PRIX ST GEORGES is the first senior FEI test and also the FEI Young Rider test, comments List 1 judge Mark Ruddock, at the beginning of his his latest test analysis. He adds: “It is also the only PSG in this country, so anticipation can become a problem. Combating anticipation is a training issue, but don’t forget that there are two difficult advanced tests, the A102 and A105 that can provide you and your horse with some variety in the competition environment. They are not just there for people wanting eligibility to ride the FEI test.
“It’s a pity there are no alternatives to the FEI tests at PSG, Inter I and GP, especially as there are more riders both capable and keen to get out there at higher levels. And now, of course, we have bronze, silver and gold sections in small tour classes and bronze and silver sections at Area Festivals — all the way up to the amateur’s Petplan championships. Both are gold only at regionals.”
You enter in collected canter. At this level the judge will want to see you land from collected canter directly into halt at X because of the degree of engagement expected at this level. After your immobility you make a direct transition from halt into collected trot riding shoulder-fore right for straightness and in preparation for the turn right at C.
The turn right is included in this mark. Make sure you use both the turn at C and in the C-M corner to get your horse ready for the medium trot MXK. Remember that shortly you are going to be showing your extended trot, so don’t go for gold; you should have both gears at this level. The judge will notice and if there’s no difference and you will be marked down. The medium should begin as soon as you have your horse’s hind legs on the diagonal and must go until you make a clear return to collected at K and collected continues round the short side — making good use of your corners — to F.
F-B shoulder-in left (not quarters out and not too much angle). Remember suppleness, rhythm and — above all — that you should maintain the same quality and energy of trot.
The judge will want to see a natural cadence in the trot appropriate to the natural development of the horse’s paces at this level. However, you must guard against your collected becoming passagey and ‘manufactured’. Passage is a different gear and you must, eventually, be able to show a clear difference between them.
This is an 8m trot circle and will be assisted by the level of engagement, self-carriage and suppleness of the preceding shoulder-in. However, I do see a lot of horses lose the quality of the trot on this circle.
This movement begins B-G half-pass left to centreline at G. Often I find myself commenting on the previous movement, ‘lost quality’ or ‘lost self-carriage on the circle’. The self-carriage maintained from movement 4 will directly impact on the half-pass but you must also have instilled a reactivity to your aids in training as there’s no messing — once you have straightened the hind legs on reaching B you go straight into your half-pass with the forehand leading.
Make sure you get to G and finish the movement by straightening the horse with its hind legs on the centreline. You have 6m for that and to supple him, shoulder-fore left, and ride straight towards the judge at C, then turn left.
Very often riders just curl round that turn without showing any distance of straightness.
Refresh your collection in the C-H corner. You will note that marks are ‘x2’ for this movement and you will pay dearly for a stiff horse.
HXF extended trot. The judge will have read the same test sheet as you, so ensure your extended is extended and not the same as your ‘medium’. This should demonstrate the maximum ground cover and length of frame in an in-balance trot that your horse can achieve.
This mark allows the judge to mark your transitions in and out: the clarity of the departure at H and the return to collected at F. A fault commonly seen is where the horse goes sailing on passed F with no clear transition shown, so the judge will comment, ‘not clear at F’.
Repeat of movement 3.
Repeat of movement 4.
Here you do another half pass to the centreline — and again this one is marked ‘10×2’.
You will finish your half-pass on the centre line nicely and then, on the centre line, make a transition to a collected walk in front of the judge. The transition comes up quite quickly and many horses jog, so it’s important to train a quick reaction to a relaxed, collected walk. It needs to be practised.
You track left at C and walk round to H, and turn left to go across the arena to ride a half-pirouette left over the far three-quarter line (or between G and M).
You walk back to the opposite three-quarter line for a half-pirouette right. You stay in collected walk but there is often tension at this point as the horse is anticipating cantering. Obviously you will need to practise alternatives so that the horse stays tuned-in to your aids.
This is for the judge to give up to 20 marks for the quality of all the collected walk in movements 11 and 12. The thinking behind this doubling of marks is so that a poor quality walk can be penalised.
