List 2A judge Sara-Jane Lanning, who has provided this latest Test Analysis in the Out and About Dressage series, is an enthusiastic competitor as well as being a popular trainer who includes test riding clinics in her diary. In her competition life she proves that by accurate and thoughtful test riding ‘more average’ horses can achieve above average success. She shares her thoughts and tips on Advanced Medium 98.

Movement 1
Enter in collected canter, halt at X, immobility, salute and proceed in collected trot. For a good entry you will need your horse in front of the leg and in good balance. In your test preparation you will have decided on which lead you can produce your best and straightest canter in which to enter. Turn on to the centre line and ride slightly shoulder-fore. Shoulder-fore will help maintain engagement and straightness.

You need to find X! As you begin to collect your horse for the halt and salute, glance out of the corner of your eye at the side markers to ensure you will land with your body above the E-B line. This is a championship test and if your aim is to ride at a regionals or nationals there will be a judge on the side, so don’t throw these easy marks away!

How often to you hear a rider say, ‘The judge at B didn’t like me!’ because she gave a 5 for your halt — you had missed X completely — which the C judge couldn’t see, so perhaps awarded a 7.

Apart from precision of your entry and placement of the halt, the judges will be looking for a direct transition from collected canter to halt. Show clear immobility while you salute with the horse on the bit and attentive (don’t rush), then ride a crisp move-off — with no walk steps — into an active, balanced, collected trot.

There is a lot to think about here for a maximum mark of 10 from each of your judges.

Movement 2
At C track left. Note that in this test the turn is included in the second movement mark, whereas in a lot of earlier tests it’s included in Movement 1. If you think that this doesn’t matter to you as the rider and that only the judge needs to know, think again. It’s really useful knowledge as if you make a mistake or have a spook in the first movement, you can ensure that you get re-organised before the next mark begins. Then only one mark will be spoiled instead of two!

Show clear bend through the corner and don’t forget some half-halts to keep the horse nicely on the hind leg ready to do a balanced 8m circle at S. It’s 8m and your line will take 2m inside the centreline. However nice your trot is, if it’s bigger it will lose you marks. In training, pace out 2m or measure it with a tape to train your eye to know how big that actually is. Also remember, too much neck bend risks losing your horse through the outside shoulder and your circle will end up bigger

Movement 3
S-V shoulder-in left: You keep the hind legs on the track and bring the shoulder in. You don’t push the quarters out! The horse needs to be on three tracks, with a supple even bend round your inside leg (which needs to be at the girth not behind it as you so often see).

Fortunately, the preceding 8m circle will have enabled you to set up the correct bend and fluency for the shoulder-in. In the shoulder-in, the quality and impulsion of the trot should remain the same. The judge does not want to see a tightening and shortening of strides in the lateral movement.

Make a clear end to the shoulder-in by taking the shoulder back to the track at V. Again, the movement should have helped you by improving the engagement of the trot as you continue down the long side around to A. Use the corner to set up the bend for a turn onto the centre line.

Movement 4
Turn down the centre line and prepare for half-pass left from D-E. Keep your horse’s hind legs on the centre line and don’t allow the quarters to swing out while you ask for shoulder-in bend.

Don’t think ‘half-pass’ too early, or you will risk having the quarters lead — a costly mistake. Riding shoulder-in for two steps will help you engage the hind leg and help maintain cadence and fluency in the half-pass itself.

Ensure that you have a supple bend from tail to the poll around your inside leg. Although you ask your horse to go sideways from your outside leg, remember that it is your inside leg that maintains correct bend and the forward tendency.

Aim to arrive at the track just before E as you will need to straighten your horse and have both hind legs on the track for the medium.

Movement 5
E-H medium trot; H collected trot. Ensure you have your horse straight and even into both reins at E. Make a clear transition into medium, keeping the horse uphill with the poll at the highest point and don’t let the tempo increase: you want longer strides, not quicker. Make a clear transition back to collected trot at H.

As much as possible your medium should go from marker to marker, but a clever rider will ensure their horse is straight and balanced before asking or risk the horse breaking into canter. Also remember that this test includes an extended trot and you need to show the judge the difference later.

Movement 6
HCR collected trot; R circle right 8m. Refer to Movement 2, a repetition on right rein

Movement 7
R-P shoulder-in right; PFA collected trot. Refer to Movement 3, this is another repetition,

Movement 8
At A, turn down centre line and half-pass right: again a repetition, see Movement 4

Movement 9
B-M medium trot; M collected trot. A repetition, refer to Movement 5

Movement 10
MCH collected trot; HXF change the rein in extended trot; F collected trot.
Use the short side MCH to sit the horse back on the hind leg to ensure that the following extended will be as uphill as possible.

