Backyard dressagers, I want to go to a show

Because they did the same thing every day.

If you do those things exactly the same way every time you ride, of course the horse will learn them.

Practicing a test on Monday during your regular ride, riding your regular ride Tuesday and Wednesday, practicing again Thursday during your regular ride, regular ride Friday – please tell me how the horse knows the test is the test.

I also think it’s important to ride through a test in order to get the feel of the flow. It’s certainly not necessary to halt and salute while you practice a whole test.


My mare learns via repetition quite quickly. If i am working on something in particular and needing a wind-up to get her into that i need to find a way to switch it up every-other pass. Once, twice is ok. Three times equals anticipation. Even if a week has gone by inbetween lessons. She will remember that spot and that setUp.
I don’t think she’s unusual. Though i do think the goober gelding i have that is absolutely CLUELESS is. He is sooo transactional and in-the-moment (and not very smart…)

I’ve ridden the same three or four tests during lessons. Intro A and B in their entirety as often as i can get away with it. If i weren’t switching it up, if i were prepping for a show, i think my mare would remember the turns and transitions after just a couple of times. And i think…doing the whole thing…the salute would nail it into her brain. She knows. I usually switch tests and allow a couple of weeks to go by before riding the entire test over again.


I’m all about going for it if you feel you’d enjoy it. Go for it!

I’m considering doing some online dressage shows as more practice. Although I do need to get out to some more schooling shows too. What part of me once more practice of test riding without so much of the work of going to a show ha ha. But that’s just me being a little lazy right now.

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To Pehsness:

Go simple, do Intro One or Two. Letter marked paper cups in the Living Room or on your level lawn, it will help you solidify the test in your mind, wthout your horse anticipating.

Ride indiviual parts of the test, but never in the same order.

A judge has not eatten a rider in years. I think it’s forbidden in the rules. :wink:


I’m reminded of dear Sargent Reckless. Not trying to hijack the thread but, boy oh boy, did she ever learn!

Pony Finals bows!

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I had one of those! She was kick-ass in the Command Class. :wink: :laughing: :rofl: Though she never did quite catch on to counter canter and sidepass and never mastered flying lead changes, but fortunately they weren’t called for too often in the Youth classes.

Do the Intro classes and have fun!

Definitely go for it!! I am a middle aged backyard AOT. I dabble in dressage, but don’t take it too seriously. I have taken my teen-aged road horse to schooling shows and done walk-trot dressage tests. I never can remember the letters of a dressage ring, so I memorized my test visually - like “trot long side, at center of short side do a circle, free walk the diagonal” etc. :rofl:

Go to the show(s), have fun, get the experience, and come back and tell us how it went!!


Chiming in to echo everyone else saying that you should go for it!

I competed in recognized shows (three-day eventing) every year for about 10 years from the spring through fall up until I started nursing school. I planned to take one year off from showing since nursing school was an accelerated program (13 months) and I accounted for a few months after graduation to settle into my first job as a new grad which would have put me in time for a couple lower level events in the fall. I ended up taking three years off, mostly due to the pandemic. During that break, I focused on lessons and found local schooling shows that I never knew existed in my area.

I’m all about setting things up to succeed but sometimes you just have to rip the band-aid off and do it. It’s like those phrases about running: a bad run is better than no run; a slow run is faster than no run.

As an earlier post said, there’s no shame in starting at Intro level. And what another post said, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone other than yourself. You know what is right for you and your horse’s journey. Maybe just trailering to the show and schooling in the warmup ring is how you start. Make sure you have a supportive friend and/or coach with you (and a full cooler of adult beverages :wink:) and enjoy!

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Why are you blathering on about repeatedly practicing tests every day? Because no, people don’t do that.

My warmup starts the same every ride. We walk several laps around the arena with some easy circles thrown in, and then we turn up the centerline and leg yield to the wall. Repeat. Reverse and repeat. Some of you will be shocked to know that my horse had never ever offered to leg yield after turning up the center line.


X, E, B, K, M, etc.

Go to a local show and spectate or even volunteer. Banish fear of the unknown. :laughing:
You’ll probably see all sorts and ages of people committing all sorts of dressage “sins and ommissions”.
(A can of beer can be a helpful riding aid.)


You won’t get better advice than this.


My horse learned to listen to my trainer’s voice. Finally she couldn’t say “Trot” or “Canter”, she had to spell the words out. Luckily, he never seemed to learn to spell.


There is nothing unusual about this. Most of them can’t spell. :grin:

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I have a not very smart or motivated 5 year old and if I do this sort of thing regularly he will start leaning on the leg or pushing shoulders over when we start the centerline. No he’s not offering a leg yield but he does know we turn and go over there. I bet if you do the normal warm up with your horse and turn down centerline as usual but go straight, your horse will be trying to fall/push the direction you normally LY first.

For some horses, even practicing halts all up and down the centerline will have them start anticipating any centerline and trying to halt early. Some horses will just try to halt at X. