Oct 20, 2021

10 Tips to Ace Your Dressage Test with Marilyn Payne

USEA/ KTB Creative Group photo.

Marilyn Payne is one of the most experienced and respected ground jury members in eventing. She has adjudicated at every top event in the world, including two Olympic Games. Here are her top tips on how to impress the dressage judges - at any level.

1) I always tell my students that they need to ride in the test exactly like they do in the warm-up or at home. Many people freeze when they enter the ring and are afraid to do anything or to make a correction. Pretending everything is fine doesn’t do any good. Even if you make a mistake in one movement, correcting and ensuring the horse responds means that the following movements will be better.

2) Set out with a positive attitude and expression: “Watch out, judge, here I come!” The same applies to the end of the test. Even if your test hasn’t gone well, looking miserable won’t help. Avoid getting visibly frustrated. Stay positive and remember that the collective marks are awarded after you have finished; if you smile, pat your horse at the end, and make it look like you are happy, subconsciously the judge will think, ‘Well, that wasn’t so bad…” Fake the judge out a bit!

3) Don’t be afraid to make corrections, but don’t make them harshly. Too often riders can’t control themselves, and the horse gets worse. Horses are very sensitive and feel our tension and frustration. Take a deep breath, make a clear, soft correction, and off you go again. Judges appreciate it when riders make corrections and love to give higher scores when the test then keeps improving.

4) Think about your overall presentation. It’s a show - show off your horse’s best qualities. Lots of event horses aren’t fabulous, big movers and never will be, but everyone can train their horses to get high scores for movements such as the halts, center lines, and transitions. Judges are not looking at the quality of the gaits in these movements. School the things you can do well and do them the best you can.

5) So often people don’t properly prepare for transitions; think ahead. Good transitions really make a difference. Not only will it affect the transition’s score but it will also affect the next movement.

6) One movement a lot of riders lose marks for is the walk. In the free walk, you want to get the horse to stretch down, cover ground, and swing through his back. This will only improve the connection and the quality of the gait. Also, too many riders shorten their reins and get tight when they want to go back to medium walk. The only thing that should change in the medium walk is the length of the reins. The quality of the walk and the march remain the same. Don’t overdo it - just walk the walk.

7) Be accurate! Anyone can practice that. Too often you can’t tell the difference between a corner and a 20-meter circle. Be more precise with the size of circles and center lines. Use cones and try to have someone watching; practice riding 10-meter circles in corners. Losing half points for accuracy really adds up.

8) At the end of the test, make sure you halt and stand quietly. A halt should last a minimum of three seconds. It puts polish on the whole test. Also, if you aren’t quite square in the halt, don’t try to correct; moving will only lower the score. If you are very straight the judge cannot tell if you are square or not.

9) Be sure to pick up your tests and read them carefully. Even if you think the judge scored too low, you can definitely learn from the comments. Judges try very hard to give you suggestions to help you improve your ride in the future. They love to see good rides and give high scores, so learn from your test and help make that happen.

10) Keep looking for opportunities to watch tests from the judge's perspective. Try to watch tests from the short side of the arena, sit with judges at clinics or schooling shows, and of course scribe for judges. You will find scribing both eye-opening and very educational. Judges are also very willing to discuss rides with you when they are done for the day.

Hope to see you soon down riding confidently down the centerline!

Oct 06, 2022 Competitions

All Pairs Will Move Forward in Morven Park CCI4*-L Following First Horse Inspection

After several continuous days of rain, the skies cleared over Leesburg, Virginia today as the Morven Park Fall International CCI4*-L got under way with the first horse inspection. Warm weather, bright sunshine, and fall decorations set the stage for 25 horses to present before the ground jury. All 25 horses passed on first inspection. The ground jury consisted of Wayne Quarles (USA), Robert Stevenson (USA), and Sue Baxter (GBR).

Oct 06, 2022 Young Event Horse

YEH Graduates Entered to Compete at the Second Edition of the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill

While a total of 95 4- and 5-year-old horses will be vying for top-finishes in The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) East Coast Championships next weekend, a select group of YEH graduates are entered in the CCI5*-L division at the second annual MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill Presented by Brown Advisory. The USEA YEH program has run successfully for over 15 years, and many graduates of the program have gone onto compete at the pinnacle of the sport, the FEI 5-Star level of eventing, including the four horses entered in the 2022 Maryland 5 Star.

Oct 05, 2022 USEA Foundation

MARS Bromont Rising U25 Program Expands to Offer First-Ever West Coast Location at Galway Downs

Founded in 2019, the MARS Bromont Rising U25 Program was initially created to assist up-and-coming riders under the age of 25 in North America who had not yet competed in a destination event, such as the program’s namesake the MARS Bromont CCI in Lac Brume, Quebec, Canada, or been recognized by the USEF programs intended for emerging athletes.. Spearheaded by the late Steve Blauner and Sue Ockendon, the program sought to give back to the sport by helping the next generation of riders get more experience under their belt with the help of the financial assistance provided by the program, and the two days of included instruction from leading coaches around the world.

Oct 05, 2022 USEA Foundation

Strides For Equality Equestrians Announces ‘SEE Month’ Fundraising Drive in October

Strides for Equality Equestrians (SEE) is excited to kick off a two-year anniversary celebration, happening all throughout the month of October in the form of “SEE Month”. SEE’s goal during October is to raise awareness about our mission of opening doors for equestrians from diverse backgrounds while also fundraising to continue our work and future projects.

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Real Estate Partner of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Outerwear of the USEA

Official Competition & Training Apparel of the USEA