Show a clear bend through the two corners, and not as is so often seen, the horse looking to the outside as the rider tries to make a half-halt with too much outside rein.

Now ride straight, look at the F marker and maintain the rhythm, show your best in-balance lengthened strides and lengthened frame. It can feel like a long way but for the highest marks the judge wants to see consistency, not a fading stride. And extended should be different from your earlier mediums. Be careful, if you and your horse run out of petrol a clear transition back to collected at F will be impossible, and the transition is part of the mark. I have heard an experienced rider say they had some blips in their test but not in an important part!

All parts of the test are marked, not just the half-passes or the medium and extended. The judge is still watching when you ride the corners and the short sides. In fact, the short sides are where the judge at C is most able to form their overall impression of quality: it’s where they can see the frame of the horse and whether or not there is an uphill tendency.

Movement 11
Having ensured that you made a good transition back to collected at F, you have just the corner to repair and prepare for the next movement which starts with a transition to medium walk at A which you ride to V.

Try to keep your transition really forward into the medium, as again, that is part of the mark. In this test the rider needs to show three different walks, so ensure that this one shows purposeful, ground-covering strides, a clear over-track and four beat rhythm while remaining on the bit.

Rhythm is the judges’ number one priority: if your horse can lose walk rhythm, try letting it be a little longer and lower in the frame to ensure you maintain the quality of the steps.

Movement 12
V-R change the rein in extended walk; at V turn across the diagonal keeping the horse really straight and marching forward — but think of a much longer neck than in the medium. The poll should go lower than with wither with the horse taking the rein forward. (It’s a little like free walk on a long rein in terms of the steps, but without the horse going as low.) There needs to be more over-track than in the medium walk and you should feel and the judge should see that the horse is using its whole body and swinging through the back (like a tiger!) This movement attracts double marks so make the most of it!

Movement 13
At R collected walk, M turn left and between G and H half-pirouette left. Take care when you collect the walk at R to maintain the rhythm. Position your horse shoulder-fore if it is prone to becoming tense and losing the four-beat clarity. Ride a right-angled turn at M which should help to collect it still more and set it up for the first pirouette.

Stay shoulder-fore left across to at least the three-quarter line and ride the first pirouette. Use both legs alternately: the rider’s outside leg turns the horse around its inside leg; your inside leg maintains the activity and the bend.

Too much outside leg and the horse will start with its quarters and step sideways and will then get stuck. Remember it is not a sideways movement but a turn of the front end around the back end. The hind legs should not step sideways, nor should they cross, but they should keep stepping.

The more collected and active the walk, the better and smaller the pirouette will be able to become. If your walk is too free, it is wise to keep the pirouette a little large which could still score a 6. Whereas if trying to collect it you risk getting stuck the mark would be 4, or a five if one step sticks.

Movement 14
Between G and M half-pirouette right, then H turn right.
Ensure that you don’t over-turn in the first pirouette otherwise you will mess up preparation for the second one. You want to ride shoulder-for-right after the first one, all the way to the other three-quarter line and then ride the second one to the right as described in Movement 13.

Movement 15
The collected walk mark. In Test 98, you ride collected walk a long way — all the way from R round to C. It includes the collected walk between the pirouettes right up to the canter transition. Keep the activity and a nice steady outline, ideally with the poll at the highest point.

Movement 16
At C collected canter right. The slight shoulder-fore in which you rode your half-pirouette will continue to help you set up for a good canter strike off. Take care in the transition that the horse’s quarters do not swing in, a common fault, especially if too much outside leg is used.

I ride trot to canter transitions from my outside leg, but walk to canter transitions from my inside — and none of my horses has ever got confused about it and they do stay straight!

Try to go into the C-M corner as much as possible in the canter as this is your set-up for the next movement.

Movement 17
M-F medium canter; F collected canter. Come out of the C-M Corner slightly shoulder-fore yet again and ride a clear transition at M into medium canter, keeping your horse uphill, balanced and with the strides getting bigger, not quicker. Then make another clear transition back to collected at F, being careful as always that the quarters don’t come in.

Think ‘more active’ as you collect the canter, not just that it slows down — another common fault.

 Movement 18
At A begin a four loop serpentine finishing at C with each loop going to the side of the arena with flying changes over the centreline.

