Backyard dressagers, I want to go to a show

I had such big plans for this summer. But had an accident and hadn’t ridden since Xmas.

I’m trying to get both of us back in shape and really want to go to one or two shows so the summer wasn’t a total write-off. There’s a local series that I think has September and October left.

I’ve never been to a dressage show. We (well, i) suck. But surely to God after 35 years of riding I could cobble together a test at a local show?

Right now I’m just working on getting all the kinks back out and reminding him he’s not a cowpony anymore. He’s getting there. Should I look up the walk-trot tests and just go for it? He has a lovely canter but his left lead is elusive because I’m shite and crooked.

If you’re a backyard rider who took the plunge, talk to me. I’ve already texted a coach to get back in to weekly ship in lessons.


I was a dyed-in-the-wool H/J rider who took a long hiatus and kind of lost my direction and relegated myself to my backyard. When I made my return to the show ring, I did so in dressage (and low level eventing).

There is absolutely no shame in starting with the intro A & B tests. I was a cocky fool and somehow thought that was beneath me. It wasn’t; it was actually exactly what I needed to get my feet wet again.

Best case scenario you hit it out of the park with a super high score and know to move up next time. Worse case scenario you can muddle through a very straight forward test without having to stress about his left lead canter.


Absolutely. At Intro level, a judge will be looking for, among other things, steady tempo, quiet and smooth transitions, accurate figures, and a horse that is steady in the contact. The contact can be light, but it must be there. If you can achieve most of this, you’ll be fine.


Do I need to worry that I’m middle aged on a middle aged horse? I know the answer to this is no, but that’s what is holding me back. That and I don’t even know how to sign up :smiley:

We were doing so good at the end of last year.


No, you dont need to worry about age lol. Older adults show all the time. It’s possible that the Intro tests may have younger people (kids) but so what. You are in the ring alone, judged on your own and I would suggest bringing a little cocktail to celebrate your ride! Find out from someone the name of the group or farm that is running the show. I’m guessing this is a schooling show? Contact them and ask for entry information. You must have a current coggins on the horse (less than 1 yr old) Oh, just saw you are starting with a coach. They can tell you how/where to get entry forms. and p.s. its a lot hard to tell someone’s age when they have a helmet on - unless there are little pigtails hanging out, lol.


Of course not.

The great thing about dressage schooling shows is that you don’t really have anything to prove except to yourself.

Signing up varies, but I’m sure if you email the show secretary they can talk you through it.


Go read my recent thread about my foray into dressage land with my very (very!) green OTTB (I’m a Hunter/Jumper rider). We had a blast and I know you will too! I agree that perfecting Intro A and B is an awesome place to start.


Haha, maybe I’ll wear pigtails! :smiley:

I’ve ridden with this coach for a few years so she should be able to guide me. It’s just me, getting in my own way. But neither of us are getting any younger!


Oh, thanks! Will look for it.

Well sure, why not!!

Some tips: When I first started showing dressage, I wrote the letters on index cards and laid them out in my living room. I practiced riding the test and how I’d half-halt or otherwise ride my horse to prepare for each upcoming movement. That helped me practice riding the test despite any nerves that might come up.

Ride parts of your tests in your ring to practice. Just parts so your horse doesn’t anticipate. Don’t underestimate how well you’ll ride when you know you are being judged! :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile:

Also, don’t expect everything to go well at your first show. IME, the more you show, the more you learn how to shape your warm-up, how to ride in the ring and not be nervous, how to time your timing, etc. It’s always a process and consider yourself a miracle worker if you figure it all out at your first show!


As someone who keeps their horse at home: do it!

@SillyHorse is spot on with the goals of an intro test. I would just add that “quiet” does not equal “slow”. Even your free walk should be active or marching.

One of the nice things about dressage is that while everyone can see your overall score, only you get to see your test sheet with comments and scores for each movement. Study it. Then when you go to the October show, you can say “Yes, I brought that 4 on my halt up to a 7” or “I improved my collective remarks”.



Intro tests don’t at all equate to age or experience. Some horses are young, some are new to dressage, some new to outings, some may have issues at the canter, some owners just like intro tests. There are tons of older ammys that ride them and they are a great start while you work out your canter issues!


Around here local dressage is virtually all middle aged and older riders. The young ones are still jumping! Also no shame in starting at the lowest test. It may be reassuring or it may be intimidating for me to say that local pros often turn up at such events with their project horses (though there’s often an ammie and an open class).


With great big bows! :smiley:


Oh, come on. For an Intro test? What in the world would a horse anticipate?


Well, at least you aren’t downright OLD like I am! So middle age = no worries. Not at all unusual!

I try not to think about the fact that I’m old enough to be my instructor’s grandmother…


Realistically, horses know.

Trot up centerline and practice much? They know there is a halt. They know the turn at C. They know where about in the ring they trot, the approximate time of trot, and where they walk. If you’ve shown much you know that many horses know the set of movements at their level if over-done at home.

Horses aren’t stupid and have more time to think at the lowest levels.


I’ve ridden horses that turn into the centre and halt after 55 minutes.

I’ve ridden a horse that jumps well in warm up but then when he hears the starting bell refuses at the first fence - because he knows.

I’ve ridden horses who are tippy toe and with eyes out on stalks because last time, three years ago, there were dangerous killer pigs in that field!!!

I’ve ridden a superstar who would watch other horses going round a course and he would do the right course when I got lost. (J.S. RIP)

So anticipating a dressage test is absolutely no problem for a horse.


Back in my younger years, showing stock horse type stuff (rail classes) my horse would listen to the announcer. Before they could finish the word she was doing whatever they were about to say :smiley:

I can see having the same problem with this guy, so duly noted.


I am doing just that! First dressage show in 30 plus years on aa horse whose age combined with mine is 86. Our show is in two days! We have been practicing and taking a few lessons (4) to be ready as we can. Ace in the hole is that the horse was an accomplished dressage horse when he was given to me by my daughter. Even so…I am a bit nervous about the upcoming tests! Oh I am an adult amateur–children are listed as junior riders so not exactly in my class.