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Tips for memorizing dressage tests?

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  • Tips for memorizing dressage tests?

    I am a hunter rider who just (successfully) completed my first dressage show and want to try another, this time at Training Level. I've always been a bit "challenged" at memorizing my eq courses and it took me 3 weeks to really learn Intro B and C so I wasn't worried about forgetting where I was going. Any tips for helping me learn the next ones? I have three weeks...

  • #2
    I am absolutely terrible at memorization - it is a signficiant enough issue to have changed my career path from chemical engineer to aerospace engineer because I am not capable of the memorization I would have had to do for organic chemistry.

    That said, I do several things. There is really reasoning behind putting the movements how they appear beyond "these movements are required at this level" so I pick sections of the test to work on different things. For example, training level has some creative canter work, so I'll throw that in at times with a few transitions before or after.

    I'm also a big fan of walking the tests on an imaginary dressage court in the living room. I make other people listen as I tell them what the test is while walking it and have them check that I'm "riding" it correctly.
    If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


    • #3
      In the tests from Training through Fourth and most of PSG-GP tests, you mirror what you've done in one direction on the other direction. Except for the free walk and stretchy trot circle, you are almost always going to do everything twice, once each direction. I've found for training level, you do everything in the first direction, the free walk usually splits the test in the middle, and then you switch directions and do the pattern again.

      You have to find the techniques that work the best for you, but here is what I've done.

      -Read through the test
      -Say the test back to someone (I don't say things at specific letters, I say "circle left in the middle, down the long side, canter at the corner")
      -Walk the test out yourself in the living room, barn aisle, or if you need to in the actual large dressage arena (and do the trotting and cantering)
      -On the horse, walk through the test as your warm up and cool down
      -Visualize the test in your head (I do this before bed a few nights before the show)
      -Ride through the entire test on your horse, but only a few times

      I find dressage tests easier to learn once you get the hang of it compared with jump courses. In dressage, the letters never move. I would have a really hard time with jump courses where everything is different each time.


      • #4
        Mark out a dressage arena on paper. Then ride the test on paper. Mark it out on the floor in paper cups and then walk it , say I'm trotting now. I'm cantering now. It will sink in.
        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


        • #5
          There was an article about that in Dressage Today recently. The author also suggested mapping out a miniature course in your living room and going through it.

          I also have trouble memorizing tests so I was thinking of getting one of those My Little Pony things and setting up a mini-course on the coffee table with letters and everything


          • #6
            Originally posted by netg View Post
            I'm also a big fan of walking the tests on an imaginary dressage court in the living room. I make other people listen as I tell them what the test is while walking it and have them check that I'm "riding" it correctly.
            This is exactly what I do, too! I'll even walk it in the actual arena if necessary and I'll print out several images of dressage arenas on paper and then draw out the movements there as well. I also commute to work on a commuter bus, so that gives me at least 45 minutes or more each way to sit and study the tests to and from work.
            "I was not expecting the park rangers to lead the resistance, none of the dystopian novels I read prepared me for this but cool."


            • #7
              As someone who does not have the time to practice my tests 90% of the time (and I have a horse who does not need to learn his tests), I find drawing them to be really really helpful to me, that and saying them out loud. I even have a whole system to mark each gait as I draw (solid line for walk w/ squiggles for free walk, dashes for trot, and dot-dash for canter)

              In all cases, you don't need to 100% know where each letter is, just know where you ride the test (so in the corner equates to the corner letter ect.) although when you ride in a large it does get a bit more confusing.
              "I'm too sexy for my blanket, too sexy for my blanket, these mares-they should take it..." (J-Lu) - Featuring The Skypizzle Pony aka Classic Skyline


              • #8
                I follow the same practice as Hawks Nest and find it works really well. I use this site to print out blank diagrams.


                As I draw the test I'll use different symbols or colors to reflect the different gaits.

                I think walking the test is also an excellent way to memorize tests.
                \"How sweet it is when the strong are also gentle\"
                -- Libbie Fudim


                • #9
                  I love the Equitests and On the Levels apps. For me, reading the official test doesn't help much, but seeing the diagrams and going through the test movement by movement makes it quite easy to memorize what I need to do. I generally do that with the Equitests app first.

