THIS MARK RUDDOCK intermediate II test analysis for Out and About Dressage is for those riders wishing to become more competitive at Big Tour (Inter II and grand prix) or to step their dressage education up to the level for the first time. The pool of riders wishing to attempt Inter II is, of course, smaller than for lower levels, but in the face of perceived demand BD has put it into Area Festival schedules.
The List 1 judge and trainer begins with some general advice for riders with new big tour ambitions, but first he warns: “You should perhaps also consult your horse! He will tell you if the demands of this test are pushing his physical and psychological capabilities beyond what it is reasonable to ask. That said, many horses are such damn’ good chaps that, if asked, they will have a go.
“What will become crystal clear in moving up to ‘Big Tour’ (Inter II and GP) is that these tests are not about the tricks. They merely serve to expose any weakness in the horse’s engagement, ability and willingness (I dislike the term ‘submission’) to collect and extend its frame. The piaffe-passage transition, for example, may just be a step too far. The movements can be something to play with at home but could collapse under the pressure of competition on the horse and rider.
Naturally, horses moving up to the level may ‘try it on’ for their first few outings at inter II and look for an easy way out — as in life we may do, too. You have to know your horse. But if you’re having trouble at home, you will certainly have trouble in a test.
“At home before competing it’s vital to run through the whole test. If the horse isn’t used to so much pressure at home it certainly won’t cope in a show environment. The horse has to feel confident; you can’t ‘wing’ this test on the basis of the horse’s good nature. Riders also need to have ridden through this test a lot to ensure that their movement preparation and mental engagement with the horse is on the button all the way through. The demands are unrelenting and there is only a tiny bit of walk.
“Inter II prepares you for the grand prix. The lower level test allows for the horse being a bit green and, for example, the piaffe is allowed to travel 1m forward; in the grand prix it is supposed to be virtually on the spot with just a forward inclination. The passage is also required ‘between’ markers, not ‘at and to’ markers. There are also fewer one and two tempis.”
Enter in collected canter and at X, halt, immobility and salute, then proceed in collected trot towards C.
Completely direct transitions are required: it and out of the halt which should be square and straight. Horses are sharper at this level — as they need to be — but they are so hot they can find this difficult, so it should be practised.
Track left at C and straight into an extended trot HXF — marker to marker. You may decide you need to under-power this extended because the horse could be on the edge and you don’t want the trot to break. Read your horse; less can be more. F to A collected trot. Show those transitions.
You turn down the centreline at A and start the first of three half-passes, 5m either side of the centreline beginning and ending to the right. At this level this should be quite easy: at D, 5m to the right to three-quarter line riding right shoulder-fore, but on nearing three-quarter-line change to shoulder-fore left then ride 10m to the left across the arena to the opposite three-quarter line, then another change of bend to finish by half-passing 5m to the right to G on the centre line. Make sure your horse’s quarters don’t lead into any of the half-passes.
The judge will be looking for the fluency of the half-passes and in the changes of bend as a measure of the symmetry of left and right suppleness and will also want to see straightness from G to C. The marks are x 2 for this movement. At C track right and ride round to R.
Between R and B a transition to passage. Choose the moment you feel right for the transition to passage.
It’s more difficult for the horse to pick the passage up on the straight line, so most people will ride a little shoulder-fore to get the horse engaged.
Whenever you choose to start passage, make the transition from collected to passage clear. There is a mark for it. With a lot of horses that you see when you’re judging you don’t even realise it’s happened and it is not until…
…the horse and rider turn on to the B-V diagonal that they get the passage. It’s quite a steep line, so a lot of horses lose the shoulder when they turn onto that diagonal and lose rhythm and regularity in the passage steps.
Practise the turn and turning the shoulder off the track while keeping the activity and the same quality. By this I mean the clarity, the same height in the diagonal pairs and regularity of the steps.
Passage is not a slow collected trot: the difference is shown in the increased height, engagement and cadence.
As your horse crosses the centre line on the B-V diagonal, piaffe 8 to 10 steps. The judge will realise that your horse may be green at this level, but he will want to see smoothness in the transition from passage into piaffe. You are permitted to move 1m forward in the piaffe. That isn’t very much and a lot less than many people seem to think. In piaffe the judge will want to see the horse taking the weight behind more and the base closing.
There must be sitting and the distance from the back legs to the front legs must shorten with quarters coming under. A horse coming wide behind and just trotting on the spot is a common fault — piaffe is not a slow trot on the spot with no engagement and horses often lose two-time rhythm if the rider asks for too much in place.
The steps should remain diagonal and the regularity in the height of the steps should be consistent.
This is where the judge marks the transitions into and out of the piaffe. If the passage and the piaffe have been rubbish this mark will be rubbish, too. Mistakes most often occur in leaving the piaffe. The horse has sat in the piaffe and may try to explode out of the engagement into canter, and hence lose the fluency of the transition back to passage. This will affect the next movement…
This is passage VKA and all about ensuring the regularity of steps as you turn through the K-A corner.
