If you've been following our Rule Refresher series, you've seen the article on the dressage test and scoring for the dressage phase. But wouldn't it be nice if we collected all the rules you need to know for the dressage phase, including dress and equipment rules, all in one spot? We thought so too!
Text has been taken directly from the USEF Rules for Eventing with emphasis added by the USEA.
a. At all levels of eventing competition, from Beginner Novice through Advanced, at Federation Endorsed competitions and recognized competitions, riders must wear headgear as follows, except as may otherwise be mandated by local law (see also GR801):
b. Upon arrival, anyone riding a horse must wear properly fitting protective headgear which passes or surpasses ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)/SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use and carries the SEI tag. Harness must be secured and properly fitted.
c. It is the responsibility of the rider, or the parent or guardian or trainer of the junior exhibitor to see to it that the headgear worn complies with appropriate safety standards for protective headgear intended for equestrian use, and is properly fitted and in good condition, and the Federation, Show Committee, and Licensed Officials are not responsible for checking headgear worn for such compliance.
d. The Federation makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, about any protective headgear, and cautions riders that death or serious injury may result despite wearing such headgear as all equestrian sports involve inherent dangerous risk and as no helmet can protect against all foreseeable injuries.
e. Violation of this rule at any time, at the discretion of the Ground Jury, shall be penalized and may result in elimination.
One whip no longer than 120 cm (47.2 in) including lash may be carried when riding on the flat at any time.
One whip no longer than 120 cm (47.2 in) may be carried during the Dressage Test except in USEF/USEA Championships and USEA Championship divisions.
a. Spurs are optional for all three tests. Spurs capable of wounding a horse are forbidden. Spurs must be of smooth metal. If there is a shank it must not be longer than 4 cm (1 9/16 inches, measured from the boot to the end of the spur) and must point only towards the rear. If the shank is curved, the spurs must be worn only with the shank directed downwards. Metal or plastic spurs with round hard plastic or metal knobs “impulse spurs” and “dummy spurs” with no shank are allowed.
b. Spurs with rowels are allowed in the three Tests and when practicing/warming up. If they are used, rowels must be free to rotate and the rowel must be round and smooth (no tines allowed).
a. Horse Trials (Beginner Novice through Modified)—protective headgear—predominantly black, brown, or dark blue; Coat—dark color or tweed, tailcoats are not permitted; Shirt— of conservative color, with stock and pin, or choker, or tie; Gloves (if worn)—dark color, tan, beige or white; Jodhpurs, Britches—light color or white; Boots—black, brown, field, jodhpur or a black or brown full grain smooth leather leg piece and matching leather boots. Chaps and/or half-chaps are not allowed. Competitors may compete without a jacket. In such cases, shirt - long- or short-sleeved with collar and without neckwear, of a conservative color, neatly tucked into riding breeches.
b. Horse Trials (Preliminary) —protective headgear—predominantly black or dark blue; Coat—dark color or tweed, tailcoats are not permitted; Shirt— of conservative color, with stock and pin, or choker, or tie; Gloves (if worn)—dark color, tan, beige or white; Jodhpurs, Britches—light color or white; Boots—black, brown, field, jodhpur or a black or brown full grain smooth leather leg piece and matching leather boots. Chaps and/or half-chaps are not allowed.
c. Horse Trials (Intermediate and Advanced) & Three-Day Events. As above except no tweed coat. Tailcoats permitted. Shirt—stock with pin; Gloves (required)—white or dark color; Britches—as above; Boots—preferably black dress or a black full grain leather leg piece and matching leather boot. Chaps and half-chaps are not allowed. Members of armed and police forces, service dress with gloves, regulation headgear, and spurs in accordance with EV114.
At temperatures above 85°F, a heat index above 85°, or at the discretion of the Ground Jury or the Organizer, competitors in Preliminary, Intermediate, and Advanced levels will be permitted to compete without jackets, in the dressage and/or jumping tests. In such cases, competitors must wear either a long- or short-sleeved shirt of conservative color without neckwear; members of the armed forces and police units may ride in their summer uniforms. In inclement weather competitors may wear a windbreaker jacket or rain coat over their clothing; their number must be visible.
a. The following are compulsory: an English type saddle and a permitted bridle.
b. A double bridle with cavesson noseband, i.e. bridoon and curb bits with curb chain (made of metal or leather or a
combination), is permitted for some tests. Cover for curb chain can be made of leather, rubber, or sheepskin.
1. Cavesson noseband may never be so tightly fastened as to harm the horse.
2. Lipstrap and rubber or leather covers for the curb chain are optional.
3. Bridoon and curb must be made of metal or rigid plastic and may be covered with rubber/latex (flexible rubber
bridoons and/or curbs are not allowed).
4. The lever arm of the curb bit is limited to 10 cm (length below the mouthpiece).
5. The upper cheek must not be longer than the lower cheek.
6. If the curb has a sliding mouthpiece, the lever arm of the curb bit below the mouthpiece must not measure more than 10 cm when the mouthpiece is in the uppermost position.
7. The diameter of the ring of the bridoon and/or curb must be such as to not hurt the horse.
8. Minimum diameter of mouthpiece to be twelve millimeters (12mm) for the curb bit and ten millimeters (10mm) for bridoon bit.
c. A rounded snaffle bit made of metal, leather, rubber, or plastic material is permitted for all tests and may be covered with rubber/latex. The reins must be attached to the bit.
d. It may have a cavesson noseband, dropped noseband, crossed noseband, or flash noseband.
1. The noseband must be made entirely of leather or leather-like material, except for a small disc of sheepskin, which may be used in the intersection of the two leather straps of a crossed noseband.
e. A breastplate may be used. For drawings of permitted bits and nosebands see Annex 1 on the USEF website for Approved Bits for National Competitions. Permitted bits for a particular test are specified on each test.
f. Martingales, bit guards, any kind of gadgets (such as bearing, side, running or balancing reins, etc.), reins with any loops or hand attachments, and any form of blinkers, including earmuffs, earplugs, hoods, and seat covers are, under penalty of elimination, strictly forbidden.
g. Any kind of boots or leg bandages are prohibited in the areas around the arena and inside the arena. The boots and/or bandages must be removed before entering the space around the Competition arena or the Athlete will be penalized. See EV136.c.
h. Shoes (with or without cuffs) that are attached with nails or glue, or wraps that do not extend past the hair line of the hoof are permitted.
i. Ear hoods are permitted for all tests and may also provide noise reduction. However, ear hoods must allow for
ears to move freely and must not cover the horse’s eyes and earplugs are not permitted (exception for prize-giving ceremonies). The ear hoods should be discreet in color and design. Ear hoods may not be attached to the noseband.
j. Nose nets are permitted under the following conditions:
1. The entry must be accompanied by a letter signed by the horse’s veterinarian on letterhead, stating that the horse has been diagnosed with head shaking syndrome and that the horse’s condition is improved with the use of a nose net.
2. The Nose net must be made of a transparent material and cover only the top half of the muzzle, not the bit or the horse’s mouth.
k. A neck strap or pommel strap may be used. The strap must be made primarily of leather.
1. The object of Dressage is the harmonious development of the physique and ability of the horse. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose, and flexible, but also confident, attentive, and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider.
2. These qualities are revealed by:
a. The freedom and regularity of the paces;
b. The harmony, lightness, and ease of movements;
c. The lightness of the forehand and the engagement of the hindquarters, originating in a lively impulsion;
d. The acceptance of the bridle, with submissiveness throughout and without any tenseness or resistance.
3. The dressage tests to be used each year will be printed in Appendix 2. From these tests, Organizers are free to select the specific tests to be used for their competition. The test to be used must be printed in the prize list for the competition.
1. In any circumstances not specifically covered by these rules, the “FEI Rules for Dressage Events” will apply.
2. All tests must be carried out from memory, and all movements must follow in the order laid down in the test.
3. After the signal has been given, the Competitor must enter the arena at A within 45 seconds.
4. A test begins with the entry at A and ends after the salute at the end of the test, as soon as the horse moves forward. Any incidents before the beginning or after the end of the test have no effect on the marks. The competitor should leave the arena in the way prescribed in the text of the test.
5. Competitors must take the reins in one hand at the salute. Gentlemen are not required to remove their hats at the salute.
6. When a movement must be carried out at a certain point of the arena, it should be done at the moment when the competitor’s body is above this point.
7. The use of the voice in any way whatsoever or clicking the tongue once or repeatedly is a serious fault involving the deduction of at least two marks from those that would otherwise have been awarded for the movement where this occurred.
8. In case of marked lameness, the judge at C, after consultation with the other judge(s) if appropriate, will inform the competitor that he is eliminated. There is no appeal against this decision.
9. A horse leaving the arena completely, with all four feet, between the time of entry and the final salute, will be eliminated.
10. Any resistance that prevents the continuation of the test longer than 20 seconds will be punished by elimination.
11. When a competitor makes an “error of course” (takes the wrong turn, omits a movement, etc.) the judge at C warns him by sounding the bell. The judge shows him, if necessary, the point at which he must take up the test again and the next movement to be executed, then leaves him to continue by himself. However, in some cases when, although the competitor makes an “error of course”, the sounding of the bell would unnecessarily impede the fluency of the performance (for instance if a competitor makes a transition at V instead of K), it is up to the judge at C to decide whether to sound the bell or not. However, if the bell is not sounded at an error of test in which the movement is repeated and the error occurs again, only one error is recorded.
12. When a competitor makes an “error of the test” (trots rising instead of sitting, does not take the reins in one hand at the salute, etc.), he must be penalized as for an “error of course”.
