In dressage tests from British Dressage Novice level, a 10-meter loop is sometimes included in the test plan. Although the exercise sounds pretty straightforward, it’s often ridden badly, costing precious marks unnecessarily.
In this article, we explain how to ride a 10-meter loop correctly.
What is a 10-meter loop?
A 10-meter loop is basically a mini serpentine that’s ridden between two prescribed markers down the long side of the arena.
The exercise is pretty simple when ridden in a 20m x 60m arena because there’s more space, and the changes of bend and direction are spread out over a relatively large distance.
However, in the short arena, there’s less time to change the bend and direction, making the movement much more demanding to ride. In dressage tests, the exercise is included in short arenas only, making it deceptively difficult to ride well.
Before you begin
First of all, you need to understand how to ride a 10-meter loop accurately.
- The loop begins at one of the quarter markers (F, K, H, or M).
- The widest part of the loop must touch X, which is 10 meters in from the track and equidistant from the quarter markers.
- The loop must be symmetrical in shape and length and ridden as a series of curves with no straight lines or sharp angles that would disrupt the horse’s balance and rhythm.
How to ride a 10-meter loop
Here’s how to ride a 10-meter loop between F and M on the left rein in trot.
The movement begins directly at F. Remember that you don’t have much space to maneuver, so do not allow your horse to drift past F. You need to leave the track as your body passes the F marker.
Be sure to ride as deep into the corner as you can to maximize the space you have available.
Establish left bend through the corner by turning your upper body to the left and dropping your weight into your left stirrup. That brings your inside hand away from the horse’s neck and shoulder, leading him inward, while your outside hand moves inward and more forward, controlling the horse’s shoulder while allowing him to bend uniformly through his body.
Focus on X and ride toward it.
A couple of meters before X, change your diagonal, and gradually change the horse’s bend so that he is clearly in right bend when you reach X at the deepest part of the loop.
To do that, turn your upper body to the right, dropping your weight slightly into your right stirrup as you do so.
After touching X and as you reach the halfway point before you arrive at M, change your diagonal again, and reverse your body posture, turning your torso to the left and dropping your weight into your left stirrup.
You should reach M with your horse already in left bend.
Ride deep into the corner and look ahead so that you’re ready to ride the next exercise in the test.
Common faults and tips to fix them
The 10-meter loop is probably the most inaccurately ridden dressage exercise in the book! Here are a few of the most common mistakes made by riders and some tips on how to fix them.
You must ride deep into the corner before commencing the loop. If you don’t, you won’t have enough space or time to get all the way to X before you have to return to the track to complete the loop.
Poor preparation almost always means that the loop is too shallow, for which you’ll receive a very low mark.
Many riders are so intent on getting to X that they forget all about showing clear changes of bend and direction, which is the whole point of the exercise!
Ironically, if you pay attention to establishing the correct bend as you ride through the loop, the accuracy and fluency of the exercise will be much easier to achieve.
Not finishing the loop properly
This error usually happens because the rider isn’t looking ahead toward the finishing marker. If you don’t look where you’re going, the horse will have no clue where you want him to go!
That often means that the horse returns too late to the track to make the corner, leaving the exercise unfinished, and possibly presenting you with an issue for the next movement.
Loss of rhythm and balance
Dressage is all about rhythm. If you don’t prepare your horse properly and change the bend correctly as described above, he will probably lose rhythm and balance, along with lots of valuable marks!
Do I need to change my diagonal?
Although you won’t be marked down if you don’t change your diagonal, it’s a good idea to do so.
Essentially, you’re asking the horse to change his bend and direction of travel as he negotiates the loop, so the change of diagonal is logical, as it helps your horse to stay in balance and makes your intention clearer.
The 10-meter loop is a deceptively tricky exercise that is frequently ridden inaccurately or incorrectly, so it’s well worth practicing at home as a schooling exercise.
Do you have any tips or tricks that helped you to ride the 10-meter loop perfectly? Please share them with us in the comments box below.