At A piaffe 8 to 10 steps (up to 1m forward permitted). I have seen horses being eliminated at this point for leaving the arena, especially if the arena board is not being replaced after riders have entered.
This is where the transitions passage-piaffe-passage are marked.
This is passage out of the piaffe at A and turning round the A-F corner to P. (You can easily add up what the extent of the damage will be if your horse can’t manage piaffe and passage and transitions from and to!) It’s important to maintain regularity of steps to pull this sequence of movements off, so it must be practised as a sequence.
Inevitably things will go wrong in the arena on occasions especially when you’re new to a level so you also need to have tactics and mental preparedness to effect the repair that works best with your horse.
This movement also occurs in the grand prix — straight from the passage into extended walk P to F. Hopefully, at this point your horse will be keen to relax and let go over its back because it has been so collected, but often they are so ‘on edge’ that it takes them to halfway across the diagonal to unwind. It’s all about how quickly your horse can release the mental and physical collected tension. This is a x 2 mark to reward a difficult movement.
SHC collected walk. Quite a distance of collected walk and, quite often when you judge this, you write ‘not collected’ because riders know if they collect too much the horse will think piaffe. Quite often it’s a medium walk for a 6.
A medium walk is preferable if you need to ensure a correct walk step sequence and regularity to avoid the risk of losing both and getting a 4. If your horse can do it: flaunt it. So few horses can do it that judges will throw a big mark at it.
At C proceed in collected canter right to M. Fairly straight forward. You wouldn’t expect a this level to see quarters in, but don’t be casual, they should be easily won marks.
MXK medium canter with a change of leg at K. More easily won marks, but remember later on you will be showing an extended canter, so don’t go all guns blazing. And don’t be sloppy about the transitions just because they’re ‘easy’. The change should come on the last stride of the diagonal. The movement finishes by riding collected canter round to P.
Half-pass P-X. You will have had from the corner to P to engage with shoulder-fore — and the half-pass angle is quite steep — but with the level of engagement that horses at this level should have achieved, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Ensure that the shoulders lead. At X you go down the centre line to I.
Full pirouette left at I. The half-pass will have got your suppleness, collection and engagement and shoulder-fore positioning and have given you control of the forehand which leads your pirouette, so this pirouette should be a good one. This pirouette is much easier that the pirouette in the inter I but the judge is perfectly situated to see whether you’ve centred your inter II pirouette around the letter I on the centre line and to count the steps. The pirouette should be six to eight steps of canter. If it’s less it’s over-collected, and you’ll get hind legs together, or a stop — more steps and it’s a small circle.
Quite a lot of people over-shoot the centreline with their half-pass, then try to pull the horse back on to it, it then changes because it’s lost balance. The movement shows just how on-the-aids your horse is and whether you can turn it.
The movement finishes by rider continuing down the centre line, tracking left round to H.
HXF extended canter. A clear ‘differentiation’ from the medium just two movements before should be shown — and as much ground cover and as bold as you dare. [And you collect then ride a flying change of leg.]
This is where the mark for the return to collected and the flying change on the last stride of your diagonal before F is given. It should be an easy mark, so don’t be sloppy. You then ride collected canter round the short end to V.
A repeat of 16
A repeat of 17
On the MXK diagonal seven flying changes of leg every second stride. Your horse will have done this in the inter I so it should be fairly secure and established and you will have learned with your horse’s stride where to place them to centre them on the diagonal. The fourth change should come over X! You finish with collected canter round the short side for the next line of changes.
On the diagonal FXH 11 flying changes ever stride. This is the first test where the one-tempis come into your repertoire. If your horse has got small one-time changes, don’t do them all early so that all 11 have been done by X! But sometimes when the horse is green at the level you have to accept what the horse can offer, when it offers it. If you can, make them wait for you. Place your one times as best you can.
If you have a mistake at the start, don’t give up, try to do some of them. It may ameliorate a low mark and it is also important from a training perspective that your horse keeps trying. Counting changes reliably is another skill the rider has to master!
Be careful if you pat your horse for having achieved his 11 successfully that he doesn’t give you a bonus one! Or finish changing because you’re praising him for having done nine!
This movement starts with a transition from collected canter to collected trot at C. The canter-trot transition would have became unfamiliar while the horse was moving up the levels, but it was required for the inter I so it should be a practised movement by now. Then ride the MXK diagonal extended trot, returning to collected at K and finishing the movement at A.
This is where the judge marks the transitions at C, M and K, the rhythm and the corresponding variations in the length of frame.
Turn down the centreline at A and between D and L make a transition to passage. Passage from L to I. The judge(s) will be looking for a clear transition with a difference in the height of the legs changing as it begins to passage. If there is no clear difference it will get a 4. A side judge is perfectly placed to see height and more easily able to assess regularity.
The horse passages all the way to the halt at I.
© Out and About Dressage Ltd, 30 June 2017
Note: Images featured of riders Ryan Todd, Matt Frost and Sarah Millis competing in the inter II at Hickstead Premier League.