IN HIS LATEST test analysis for Out and About Dressage, List 1 judge and Surrey-based trainer Mark Ruddock studies FEI Intermediate I. Mark explains: “This is a National, Petplan and an international test. In the international context it is grouped with the PSG under the umbrella of ‘small tour’ — competing combinations contesting both. If riders are able to ride canter pirouettes they generally find inter I much more fluent than the PSG and that is the impression you get from the judge’s box, too. (It is in fact shorter — only 5 minutes 30 seconds, against 5 minutes and 50 seconds — and doesn’t include the much unloved walk pirouettes!) Each movement sets the horse up nicely for the next one and the movements seem to flow.
Enter at A in collected canter; at X canter-halt transition, immobility, salute and proceed towards C in collected trot. At this level, you expect that the degree of collection the horse has achieved will enable it to make a halt directly from the canter and then move off into an engaged, punchy trot with quite a lot of cadence. Horses should be able to pull off an eight or nine here — and engagement secure, frequently do so.
The track left at C is included in this mark and care should be taken in the C-H corner to prepare for the extended trot HXF. This is all guns blazing, the best and biggest trot you can manage in terms of marker to marker and in-balance ground cover. The collected trot F to A is included in the mark, so the judge will be looking for a clear departure once your horse’s hind legs are on the diagonal and a clear transition back just as your horse’s nose reaches F.
This starts with a turn onto the centreline at A and then shoulder-in right D-X down the centreline. We see a lot of riders start this movement by pushing their horses’ quarters off the centreline while keeping their front legs on it. That is the reverse of correct and the judge at C will not give you more than a 5. The horse’s forehand should be taken the off the line, and with supple right flexion, it should move forward on three tracks with the outside hind remaining on the track.
Riders make the mistake on the turn of not supporting their horses’ quarters to ensure they stay on that centreline. Shoulder-in away from the wall is a favourite degree of difficulty movement in lower level freestyles and it’s good to instil in your mind that your outside leg has a role to play in this exercise
An 8m circle right from X follows and it should be quite easy because your horse will be supple and have the correction flexion, and you are in control of the quarters from the shoulder-in. You just have to remember that an 8m circle will bring you 2m away from the long side.
Movements 3 and 4 are all about fluency and harmony. The judge will be looking forward to giving you some big marks!
X-M half-pass right then collected trot round to C. Again your horse will benefit from the correct suppleness and flexion right achieved in the preceding movements — just ensure that the quarters don’t lead out of the 8m circle. (Riders at this level should be aware of where their horse’s quarters are: you would be surprised how many apparently aren’t.) Finish the circle with your horse’s hind legs on the centreline, then go shoulder-fore into the half-pass, aiming for 1m before M to allow you to be straight on the long side at the marker.
At C halt and immobility. With the engagement produced by the preceding lateral movements engagement should be good so this halt should be good, too. Do show immobility: it’s part of the test.
Rein-back five steps: counting is often an issue. Many times you find yourself commenting ‘only four steps’. After the rein-back you go directly into trot. In earlier tests you have been asked to walk out of rein-backs but trotting out of a rein-back is an exercise you will have practised to teach your horse to be forward to a contact in this backwards movement — and as both are two-time movements it’s actually easier.
We now start doing the lateral movements the other way round, starting with a half-pass left from H to X. This should flow into…
An 8m circle from X, then…
A left shoulder-in on the centreline X to D. This is where quarters-out happens a lot; perhaps the quarters are more easily lost after the circle? Then ensure when you arrive at D that you straighten your horse up because you are going to change the bend to go right at A. Don’t throw the horse from left to right: it pays to show you’ve finished one movement before you start the next.
K-R medium trot. Don’t overdo your medium trot: remember you have shown the judge your extended. Keep it regular and don’t overcook it because…
You go straight into collected walk at R, so if your trot was too big you are going to be slow getting into walk and quite a lot of horses don’t achieve the walk by M. Know your horse and practise this at home. It’s not easy. At M you turn across the school — right in front of the judges — and continue your collected walk to H (where you will turn left). If your horse is at any risk of losing rhythm and correct sequence, it’s going to be noticed. Your horse may also be anticipating a walk pirouette: and may be asking you, ‘when are we going to turn?’
Remember if your horse’s walk sequence in collected is at all ‘iffy’ it is better to aim for a correct sequence medium walk. You will get a six (x 2 as there is a co-efficient for this movement) but, judging, I rarely see a true collected walk at this point
For true collected walk, the steps are higher and imprint: when you see one like that you give it a big mark!
At H you do a turn onto a diagonal line H-B and then straight along the side to P in extended walk. Try to maintain fluency by curving the turn and then let the rein and the frame grow longer. Hopefully the manoeuvre will help with getting the horse to step through to the longer contact. It’s not a very long distance of extended, so show as much ground cover as you can. The sequence of collected walk then extended usually gives a better extended walk mark than when it follows a collected trot and often get better marks in the Inter I than in the PSG.
Just before P collect the walk and canter right. Clever riders will literally pick up the reins and canter in one movement to avoid tension. A lot of horses go crooked in this canter strike off. It’s a silly way to lose marks, so think ‘shoulder-fore’ in the transition. However, you also need to weigh up whether you’re risking your horse jogging. Then go collected canter PFA.
You turn onto the centreline and at D begin the first of three half-passes 5m either side of the centreline, starting and ending with half-pass right and with a flying change of leg on each change of direction.
This zigzag is not as daunting as it sounds. Done properly, it looks slick; done with the horse anticipating and starting to go before the rider it becomes a mess. Practising and learning to count half-pass strides will be useful as you move up to inter II.
