. A less experienced judge may mark it down, not deliberately but just because on overall impression, unless you really know what you're looking for, it doesn't look as good.

Also, some judges are really good at using the full range marks, where others get stuck on giving you 5/6/7. Think of it as being judged by Len Goodman rather than Craig Revel-Horwood. My old warmblood could score 3s and 9s in the same test, because he was brilliant at medium trot but could equally throw his toys out of the pram and pretend he had never done reinback in his life before and someone should really call the RSPCA. My current horse is unlikely to score 9 for anything but if I up my game, he has no reason to score below 7 either because he's incredibly consistent, rideable, accurate and has three true paces.

Unfortunately there is quite a mix depending on judges, your horse as an individual and the test. E.g. if your horse's walk is (relatively) poor and there's more walk work in the test, it may just pull your score down.

carabos · 11/07/2015 22:00

As you're competing at the 80 and 90cm level, think of the equivalent dressage i.e. Prelim, and concentrate on the first points of the scales of training - for you this means rhythm, suppleness, contact (RSC). Get that right and the marks will come.

Ultimately you are developing the next levels on the scale i.e. impulsion, straightness, collection (ISC). A knowledgeable and qualified judge won't be fobbed off by style over substance so concentrate on getting basics in place.

AuntieDee · 10/08/2015 15:57

Another thing to look at is where you are losing points - make sure your double point efforts are nailed. FWLR is a very easy place to pick up marks, but also lose them.

Another thing to check is the test - some specify to leave the arena at C, others don't. If you have a purist judge and you leave the arena at A when it says C they can dock you 10 points. Not all tests have this and not all judges will but it is something easy and silly that could lose you points.

On little tip someone gave me was to always enter the arena before the bell on the good rein so when you go down the centre line there is more chance of you being straight. Might be psychological but it seems to work.

One thing I do is when I am schooling I will school a dressage test a few times. It helps you learn them but also gets you focusing on the accuracy of your transitions.

carabos · 14/08/2015 08:22

auntie most of what you say is incorrect. No tests say to leave the arena at C - that's where the judge is. The specified place to leave the arena is at A, when the boards are continuous. Where the boards are not continuous it is acceptable to leave the arena wherever convenient, but You don't often see that. A judge could penalise, but it would be two marks for an error of course, not ten and in eventing judges are encouraged to be lenient with penalties. Anyone picking up ten penalties would be eliminated.

One thing you must never do, at pain of elimination, is enter the arena before the bell unless it is impossible to go round the entire perimeter outside the boards.

AuntieDee · 14/08/2015 09:56

Thanks for the correction - wrong way round. The error of course could be 2 - but I have seen (particularly strict) judges dock 10 (I don't know why they 'threw the book' at the competitor)

CatchIt · 15/08/2015 03:16

I 'do' dressage and the problem is it's so subjective. Sometimes a the judge just may not like your horse and it can show in your test, or perhaps you're horse is falling out/not working through its back/anything else..!

You can try doing a Dressage Anywhere training test. It's an online test that you video and send in for it to be judged by a BD judge. The training tests give extra feedback which you may find useful?

Dressage can be fun, but it's also pretty hard. Dare I say it, but I am on the understanding that many eventers see it as a means to an end, when the reality is it can make all the difference in placings. Do you have an instructor? Maybe you could think about getting a 'pure' dressage instructor?

carabos · 18/08/2015 12:57

auntie you have not seen a listed judge dock ten penalties in an affiliated competition. You are unlikely to have seen a listed judge dock penalties in an unaffiliated competition. You may have seen some random randomly dock 10 penalties unaffiliated, but that's because at unaff you are not getting any sort of reliable standard.

Velociraptor · 20/08/2015 16:20

I am certainly guilty of seeing it as a means to an end I'm afraid CatchIt. I feel like I have to get through the dressage to get to the fun part. Grin If I could crack it, it would make all the difference though, as we often finish on, or close to our dressage score. It is by far the hardest part of eventing for me. Both the horse and I love jumping, so that is relatively easy, all I have to do it point him in the right direction, encourage him on, and not fall off.

Ultimately I am starting to come to the conclusion that I am not big or strong enough to get the best out of him in the dressage although that may just be me making excuses. He is a big horse, and I'm only small. I will keep trying though. I have a very good instructor, who does just dressage, but she is very busy, so I probably don't have as many lessons as I should. I also need to make myself do more schooling when she is not there to shout at me. It is far to easy to just hack out, and not put the work in.

OP posts:
Lurkedforever1 · 20/08/2015 16:54

Stop thinking of it as a necessary evil, and think of flatwork as a means to improve your jumping and good basics being handy out hacking. And the test just a showcase for the flatwork necessary to get the best from your horse jumping. All of which are true to a degree. You can school on hacks too. And no excuses about size, at that level it makes no difference. Instructors help but you need the positive mindset to really 'get' it. And ideally a lesson on an actual dressage schoolmaster so you can actually feel both the actual point of dressage for its own sake, and what to aim for with yours. Precision is all well and good but you need a benchmark for what a horse working correctly feels like.
Ditto dressage anywhere and doing tests outside eventing. I know judges vary unaffiliated, but not always. And even a judge that loves/ hates your horse and marks accordingly will usually be consistent, so you can look back through their sheets and see areas you've either improved on or need to work at.

CatchIt · 24/08/2015 09:12

I have to confess Velo, that I don't jump (I'm crap at it and DHorses knees aren't up to it!) however I am on the understanding that flatwork can make a difference with jumping.

I imagine that both you & your horse probably see it as a ballache, but it will really help.

I use a book called 101 schooling exercises to keep things interesting when schooling so we don't do the same boring circles in the school. I also school a lot when out hacking as it doesn't feel like schooling. My boy is only 4 so it's important he's willing and enjoys it.

I know I've mentioned it already, but I really do recommend for training, the feedback really is very good

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