13. In principle, a competitor is not allowed to repeat a movement of the test unless the judge at C decides on an error of course and sounds the bell. If the competitor has started the execution of a movement and tries to do the same movement again, the judge(s) must consider the first movement shown only and at the same time penalize for an error of course.
14. If there is more than one judge, unless all judges are in agreement on an error, the competitor receives the benefit of the doubt.
15. Any outside intervention by voice, signs, etc., is considered unauthorized assistance. A competitor receiving unauthorized assistance will be eliminated, at the discretion of the Ground Jury.
16. When there are two or more judges, one horse and rider, taking no part in the competition, will perform the prescribed ride in order that the judges may confer before the competition begins.
17. The judge at C may stop a test and/or allow a competitor to restart a test from the beginning or from any appropriate point in the test if, at his discretion, some unusual circumstance has occurred to interrupt a test.
18. No judge should be required to officiate longer than 8 hours in one day, and should not be required to be on the show grounds longer than 10 hours. Judges should be given at least a 45-minute lunch break and at least a 10-minute break every 2 hours.
1. The arena must be 60 meters long and 20 meters wide (Standard Arena) or 40 meters long and 20 meters wide (Small Arena), depending on the specifications for the test to be used. The measurements are for the interior of the enclosure. The arena should be separated from the public by a distance of not less than 15 meters. The enclosure itself should consist of a low fence, about 30 cm (12 inches) high. It is recommended that the entrance at A be a minimum of 2 meters and a maximum of 4 meters wide. The part of the fence at A should be easy to remove, to allow access, or may be left open. The fence should be such to prevent the horse’s hooves from entering.
2. The letters should be placed outside the enclosure, about 50 cm (20 inches) from the fence. The letter A should be a sufficient distance from the entrance to allow unobstructed entry. It is desirable to place a special marker on the fence itself, level with and in addition to the letter concerned.
3. The centerline and the points along the centerline, if described in the test to be used, should be clearly marked, without being of a nature to frighten the horses. On that account, it is recommended: to mow the center line shorter on a grass arena, or to roll or rake the centerline on a sand arena. The points D, L, X, I and G, should be similarly mowed, rolled or raked, about 2 meters (6’6”) straight across the centerline.
4. If there is only one judge, he is placed 5 meters (16 feet) from the end of the arena opposite the letter C. When two judges are used, one (the President) is placed at C and the other is placed 5 meters from the side of the arena, opposite the letter E or B. When three judges are used, one (the President) is placed at C, another (M or H) is placed at the end of the arena on a line with the judge at C, to his left or right, 2.5 meters in from the long side of the arena, and the third judge is placed 5 meters from the side of the arena, opposite either E or B. A separate enclosure (tent, trailer) should be provided for each judge and it should be raised at least 0.5 meters (20 inches) above the ground to give the judge a good view of the arena.
5. For diagrams of Standard and Small Arenas, see Appendix 5.
a. Judges will award good marks from 0-10 for each movement and for each collective mark, with 0 being the lowest mark and 10 being the highest. All half marks from 0.5 - 9.5 may be used both for movements and collective marks, at the discretion of the judge, and scores given must be recorded with a decimal (e.g. as 6.0 instead of 6).
b. Errors of Course or Test will be penalized as follows:
c. All of the following are considered errors, and two points will be deducted per error, but they are not cumulative and will not result in Elimination.
d. In the case of a fall of a horse and/or competitor, the competitor will not be eliminated. He will be penalized by the effect of the fall on the execution of the movement concerned and in the collective marks.
e. After elimination, a competitor may continue his performance to the end. The marks will be awarded in the ordinary way.
a. Elimination is left to the discretion of the Ground Jury in the following cases:
b. Elimination must be applied in the following cases:
a. The good marks from 0-10 awarded by each judge to a competitor for each numbered movement of the dressage test together with the collective marks are added together, deducting any error of course or test.
b. For each judge the percentage of maximum possible good marks obtainable is then calculated by dividing the total good marks received (minus any error of course or test) by the maximum possible good marks obtainable and then multiplying by 100 and rounding the result to two decimal digits. This value is shown as the individual mark for that judge.
c. If there is more than one judge, the average percentage for the competitor is obtained by adding together the percentage for each judge and dividing by the number of judges, always rounding the result to two decimal digits.
d. In order to convert percentage into penalty points, the percentage if there is only one judge or the average percentage if there is more than one judge must be subtracted from 100. The result, rounded to one decimal digit, is the score in penalty points for the test.
Want to catch up on past rule refreshers? Click here.
All the major contenders passed the eventing final horse inspection at the Tokyo Olympics and will carry on to contest the show jumping phase in a few hours’ time.
The ground jury (Nick Burton, GBR, Christina Klingspor, SWE, and the U.S.A.’s Jane Hamlin) and vets only failed to accept one horse - Fantastic Frieda, ridden by Poland’s Joanna Pawlak, who had completed the cross-country in 41st place with a refusal and 25.2 time-faults.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.