10 Top Dressage Competition Tips

Dressage Test - Winnie 140811

Our ten top dressage competition tips for ensuring success at your next dressage competition.

Every little bit helps where competition nerves are concerned and a simple check list of dressage competition tips that you can work through before each competition is a must have.

Dressage Competition tips #1 … Arrive early

Arrive a good two hours before your scheduled test time. Nothing is worse for your nerves than running behind schedule.

Make sure you register your horses arrival at the secretary’s office. Collect and make a note of your competitor number.

Remember to display your number professionally using a bridle or saddlecloth number.

Dressage Competition tips #2 … First time at this dressage arena local riding 10 top dressage competition tips

Take time to explore the area with your horse in-hand to familiarise you and your horse with the surroundings and sample the atmosphere.

Check exactly where your class is being held and your route to the arena. Check if you are to ride inside or outside the arena before you enter for your test and where you can work in.

Follow the British Dressage code of practice for warming up (full details in the British Dressage Rules 2007) and never forget your gloves.

Dressage Competition tips #3 … Always dress according to your affiliation

Check and make sure that your bridle, bit (snaffle or double), spurs, etc, meet the criteria specified by your dressage association. Keep an eye on the time, it’s up to you to be at the arena at the correct time. Remember to remove any boots and bandages well before your test begins.

Dressage Competition tips #4 … Eat

But have your meals a couple of hours before you mount. Give your stomach time to digest the food. An upset stomach is bad for dressage.

Dressage Competition tips #4 … Can’t Plait, Get Help

Then get a friend or someone to do it for you. A good plait, is an essential part of good presentation, and good presentation goes a long way. Just check the pics on the pages of the british dressage website and you’ll see how highly they rate a good plait.

Dressage Competition tips #5 … Warm Up Properly

Give yourself a good 30 to 40 minute warm up period. Walk on a loose rein for the first 5 to 10 minutes before you begin your warm-up and it will help calm your nerves and relax your horse.

Dressage Competition tips #6 … Get On The Bit

Help your horse get on the bit, by giving him half an apple midway through your warm-up. It will make him salivate and he’ll find it easier to take the bit.

Dressage Competition tips #7 … Lunge your horse

If your horse is lively or fresh lunge (check with the event hosts if you can) for 10 or 15 minutes before your warm-up. This will settle your horse and get him in the mood for work.

Dressage Competition tips #8 … Don’t over-work your horse

Avoid exhausting your horse. You should know his stamina level and how much work your horse needs to warm-up and get ready to perform. Ensure your horse is in good shape when you enter the dressage arena.

Dressage Competition tips #9 … Still Nervous, then take a moment

If you’re really nervous, take a moment – close your eyes and take a deep breathe. Exhale slowly and repeat until you feel calmer. Remember: you can ask a friend to video your performance for future analysis, and you are allowed to have someone read your test aloud. However, you must make sure they don’t stand too close to the judge.

Dressage Competition tips #10 … Don’t Panic

If you go wrong the judge will sound a horn or ring a bell. Don’t panic, as you will only lose marks for the one wrong movement. Stop as soon as you can and if you know where you went wrong, raise your hand and return to the start of that movement. If you’re not sure where you went wrong, ride towards the judge. The judge will then tell you where you went wrong and where to restart.

Check Your Dressage Test Marks

After your dressage test … Put your horse away, then check your marks on the scoreboard.

  • Your test sheets should be available for collection about half-an-hour after the end of your class.
  • Always double check the addition of your scores and if you find an error point it out to the organiser or secretary within one-hour of the class finishing.
  • If you can’t wait to collect your score sheet, leave a stamped addressed envelope with the organiser and they will send them on to you.
  • Judges are often near the scoreboard after the class has finished; so use the opportunity to ask them questions.
  • Few dressage judges will object to clarifying points or assisting with your understanding of the terminology.