There’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting your dressage test half way through! What a needless waste of two marks!
But even if you decide to play it safe and have someone call your test for you, it still pays to learn it by heart. Thoroughly knowing the test will enable you to prepare your horse for each movement, so that you’ll produce an accurate, fluent performance that will earn you plenty of extra marks.
Here are our top tips on how to remember a dressage test, so you’ll never go wrong again!
Prepare well in advance
Even if you’ve ridden the test before, you should begin relearning it at least two weeks before the competition. The more time you have to commit the test to memory, the less stress you’ll put on yourself before the competition.
Remember, if you’re calm and relaxed on the day, your horse will be too.
Draw the test on paper
You can buy A4 whiteboards with the dressage arena markers already printed on them. Use a different colored pen for each pace, and draw out the test. Wipe the board clean, and repeat until you know exactly where you’re going.
Break the test down into small sections
Don’t try to memorize the whole test all in one go!
Break the test down into small sections of two or three movements, and learn one block at a time. Once you’re confident with each segment of the test, put them all together.
Ride the test in your mind
Your subconscious can play a crucial role in helping you to commit the test to memory.
As you think about each movement, picture yourself riding it perfectly. In your mind’s eye, see the markers, and plan how you’re going to prepare your horse for all the movements of the test. If you’re familiar with the competition venue and you already know what the arena will look like, so much the better.
Ask yourself, will you rise or sit to the trot, think how the horse feels underneath you, see yourself riding every transition, etc. This process of visualization will implant each moment of riding the test into your subconscious. When you ride the test for real, your mind will replay your memory like a video recording.
Ride the test on foot in your living room!
Find a space where you can mark out a mini dressage arena. That could be in your living room, at your yard, even in the office at lunchtime! A rectangular rug is perfect for this exercise.
Don’t put out letters; you must learn where the markers are!
Now, walk through the test movement by movement. The idea is to learn the pattern of the test. This method works well because many people find it much easier to learn a pattern than to try to remember each letter.
Also, your mind will memorize the “rug arena” exercise, helping you to remember where you’re going once you’re in the saddle.
Learning by rote
If you cast your mind back to your school days, you’ll remember having to memorize passages of text, poetry, etc., by rote.
Much like when you learned the lines of a play or the lyrics of a song, learning a dressage test by rote means reading the test out over and over again until you can repeat it from memory. If this technique works for you; go for it!
Practice the test on your horse (but not too much!)
It’s essential that you practice the test on your horse a week or two before the competition. That will allow you to find any weak spots that need more work and will also highlight any particularly tricky movements that could catch you out.
Practice sections of the test but don’t ride through the whole thing endlessly, or your horse will begin to anticipate, and that could cost you valuable marks on the day.
Borrow a friend’s horse
If you have a friend that could lend you their horse for a session or two, practice the test on that horse instead of your own. That will allow you to ride through the whole test without the risk of your horse anticipating the movements.
On the day, watch and learn!
At the competition, watch a few riders ride through the test before you need to start working-in.
Watching others riding the test is a great way of reinforcing your learning and allows you to picture the actual arena in your mind too.
You can avoid throwing away marks by forgetting your dressage test if you take the time to learn it!
Give yourself plenty of time to memorize the test, using one of the methods we’ve suggested above. Different strategies work for different people, so try out each of the methods we’ve outlined for you until you find the one that suits you best.
How do you memorize your dressage tests? Share your tips with us and other readers in the comments section below!
- How to Ride the (Nearly) Perfect Dressage Test
- How to Salute in a Dressage Test
- How to Handle a Poor Dressage Score
- How is Dressage Scored?