Dressage training with Jenny Eriksson: practising test riding

On Friday I was fortunate enough to have a private lesson with Jenny Eriksson, and this was my first one on one training session with her because I've been over protective of Vallu's legs and I haven't wanted to cause any proper strain on them until I was 150% sure he would cope with an hour long private training session. If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll remember that my first lesson with her was a total disaster and my second one was near perfect so I was really optimistic that this one would go well too. Just before I got on Vallu I did have a few moments of self-doubt and worrying that what if this was not the best decision regarding his legs, but two days later his legs still look good! Phew!! 🙌🏻
Such a serious horse sometimes!
I normally go to my lessons with the idea that we'll focus on whatever the trainer thinks we need to improve on. I always suggest something e.g. improving Vallu's walk work or polish up my ability to ride the half pirouettes, but I'm totally happy to do what the trainer sees that we need to improve. This time I decided that I really wanted to work on practising test riding. I know Vallu and I can do all the movements, now it's just a case of putting them all together in a sequence and being able to ride a big horse round a 20x40m arena! So I picked BD's medium 71, showed it to Jenny, told her which parts of the test were causing me the most trouble and then we went to work on them.

1. With horses that find collection super easy, the trot to halt movements need to be ridden with the idea of being progressive (trot to walk to halt) even though the actual movement in the end is straight from trot to a halt. This to help to prevent the horse (and rider!) from collapsing from trot to a halt which tends to lead to the halt not being square. By riding the movement with the thought of it being progressive, we improved from what would have been a 4 to a 7 as we also managed to stay straight and the halt was square!

2. With horses that find lateral movements easy, when doing a test in a short arena leave them alone during the lateral movements. Just set them up in the corner beforehand, ask for the movement and then leave them to it! In a short arena if you try to alter/improve/change things too much, you ruin the tempo and the flow of the movement especially when riding a big horse. This was especially true for me in the trot half passes. If I over rode, Vallu's tempo faltered and he went tense in the neck. If I set him up wen in the corner and just asked for the half pass and then left him to do it, it all flowed beautifully and there was absolutely no tension. Jenny said that since Vallu is SO good with his lateral movements, anything that I do that is more than just prepping him will only be detrimental to the score we would get 🙄 Safe to say that I truly left him to do it after that comment and wow, the half passes were super! So yes, if the lateral movements are secure and the horse finds them easy you will get better scores from just leaving them to it and not over riding it, but only if you have prepared them well enough in the corner before!

3. Ride your corners! I already knew this, but goodness me... Trying to do a decent enough half pass after a corner that I hadn't ridden well was virtually impossible! It only took one crappy corner to make me really ride into the corners and create 2-3 more steps that allowed me to prepare for a much better half pass.
Too true! Taken from one of my most viewed webpage by the Horse Network 
4. If your test has two half 10m circles (e.g. E half 10m circle right to X, X half 10m circle left to B) then practise this by riding a 10m circle before and after each half circle. This gives you and your horse the time to get used to riding 10m circles and gives you the chance to figure out how best to ride your half circles. Vallu tends to a perfect half circle after which I stop riding properly and then the second half of the circle looks more like a squarish blob than anything else! By riding a circle before and after the half circles, it greatly improved the half circles - probably because I was actually riding the latter movement a lot better rather than just sitting pretty.

I hope some of these will help you when practising test riding, they did for me!