Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2024

Jitterbug’s Guide To Dressage Tests

This week, the time finally came for my Human to step out of the bathtub and into the kiddie pool with a move from USDF Intro Test B to USEA Beginner Novice Test A.

I wish I could say it was because her lower leg has really (finally) improved, but in reality I got so weary of the 2” (yes, that’s inches, not feet) fences that usually accompany Intro Test B that I practically began falling asleep on course. I alleviated my boredom by inventing creative new ways to pull rails (more on that in a future column), and eventually she got the message.

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This week, the time finally came for my Human to step out of the bathtub and into the kiddie pool with a move from USDF Intro Test B to USEA Beginner Novice Test A.

I wish I could say it was because her lower leg has really (finally) improved, but in reality I got so weary of the 2” (yes, that’s inches, not feet) fences that usually accompany Intro Test B that I practically began falling asleep on course. I alleviated my boredom by inventing creative new ways to pull rails (more on that in a future column), and eventually she got the message.

Sometimes I just feel it’s time to stand up for my intellectual needs.

This progression seems as good a time as any to brush up on my skills for reading dressage tests. As a writer myself, I understand that the most important content in any piece of prose is usually between the lines, so new tests require careful scrutiny to properly coach your Human to the judges’ standards.

The following are my personal coaching notes from our old test based on my own Human’s (many) inadequacies; remember to tailor your lesson plans based on your biped’s needs.

1. A – Enter working trot rising. X – halt through medium walk, salute, working trot rising

1. Make eye contact with the judge as a means of apology for what is about to come next.

2. C – Track left, working trot rising.

2. Take this opportunity to shake the terror-puke off your neck. Turnout is, after all, part of the score. You may need to throw your head violently to accomplish this.

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3. E – Circle left 20 meters, working trot rising.

3. Remind your Human to check her diagonal. If she knows flying changes, the best way to do this is to bunny hop the way you would to correct your own lead at the canter, and hope she thinks to look down your shoulder. If this doesn’t work, break to a walk and hope she gets it on the next uptake. Do this as many times as necessary.

4. Between K &A – Medium walk.

4. The judges want to believe that your Human has a light, willing style about her. Try not to grunt too hard when she kerplumps into the tack for this downward transition.

5. F-E – Free walk

5. Judges like to see proportional Humans, and a gradual release of reins across your extended neck will make her look anything but. Hide the short stubbiness of your Humans’ arms by taking the reins in one strong yank here.

6. E-H – Medium walk

6. The Human will almost certainly be tired now, having spent 45 minutes wrangling that unfortunate hairnet before the hour-long warm-up. This can give her a wilted, uncertain appearance. Wake her up with a few canter strides and a sliding stop at H.

7. Between H&C – Working trot rising.

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7. As far as I can tell, this is designed to test your Human’s leg strength and relaxed, open upper body. Hide her obvious length of either with a couple of bucks. This requires her to sit a little farther back with the added bonus of convincing the judge she has a VERY strong leg. Conversely, if she doesn’t sit back during this movement, you have kindly dropped her off at the proper place for the judge to inform her of her elimination.

8. B – Circle right 20 meters, working trot rising.

8. Strict adherence to the test’s instructions is desired for a strong score. If—and only if—you’re sure your Human has learned the test, help to demonstrate this by wandering off course until she corrects you. If your halfwit is really thick, the best you may be able to do is demonstrate that she does know she’s supposed to be in the ring. By attempting to jump out.
In lieu of this strategy, remember that dressage people love symmetry. Keep track of your bucks and bobbles to the left in order to replicate them at the appropriate places to the right.   

9. A – Down centerline, X – Halt through medium walk. Salute.

9. If you remain concerned about your Human’s performance, offer the judge an apologetic gift at this point. I’ve found poo works well.

Jitterbug

Jitterbug is a Michigan-bred Professional Draft Cross who skillfully avoided saddles until age 5. Since then, she has been lauded for her talent in successfully managing humans while training herself to one day achieve eventing greatness. Jitter and her human live in central Kentucky.
Follow Jitterbug on Facebook!
Photo by Dark Horse Photography.

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