The salute is an exercise that occurs at least once in every dressage test.
If ridden incorrectly, extra marks can be lost.
So, how do you salute correctly?
[Please Note: This post was written by a British Dressage judge. Although the rules will be very similar to the rules of other governing bodies, please check the rules and requirements for the governing body that you intend to compete with.]
The correct dressage salute
A correct dressage salute occurs once the horse has come to a complete halt.
The halt itself should be balanced, straight, four-square, and obedient. The horse should stand completely still for a few seconds, remaining attentive and “on the bit” before you salute the judge.
Often, riders are so keen to get out of the arena, they salute before the horse has come to a complete halt! This is incorrect and will lose you marks.
Unless you’re in the military and you’re riding in uniform, you don’t need to produce a snappy, services-style salute.
When you’ve established the halt, place your reins in one hand, let one arm drop down by your side, and nod your head to the judge. The judge should return the salute with a nod. Take up your reins again and either continue to ride the test or leave the arena in a free walk on a long rein.
What hand should you salute with?
What hand you choose to salute with depends on a few factors:
- If you carry a whip, you should always salute with your non-whip hand.
- You may prefer to salute with your dominant arm and hand, depending on whether you’re right or left-handed.
- Riders with a disability who use looped reins may be unable to use their arm to salute. Instead, they should acknowledge the judge by nodding their head (and smiling confidently!)
The bottom line is that you can salute with either hand, as long as it’s not the one holding your whip!
How to salute if you carry a whip
The golden rule of the salute is that you never do so with your whip in your hand. Saluting whilst brandishing your whip may spook your horse and it will also lose you two marks for an “error of test.”
If you carry a whip, establish the halt first. Once the horse is standing still, hold the whip and the reins firmly in one hand and use your free hand to salute the judge. After the salute, retake your reins smoothly and either continue the test or allow your horse a long rein and leave the arena in walk.
The salute is an important part of your dressage test, so it’s important to get it right.
With your reins in one hand, let your free arm fall to your side, and nod your head to the judge. And that’s it!
Practice saluting at home both on and off your horse so that both of you are confident before you enter down the center line.