                  On the Levels has the same thing, plus videos of riders doing the tests from different vantage points around the ring. Once I've watched the rides a few times, I can generally look at the diagram section on auto play and stay one step ahead of it. (So, I start the thing, it shows the entry up centerline, and then before the next part, I see if I know what it will be before it appears on the screen.) If I can't remember, or I mess up, I get immediate feedback about what the proper movement was.
                  We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                  • #10
                    These are all great suggestions! When I was a piano major in college, my teacher had a great suggestion for memorizing music for a performance, which was to be able to start at any point in the music and continue. This was really helpful for those memory lapses in the middle of a piece of music (or a test, as I discovered!)


                    • #11
                      Use the same method you do for learning courses. Learn the "course" Enter @ A-Halt salute- proceed.. track right..20m circle... becomes trot down center, turn right, circle half of ring.


                      • #12
                        I am a visual learner and the color coded/animated diagrams have been so helpful to me. Digital Dressage is a good source

                        And for mobile devices there is the USEF Equitest app.

                        I also have the USDF app "On the Levels" which has a video along with a judges commentary for each test.

                        For free you could just find a few good quality You Tube videos and watch.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by netg View Post
                          I'm also a big fan of walking the tests on an imaginary dressage court in the living room. I make other people listen as I tell them what the test is while walking it and have them check that I'm "riding" it correctly.
                          This. I do this.

                          There are also now smartphone apps, or go the low-tech route and print out dressage arena panels (scroll down to "panels") and trace the pattern, over and over (and over and...)

                          You can also likely go on YouTube and watch others riding the test, if it helps you to see it. I find it more helpful to review the test as if I'm riding it.


                          • #14
                            I try to learn the test first by reading thru the test, seeing where the movements start/end in the arena. I draw out the arena as well, and go thru it that way. Once I feel I know the test, then I ride it in my head. Knowing the horse as I do, it's where I would half halt or start preparing for a transition, etc.

                            AND, I always have a reader at the show!


                            • #15
                              For me, the issue isn't really memorizing the test, but keeping each test separated... It always amazes me how some riders can remember and ride several tests a day. I often have to ride two tests a day, and there is always the danger of mixing them all up. sigh.


                              • #16
                                this may sound crazy but I practice them on foot a few times and that makes a difference to my memory


                                • #17
                                  Equitest app diagrams. I used to draw my tests over & over on graph paper (arena size 1 box by 3 boxes!) but now I just go through the move by move diagrams on the Equitests apps & it really gets the patterns cemented in my head even better than drawing.


                                  • #18
                                    Dressage Arena Boards are the best way to learn tests

                                    As a competitor and as an instructor, I've found that the best way to learn dressage tests is to draw them on a scaled arena board. It is too easy to lose points for inaccurate geometry otherwise. Drawing them also helps you visualize your test while you're riding it, so you can "see" all those invisible letters and lines in the actual dressage arena.

                                    The best boards on the market are hard dry erase boards that last a long time, like those made by Letter Perfect. They have a website (letterperfectproducts.com) and you can also buy their boards at Amazon.com or Dressage Extensions. The flimsy ones that are made of laminated cardboard don't last long, so even though they're cheaper, you end up spending more in the long run. There are also apps you can buy for your computer or smartphone.


                                    • #19
                                      I agree with the suggestions to walk the test in your living room or barn hallway, with some letters. If you have a coach/instructor/friend who can lunge you - not you on your horse - so that you learn the geometry of the 20 meter circles at A & C or B & E, and the 10 meter arcs in the corners.


                                      • #20
                                        Write the letters on pieces of computer paper and tape them up on the walls of a room, this is your arena. Then ride the test as if you are the horse. Fling your arms out during the lengthening, collect your 'gait' before the down transitions, halt squarely, etc. You will look like a crazy person but it helps to "ride" the test exactly how you would on the horse. Then enlist a helper (usually my husband, bless his heart) with a copy of the test to yell at you if you go off course.

                                        The apps listed above are fabulous. I have the equitests on my ipad and iphone. After I groom/get dressed at a show, I lock myself in the tack stall and go over my test. The quiet time is great for me mentally. Then I throw on my tack and go warm up.