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How to Understand a British Dressage Test Sheet

How to Understand a British Dressage Test Sheet

Before you ride down the centerline, you need to check out the dressage test sheet so that you understand exactly what you’re required to do!

There is lots of helpful information on that sheet that can help you to gain extra marks in the arena. But it’s amazing how many riders miss out on that.

Read this guide to find out more!

BD dressage test sheets

In this article, we’re taking a look at a British Dressage (BD) test sheet.

The information contained on the sheets is pretty much the same for all levels of pure dressage tests. However, there are variations for music tests, which we look at later in this piece.

1. Test name (level, number, and year)

Right at the top of the test, you’ll see the test level i.e., novice, elementary, etc., the test number, and the year it was issued. It may also include the year that the test was revised, e.g. ‘revised in 2016’.

Always double-check you have the right test before you learn it! It’s amazing how many people ride the wrong test!

BD sometimes makes minor changes to the dressage tests, but they don’t always amend the original test number. So, you must always make sure that you learn the correct version by checking the year the test was issued and revised.

2. Time of test and arena size

Underneath the test level, you’ll find the size of the arena in which the test is to be ridden (20×40 or 20×60), and the approximate time it should take you to complete the test (e.g. 4min).

Related Read: How to Accurately Set up a Dressage Arena

3. The body of the test sheet

The main body of the test sheet tells you where you need to go in the test, what movements are included, how many scores are available, and what the judges are looking for when they assess your performance.

It is laid out in columns. Here’s what each column means starting from the left.

Movement numbers

Each movement, including the collective marks, has its own number shown in the far-left column.


The marker column indicates the letter or letters where each movement begins and ends. That information enables the judge to mark the movement correctly and is important for identifying in which movement an error of course has occurred.

For the rider, the marker column helps you to ride the test accurately and pick up valuable extra marks.

Remember that the movement, transition, or change of pace should happen when your body passes the marker.


The movement column describes what each exercise is and what you should be doing at each, or in between each, marker.

If you have any doubts as to how to ride any of the movements correctly, check out our Dressage Movements category or simply search for an individual movement.

Max mark

The max mark column shows you how many marks are available for each movement. In most cases, that mark will be 10. However, some movements may be worth 10 x 2.

In the case of the double-marks, take time to practice those movements before the big day!

Related Read: How is Dressage Scored?


The directives column contains a mine of information that many riders overlook.

Each movement has a set of directives applied to it. The directives are there to tell the rider what the judge is looking for in each movement.

For example, a ‘trot serpentine of three loops, each loop to go to the side of the arena’, will have the following directives applied to it:

“Balance, bend, size, shape, regularity, tempo, freedom.”

These are the qualities that will be taken into consideration when the judge is deciding what mark to award you for that movement.

So, when you are practicing at home or riding the test at a competition, be sure to aim for those qualities in the way of going.

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4. Collective marks

The collective marks appear after the main body of the test. Again, each collective mark has a number, and there’s a directive, too, that appears underneath the name of the collective.

Make sure to check the marks available as these scores are often doubled!

The judge takes into account the competitor’s overall performance of the test when deciding these scores.

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Dressage to music test sheets

Dressage to music test sheets are different from those that are used for pure dressage.

Dressage to music is ridden “freestyle.” So, you make up your test, set it to music, and ride it in the arena.

1. Basic test information

On the top of the scoresheet, you’ll find the level of test, maximum and minimum times allowed, and the size of the arena that you must ride your test in.

Note that some music tests can be ridden in either a 20mx40m or 20mx60m arena, but this is usually at the organizer’s discretion, so be sure to check before you enter.

Also, make a note of the time allowed. Your test must not be shorter or longer than the times given, or marks will be deducted.

2. The test (technical marks)

The next section of the test sheet relates to the compulsory movements that must be performed.

Each compulsory movement is listed together with the maximum mark that’s available. You must include every compulsory movement at least once in the test plan, or you will be penalized severely.

You may also include any movements that are listed in the ‘non-compulsory permitted movements’ section. These movements will not be scored individually but will be taken into account when judging the overall performance.

You must not include any of the ‘prohibited movements’ that are listed as doing so will lose you 2 marks per prohibited movement ridden.

3. The artistic marks

The collective marks for dressage to music tests are different from those applied to a regular dressage test.

First, there’s a section for Rhythm, Energy, and Elasticity. That relates to the paces, impulsion, and suppleness collectives in a regular dressage test.

The next section relates to Harmony between horse and rider. That’s essentially an amalgamation of the submission and rider collective marks that appear in a regular test.

The Choreography mark relates to the inventiveness of the test plan and how the rider has used the arena.

The final mark is for the Music and the interpretation of it.

In the higher levels above elementary, there’s also a separate mark for the Degree of Difficulty of the test.

Again, make sure to check the marks available for the collectives as these scores are often doubled or even tripled!

In conclusion

Unfortunately, many people neglect to read dressage test sheets properly and thoroughly, resulting in silly mistakes and a lot of lost marks.

There’s a lot of very valuable information contained in test sheets that you can use to ensure a confident and polished performance.

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