Think about the shape and position of the serpentine as you start at A as there is a separate mark for this coming up. You want an active canter, but don’t forget the half-halts as you need to keep your horse balanced with the weight on the hind leg. If you are balanced and collected, you actually buy yourself some extra strides round the serpentine and therefore more time to set-up the changes.

Think ‘collect’ round the loop, and then ‘forward’ with the horse nice and straight into the change. A common fault, especially on the serpentine, is to bend the neck too much to the new direction which causes the change to be tighter and the quarters to swing out.

Try to place the changes accurately — as you cross the centre line — not before or after. When you ride the second change make sure you are facing E as in a championship test there will be a judge either right in front of you or behind you.

There is a mark for each change (Movements 18, 19 and 20). A change that is late behind cannot be more than a 4. A change that is together behind will get a 5, and one that is short behind will get a 6. This is not the judge being mean, this is set in stone! Remember the scale of marks box on the test sheets. For example, a 4 is ‘insufficient’ and a change that is late behind cannot be ‘sufficient’ (a 5), a clean correct change will get a 7 or ‘fairly good’, an uphill or expressive one will get an 8 ‘good’ or more!

To get the highest marks the changes will need to have lots of good qualities, ie, be expressive, straight, uphill, fluent and well-placed.

Movement 21
This is where the judge gives a mark for the quality of the serpentine. The quality of the collected canter and the accuracy of the serpentine figure, so ensure the loops are all equal and that you go straight across the arena for the changes rather than ride diagonal lines.

Movement 22
H-P half-pass left. The serpentine finishes at C so make sure you get into following C-H corner and prepare a left bend to set yourself up for the half-pass. Aim to start with the shoulder leading and the horse bent around your inside leg. It’s a long, steep line but don’t panic that you’re not going to get to P and ride the canter too big and flat or you will lose engagement and balance — and definitely won’t get there!

Keep the horse nicely on the hind leg and light in the shoulders with a few half-halts and by using your core. Don’t let the quarters take over as you get to the track at P but stay slightly shoulder-fore left along from P to F, ready for…

Movement 23
At F flying change. The change needs to be straight and on the track as close to F as possible, not when you’re starting to turn the corner.

With a horse that is green at the level it is better to ride the change a stride or two early but maintain the straightness, then they don’t learn bad habits or to anticipate the corner.

 Note: keep the balance and quality of the canter around to K as this short side of canter is all part of the mark.

Movement 24
K-R half-pass right. A repetition on right rein, see Movement 22

Movement 25
M Flying change. A repetition of Movement 23 but this time changing from right to left

Movement 26
HXF change the rein at extended canter. Make sure you are straight, think ‘shoulder-fore’ then ask for maximum possible stride length and ground cover without getting quicker and maintaining the uphill feeling. Keep the extended canter going as long as you dare, just leaving enough time to show the next movement! If the extended canter fades early you will probably not get more than a 6, unless the beginning was very good!

Movement 27
Collected canter and flying change. Start to collect the canter a few strides before F as you need a clear transition to collected before riding the change. The change itself should be on the diagonal with the horse facing the F marker — not with horse the horse swinging and facing the A end of the arena. This will bring your mark down even if the change is clean. Also, if you have collected too early, marks will come off this transition mark as well as the extended itself.

Movement 28
Turn down the centre line at A; at D collected trot, at L medium trot. This movement comes up fast, especially if your change had problems, so be quick to rebalance and make a smooth turn onto the centre line, get straight and then immediately ride the downward transition to collected trot which needs to be fluent and forwards.

You see many problems here, some horses are not on the aids and won’t trot; others drop into walk if their riders are too strong with their hand in the transition and don’t keep their leg on. Try dropping the weight down into your heels but think forward and keep the horse up to the bridle and equal in both reins.

Maintain collected trot to L then go smoothly into medium all the way to G.

Movement 29
At G halt. Immobility. Salute. The last mark is just for the halt, so at the end of the medium, ride a few steps of collected trot, keeping the balance on the hind leg. This is easier if your medium stayed uphill; not so easy if the horse dived onto its shoulders!

Make sure the halt is in fact at G and not several strides early, lots of horses anticipate and start dropping their riders early and halt too abruptly. If they are prone to do this don’t ever stop here when practising but go medium trot up the centre line and turn away at the end!

Keep your leg on into halt and try to stay straight and keep the horse on the bit with the poll the highest point and the hind legs closed underneath it and four square! Stand still and salute and hopefully you will be able to smile before leaving the arena at a free walk on a long rein with a pat for your horse.

© Out and About Dressage Ltd, 16 March 2018

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