Grand Prix Rider, List 2A judge and trainer Sara-Jane Lanning talks us through Medium 71, describing what the judge is looking for and how you can produce a judge-pleasing performance.
Sara-Jane begins: “Medium 71 is a short arena test and may be the preferred choice of competitors familiar with riding short arena Elementaries and it’s currently the only short arena qualifier. You might think it an easy option as there is no shoulder-in, no walk pirouettes or counter-canter, but it does need some thought and preparation to be done well and you have to show the degree of balance and self-carriage expected at medium level. The simple changes are not easy as they are on the diagonal line which does not give you much help in setting them up.
“Before the bell goes make sure your horse is in front of the leg and in a nice balanced collected trot. Remember the stride is shorter in collected than in working trot — but it is not a slower trot! In collection, the horse takes more weight on to the hindleg to lighten the forehand and develop more cadence, lightness and expression. However, the collection required at medium is not as developed as that expected of a Grand Prix horse.
“Again, before entering, you might find it useful with your horse to ride a halt while going around the edge to ensure that he is on the aids and listening to set him up for the direct transition to halt without any walk steps that will be required in the first movement”
Enter in collected trot. Halt at X, immobility, salute and proceed in collected trot and turn left at C.
“When the bell goes remember you have 45 seconds before you must enter the arena, so don’t panic if you are near the A end when it sounds. Take your time and keep the balance on the turn onto the centre line, keep your eyes on C and stay straight. (One of the good things about a short arena test is that it does not require you to stay straight for as long.)
“Glance left or right to check where the B-E line is to ensure your halt is indeed over X! Make a smooth transition to halt, stand four square, salute with the horse remaining immobile and on the bit, then move off directly into collected trot (at this level any walk steps will bring your marks down).
“Prepare for the left turn at C with some supple bend around your inside leg, ensuring your horse stays upright and balanced around the turn. Keep the collected trot round to E.”
At E, half circle left 10m to X; then 10m right half-circle from X to B. “Just before E warn your horse that there is a turn coming by preparing left bend and then ride a smooth half-circle on to the centre line. Keep your eyes on C to find the centre line and as soon as you have, start looking ahead around the second half-circle that will take you to B.
“Ensure you ride straight on the centre line at X, then change the bend to the right for the second half of the movement. Both half-circles should be the same size, with equal bend and balance in both directions”
“Rather than finishing the second half-circle, make it the preparation for the next movement which is travers, so push the quarters in, keeping a clear even bend from the tail to ears, around your inside leg…
“With the preparation at the end of the last movement you will start the B to F travers without the quarters ever getting to the track. The angle in travers is a constant one of approximately 35 degrees. (From the front or the back you should see four tracks — unlike the three tracks of shoulder-in.) The horse’s outside legs pass and cross in front of the inside legs and the bend is maintained in the direction in which it is travelling. Just like finishing a circle, you end your travers by bringing the quarters back onto the track, ready to ride the turn at the corner. The movement takes you through the next corner and finishes at K.
“Keep a balanced active collected trot around the short side to K. Remember: the short sides are where the judge gets the best overall impression of the frame and balance — so make them count. The short sides are part of the movement being marked, not an opportunity to take a rest”
“A half halt before K will ensure your horse’s weight remains on the hind leg and that he won’t rush onto the forehand in anticipation of the next movement.”
KXM change the rein in medium trot and return to collected at M. “In medium the horse needs to go forward showing clearly lengthened steps, with impulsion and push from the hindleg. Ideally the frame will lengthen a little with the nose in front of the vertical and the poll needs to remain the highest point (although the neck can be lower than in the collected trot) and the horse should stay ‘uphill’.
“Maintain the medium steps all the way from marker to marker and then ride a clear transition at M back to collected. The movement finishes by going round the short side to H.
“Prepare for the half-pass left to come by asking for a clear bend through the whole horse around your inside leg in the C-H corner. Ride shoulder-in for a couple of strides before H. Although it’s a short arena don’t rush this shoulder-in set-up for the half-pass as it is what will help it to be correct and fluent”
H-D half-pass left. “The shoulder-in position adopted at the end of the last movement engages the inside hindleg so enabling the horse to maintain impulsion, cadence and balance through the half-pass. Remember you want to be able to feel the inside hindleg stepping under, not the horse falling sideways. Quarters leading is a bad fault and you will not only lose marks for it, but it will also affect the quality of the trot and the balance, too.
“In the trot half-pass the judge is looking for crossing of the outside legs in front of the inside legs, with a clear bend in the direction of travel, and for the rhythm to be maintained. At D straighten up for a stride or two before asking the horse for right bend around the turn at A and then ride collected trot towards E and just before the marker prepare the horse as before for the half circle.”
At E half-circle right 10m diameter to X and then half-circle from X left 10m diameter across the school to B as in Movement 2 but on the other rein.
B-M travers — a repetition of movement 3 on the other rein so review the set up advice.
HXF change the rein in medium trot; F collected trot. A repetition of movement 4 on the other rein.
KG half-pass right and at C turn right. A repetition of movement 5 but this time to the right.
MXK extended walk. “Collect the walk at K, and at A turn down the centreline. You are expected to make a transition direct from collected trot to extended walk. This transition is usually easier than one into collected walk as the longer frame helps the horse to relax and therefore take better steps.
“Ask your horse to cover as much ground as possible in the extended. It should be purposeful but without haste. Most important is the maintenance of the regularity of the four-beat rhythm. There needs to be a clear over-track with the hind feet touching the ground clearly in the front of the hoof prints of the fore feet (ideally over-tracking by three hoof prints). You need to allow the horse to stretch out with its head and with the neck forwards and down, without losing contact or control of the poll. The nose needs to stay in front of the vertical.