M to R and RXV and on towards K in an extended walk dog-leg. This means that you have 12m walking away from the judge on the long side. This allows you to get a nice relaxed, forward stretch, before making a fluent curve on to the diagonal, and then curving back on to the opposite long side, where you …
… gradually take up the reins to collect the walk before K for a transition at K to collected canter left KAF.
Canny riders who know that taking up the reins will make their horse tense and jog, instead go into canter before quickly taking up the reins. The judge can’t see if you collected the walk first (unless perhaps if there is one at B). The priority is not to spoil the rhythm of the walk with tension that will be apparent to the judge(s).
Also ensure that your horse is shoulder-fore left for the up trans or you will risk it being quarters in. It takes skill to pull all this off smoothly without tension and you have to factor in your horse’s likely reactions.
You will have used the short side corners in the previous movement to get suppleness before at F half-passing left to X. My advice is, aim to arrive on the centre line a couple of metres before X. Finish the half-pass by straightening, get flexion right and ask for the change just before X and land from the change shoulder-fore right for the right half-pass. The through-the-back suppleness required by this movement usually means this change will be a good one.
If you don’t get shoulder-fore in the previous movement, quarters-leading is almost guaranteed when you start your half-pass right X to M. It’s all in the skill of your riding and the horse’s suppleness to be able to quickly change the flexion and point the shoulder in time.
There is another flying change, back to left lead at M. Finish it a little early so you can ride it straight on the last stride of the diagonal. It looks tidy and will help earn you a bigger mark. You see a lot of flying changes happening in the M-C corner and a lot of riders not really showing that they have finished their half-pass before changing.
You finish this movement by going round the short side MCH in collected canter.
At H proceed towards X in collected canter. You see many people instead proceeding towards L — the angle is quite different. So have your horse prepared with shoulder-fore suppleness for the half-pirouette left between H and X. Make your pirouette is as near to X as possible but note:
To avoid your horse turning or spinning round before you have asked him to pirouette, you teach him in training to wait for you by going beyond X. Only ask for a pirouette where the test requires when competing.
The mark will depend on how you met the pirouette criteria of self-carriage, balance, size and correct number of steps (ideally three to four), as well as the quality of the canter in and out. The half-pirouette should finish back on the line on which you came into it. Look, and turn yourself towards where you left the track, maintaining the counter-canter.
The H to C counter-canter will benefit from having come out of the pirouette on the correct line and the self-carriage resulting from the preceding movement sequence should make your flying change at C a good one. However, if it’s a big change watch the balance to avoid the horse falling onto its forehand.
Repeat of movement 18
Repeat of movement 19
HXF and five flying changes every fourth stride. This needs practising. If you haven’t got a 60m arena at home you will have to go somewhere else and hire one. Positioning of the changes will depend on the length of your horse’s stride. The middle one should be over X.
I always tell my clients to head slightly towards the left of F on their diagonal to compensate for the tendency to drift towards the corner.
You also need to produce consistence changes. Quite often you see them becoming shorter and shorter as the engagement deteriorates; each one should be as good as the one before. We also want the expression to be as good as the canter, not less. Quite often a mistake happens on the last change because riders think, ‘I’m there, I’ve got them’. It’s like knocking the last fence down in show jumping: so think ‘last fence’.
There are more mistakes made in the fours than in the threes because the threes sync better with the three beats plus suspension of the pace. But you will start your threes later so you have to work out how to place them so the middle one is over X — and ride them all (last fence!). Then use your corners to collect the canter MCH…
HXF extended canter — as big and bold and as far as you can go. Many peter out after the three-quarter line. The instruction says to F.
You collect the canter and perform a flying change of leg on the last stride of the diagonal. With a green horse and you may worry about it being late behind and not want to risk it, so you’ll do it through the turn, but the mark will be no more than a six with a comment ‘change through turn’. Please show you have collected before the change — so often riders keep galloping. It’s not what the instruction asks for and quite often, if there is no collection, the change will end up late behind. It’s a fine line you have to ride because you don’t want to kill the canter either.
Collecting the canter before you change will help you ride the final movement as a balanced collected canter through the corner and turn onto the centreline for a direct transition to a balanced halt (plus immobility) at X.
Inter I is a much nicer test to ride. The PSG comes up thick and fast and your horse has to be very much on your aids. As in all the top of a level tests, from novice on, there’s nowhere to hide.
© Out and About Dressage Ltd