For the first half-pass, come down the centreline a little shoulder-fore right and aim the horse’s head in the direction of the S letter. When the horse nears the three-quarter line, ride shoulder-fore left then ride a flying change.
The flying change will be first step of the second half-pass which will go 10m to the left aiming for three-quarter opposite P — but just before the three-quarter line change to flexion right and ride the flying change
The third half-pass will take you 5m back onto the centreline. You ride a flying change to the left just before G. Then go straight, do not immediately start the turn to the left. You want to show the judge that your horse is on the aids.
A lot of riders do not go the full 5m either side of CL — and this will not escape the judge at C. It’s about the horse being on the aids and being supple. Quite often horses look stiffer sustaining the longer, 10m left half-pass.
Your left turn at C is included in the mark for this movement for which, quite rightly, 10 x 2 marks are on offer.
HXF extended canter: a nice opportunity to release and channel all the horse’s energy after it has spent so long in collected effort. Remember that although the flying change is marked in the next movement, you are actually expected to ride it on the last step on the diagonal, not through the corner. So finish this movement 15 by collecting the horse and riding the change.
This is all about allowing the judge to award a mark for the flying change. The collected canter round the corners K-H is about you setting your horse up for first line of tempis.
On the KXM diagonal ride five flying changes every third stride. You should have worked out where to begin the sequence to suit your horse’s ground cover so that the middle, third change, occurs over X. Good quality changes that are also well placed will earn you the good marks.
You see a lot of correct changes that have no lift or cadence: if you blink, you miss them. In this case you will get the comment, ‘correct, but lacked expression’ and the mark will be a six.
Going for big, expressive changes with lots of air time, you may risk your horse losing its balance towards the end and it’s often in the fourth of fifth change that mistakes happen.
On the other hand, riders of horses capable of big expressive — and slightly unbalanced changes — may start off with small changes and save the bigger ones till last. The judge will write ‘expression improving’ and go with a seven. If the horse has a big canter it may be necessary to make it smaller when it’s learning changes so that it doesn’t frighten itself by losing balance.
You are disappointed as a judge if the quality of the canter is not maintained through the changes; it should be the same if not better. Even horses with a flat canter you expect to show more lift in the change due to the engagement required
The rider instructions emphasise quality of canter before and after the tempis. Movement 17 finishes with a collected canter round the short side MCH when you will also be thinking ‘canter pirouettes next’ but don’t over-collect!
Ride on an HIB diagonal line but perform a full pirouette left around ‘I’ then continue of the same line to arrive at B. Horses seem to prefer doing full-pirouettes and riders know where they are going. But beware over-collecting the canter in the corner before H, killing all the impulsion that you’re going to need for the pirouette.
The horse’s shoulders must lead in a pirouette and it should be six to eight steps. Four steps would indicate too much collection and the horse probably couldn’t to do it anyway. This is when you see hind legs together and you will be scoring less than a 5. Usually if the hind legs together happens half-way round or on the way out the horse will trot or change behind, or get really tight — perhaps rear.
If there are any more than eight strides it is just a small circle. It’s quite a fine line. It is better to get a 6 for ‘too big’ than a 4 for too small and the horse unable to organise its legs to get out of the movement.
Make sure you don’t pirouette too far round: look for B and come out on your HIB line and ride a flying change before the B marker. You have only 10m after the pirouette to organise yourself for that flying change. A lot of riders do it on the turn onto the long side. It is not ideal because you need to have your horse down both reins, balanced and set up for your next movement.
If the horse has changed or gone disunited in the pirouette, get yourself back onto the correct lead canter for the change because it has its own mark out of 10. People who panic, who don’t repair the situation, will lose it literally.
It’s about strategy: it may be that you should aim for a safe and over-large pirouette and pull your marks up with a good flying change. You will also have to factor in whether your horse finds piros easier one way and where your best marks can be earned. The judge has 20 marks available for the pirouette.
Here the judge gives another 10 marks just for that tricky change.
This is a full pirouette right on the BLK diagonal over L, so you’ll quickly have to review how smoothly the first one went — and a lot hangs on whether you managed a good change after it, or whether the horse has become tense and against your aids. So you need as much time as possible to repair. Again look for your line coming out of the pirouette and ride the flying change just before the turn.
This awards marks for the flying change after the second pirouette and finishes with a canter round the short side KAF. The pirouettes and flying changes come up quickly one after another and there are 60 marks to play for and they have a big impact on your total score.
This is FXH with seven flying changes of leg every second stride. Usually these are the best changes you see — perhaps easier to count. Place them evenly so that the fourth one is over X. Usually the first change comes just before the three-quarter line but it depends on your horse’s ground cover — with big striding horses the riders need to start early to fit them all in. With small-striding horses it’s important to centre them along the diagonal so that you don’t highlight that fact by having finished just after X! The movement ends with collected canter round the corner to C.
This movement is so much harder than you would think. At C you make a transition from canter to collected trot. Advanced horses don’t often get asked to do canter to trot, so this can be a puzzler for them. It needs practising at home. Quite often you see horses not getting back into trot until M or until they’re on the MXK diagonal. This will obviously affect their extended trot mark. After all of the preceding collected canter, the extended trot should be your best show stopper and horses love it!
This is specifically for the judge to award marks for the transitions at C, M and K in the last movement.
Again this is a bit different from what advanced horses are used to: they are asked to turn onto the centreline at A and trot down to halt at X. The trot-halt should be good, but often riders don’t treat this easy movement with the respect it deserves.
© Out and About Dressage Ltd, 16 June 2017