“Just before K start to collect the walk in preparation for the collected that starts at K. In collected walk the neck needs to be raised and arched showing clear self-carriage with the horse remaining ‘on the bit’. The steps should heighten with markedly more bend in the joints and will cover less ground without over-track but should still march actively forwards.
If your horse is prone to lose the clear, even four-beat rhythm, then ride slightly shoulder-fore position as this will help keep the clarity of the walk.
“Keep this walk around the turn at A and onto the centreline all the way to X.
“Make a transition to collected canter at X having previously prepared by taking shoulder-fore left position to ensure the horse’s quarters don’t swing to the left. Keep the slight shoulder-fore position in the canter all the way to C.” Sara advises:
“Practice riding canter transitions at home without the support of a fence or wall”
At C turn left and then HEKA collected canter. “Ensure you have a supple bend around the turn at C, and finish the turn slightly shoulder-fore — again this is to keep the engagement of the inside hindleg and maintain an uphill feeling and true straightness.
“Collected canter requires energetic impulsion and — just like in the collected trot — it is not a slowing down of the pace. This energy enables the shoulders to have greater mobility aiding a greater degree of self-carriage and uphill tendency.
“H, E, K to A is one part of this test where there isn’t really a movement to ride, just a long side with seemingly nothing happening, but don’t go to sleep or let your horse drop down onto his head. Use the long side to ensure your canter is correct, then the next bits will be easy!”
“The movement finishes at F and the F-G corner is where you prepare a clear bend so that you can ride a couple of strides of shoulder-fore feeling and can start the next movement with the shoulders leading, not the quarters.”
FG canter half-pass left and at C turn left. “Unlike trot half-pass, in canter half-pass there is no crossing of the legs, but the horse must move fluently forwards and sideways without loss of rhythm, balance, softness and acceptance of the bend and contact.
“There are no extra marks for getting to G early: you will actually lose marks as the canter would have lost forward tendency and possibly the quality of the pace”
“The movement (mark) finishes at H and you should come out of the H-K corner thinking shoulder-fore left position. The more you use the corners, the more time you have to set up the following movement.
“At H make a smooth transition into medium canter and maintain this all the way to K where you return to collected. Without hurrying, the medium canter needs to show clearly longer strides than the working canter, with impulsion from the hindquarters. The frame, too, should clearly lengthen without the horse dropping down onto the forehand.
“At K make a clear transition back to your previous collected canter. I start asking a few strides before the marker, aiming to be in collected canter at K, rather than start to ask for the collect at K.”
FXH change the rein with a simple change of leg at X. “Again, an invisible shoulder-fore feeling will set up the ease with which you perform the simple change. The aim is to bring the horse back directly to walk from collected canter and after walking one horse’s length — or three to five walk steps — pick up right canter. The rhythm and the clarity of the walk steps is important too. Good transitions but a poor quality or fragile walk rhythm will not score a ‘good’ mark.”
MBFAK collected canter. This is a repetition of movement 12 but this time in right canter on the right rein.
KG half-pass right, at C turn right. A repetition of movement 13 but to the right.
MF medium canter; F collected canter. A repetition of movement 14, this time in right canter.
KXM change the rein with a simple change of leg at X. A repetition of movement 15, this time from right to left.
MCHE collected canter and then at E collected trot. “Be careful in this seemingly easy transition that your horse stays fluently forward in the down transition and he may well be thinking ‘walk’ after the simple changes. Alternatively he might just slow the canter down and not trot!
“Don’t forget to ride simple canter-trot transitions as you go up the levels as they are in a lot of the higher level tests — the Inter I, Inter II and the grand prix all have one which even at those levels catch people out”
“I sit tall and let the weight drop down into my heels and just take a small half-halt on the outside rein, but maintain the straightness of the whole horse. Take care the half-halt with outside rein doesn’t mean your horse looks to the outside. Try to keep your collected trot active but uphill.”
Turn down the centreline at A and at X halt, rein-back four steps, proceed in collected trot. “As you turn down the centre line give little invisible half-halts to keep the horse on the hindleg and ready for the transition to halt at X.
“Some horses love a final medium trot down the centreline and it occurs in several Elementary tests that they may well be familiar with. Anticipation of medium in this test will compromise balance and leave them unprepared for what is to come!”
“You make a direct transition to halt from trot at X with no walk steps. Stand still in the halt first before you ask for four clear steps of rein-back. Although the sheet does not say ‘halt, immobility’, the judge will want to see the halt established and still before you ask for steps back. After the rein-back move forward smoothly and promptly back into collected towards G.
“The rein-back needs to be in clear diagonals, stay straight parallel to the long side, and be in self-carriage with the poll at the highest point. Count the steps as each foreleg moves back. If your horse starts to be crooked, a slight feeling of flexion the way it is going crooked will help keep it straight better than using more leg on the side to which it is drifting.
“This is the opposite of what you might think! Remember, although everything else about correct way of going should be done from the back end of the horse to the front, straightness is corrected from front to back!”
Halt, immobility, salute. Leave the arena in a free walk on a long rein where appropriate.
“In this test the last mark is just for the halt — so 10 marks just for standing still should be easy! It isn’t. Some horses predict that they are stopping and drop out of trot too abruptly. Make sure the transition into halt (which is part of the mark) is smooth and balanced by keeping your legs on, and aim to stand four square and immobile with the horse remaining attentive and on the bit while you salute and smile.”
“Practise these halts in training and make a point of always correcting a not-square halt. Then the horses will learn to adjust and correct themselves automatically! If they are not square in the test you will have to make a quick decision about whether you can correct it without losing the straightness or whether it is safer to accept not square this time.
“Practise at home makes perfect!”
© Out and About Dressage, 18 April 2018