As you progress through the Free Rein series, Jacqui, Geordie and Hannah are getting excited about a dressage test that they must memorise and then perform on horseback. I thought I’d explain this concept a little!
Dressage is a way for a horse rider to demonstrate their horse’s training. It shows how responsive they are, how well they move and how calm they can be when performing certain movements. A dressage test is a specific set of movements in a set order that riders must learn and then perform on their horse.
Tests can vary in difficulty, with beginner riders doing less on their horses than advanced riders. Tests are generally carried out in a dressage arena that is 60 x 20 metres in diameter. The riders are to carry out patterns at the walk, trot and canter – or sometimes just the walk and trot – within this arena. Each rider must do this individually in the arena with their horse.
All dressage arenas have a set of letters around the perimeter and within them. Jacqui learned a funny saying from her friends Geordie and Hannah to help her remember these letters. A Fat Black Mother Cat Had Eight Kittens. These are the letters that go around the perimeter, with riders entering the arena at the letter A. The letter C is opposite A and the letters F, B and M are up one side, whilst H, E and K are down the other side.
It is at these letters that riders often have to change something. It could be their gait – from a walk to a trot, or their direction by cutting across the centre of the arena and going the other way. Or perhaps they will need to do a circle at a particular letter – often 20 metres in diameter which is the width of the arena.
Dressage tests can be lots of fun to memorise and ride. They can also be difficult for a nervous rider! You’ll get to experience reading all about this in one of the upcoming Free Rein series books. 🙂