Common Remarks Found on Dressage Score Sheets
The judge’s remarks on your dressage score sheet are intended to act as an aid to your schooling at home. The judge will point out areas that need work, as well as those that are pleasing.
If you’re new to competing, some of these comments can be a little confusing. Here’s a glossary of commonly-used judges’ remarks to help you to get the most from your dressage tests.
Crooked (quarters right/left)
This is the first remark you’re likely to encounter as the judge assesses your centre line at the beginning of the dressage test.
It refers to the horse’s quarters pushing left or right of the centre line as he attempts to evade taking the weight back onto his hocks.
You might also get this remark in the canterwork if the horse’s quarters come in along the long side of the arena; again, this is a balance issue.
Tending to the forehand/could be more uphill
This comment refers to the impression that the majority of the horse’s weight is on his shoulders, and his balance is therefore downhill.
This way of going is typical of young horses that are not yet engaged enough to carry the weight back onto their hindquarters.
Above the bit/hollow
This refers to the fact that the horse is not working over his back through into a round frame and elastic contact.
The horse will carry his head too high, allowing his topline to hollow and his hocks to trail.
Against the hand
When a horse is said to be, ‘against the hand’, he will probably also be above the bit. The horse should work forward over the back into a round outline and elastic contact. A horse that’s against the hand will often show the following resistances to the bit:
- mouth open
- head tilting
- unsteady head/snatching at the contact
- tongue out of the side of the mouth
- crossing jaw in downward transitions
Tense/tight through the back
You might see this comment on your score sheet if your horse has been distracted by his unfamiliar surroundings and has become worried or anxious.
Tension can manifest itself through spookiness, tightening through the topline, not going forward, shortening of the steps, losing correct rhythm.
You could see this comment if your horse loses engagement into the halt, or in the medium trot or medium canter.
In order to evade taking the weight back onto his hocks, the horse simply splays his hind legs.
Behind the vertical
This remark describes the horse whose nose is no longer on or slightly in front of the vertical. Sometimes, due to tension or lack of balance, the horse will shorten his neck and tuck his head into his chest. This can also be a way of showing resistance to the contact.
It is most commonly seen in horses that are ridden in a double bridle, as they attempt to evade the action of the curb.
These are probably the most commonly-used terms on your dressage sheet that might require further explanation. If you don’t understand something the judge has written, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification; most judges are very approachable and are happy to explain what they mean.
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