Sunday, 15 April 2012

How to properly read a dressage test.

OK - so we've all been at a schooling show where the test that you've supposed to use has been changed. If you're anything like me - you can't memorize a test in minutes,so what do you?

The obvious answer is to get a reader. But unless you've got a good friend that also rides dressage and happens to be at the show, there's no promises the person reading for you will do it in a way that you can follow the test.

Here are my personal hints and tips for both the reader, and the rider in this situation.

For the reader:
If you had the test ahead of time, verify with the office (or the scribe) what test is being ridden. If different, make sure your rider knows.

Read Clearly, and loudly. I have a short, sharp "arena voice" that carries which helps a LOT. Unfortunately if it's dad or a male helper reading the test, it's likely to be harder to hear. If they can use a slightly higher pitch this often carries better.

Read ONLY the test, and read the full instruction - nothing more, nothing less. Yes, it's redundant to say "working trot, rising" over and over but do it anyways. Do not insert words or further explanation. At a recognised show any instruction other then what is written on the test is grounds for elimination. It is however appropriate to repeat an instruction if it looks like your rider didn't hear you.

Watch your rider while reading. Give them lots of notice of the next movement - at LEAST 2 letters ahead of the movement to give time to prepare. Try not to give a new instruction during a transition unless you have to, better to give the 2nd instruction ahead of time then too late (for example if you have a "A - Left Lead Canter, followed by B - Circle Left 20m - you'd read these 2 together before the rider gets to A - because once they pick up canter you're not going to have time to read the entire next instruction before you get to B. Also, read the first instruction after the bell has rung, and before the rider arrives at A.

If you're rider gets off course, try to wait for the judge to ring the bell before you read further. After the bell - simply re-read the next instruction. The rider needs to work this out on their own, if you try to tell them "no, no, Left rein and then pick up at A" you're coaching them and they could be eliminated.

If you've never read a test before - try to watch another (good) reader first. A person's coach is usually a good choice because they know how to read well. Another good bet is if there is someone that's read for several other riders.

A note for parents - I know you want to help your kid out, but if you're not confident get help first. I promise you you'll feel worse if you were the reason your kid didn't ride a good test. I've seen people rapid fire read the entire test aloud while the rider is still going down the center line. If there is an experienced reader handy, ask if they'll read for them, then watch and learn.

For the rider:
You have a reader because you aren't confident in the test. Verify that your reader has the right test, and then just follow the instruction. Discard what you practiced at home and just follow the instruction. You'll feel foolish if you ignored your reader and started riding a different test.

Realx, breathe, and have a good ride!

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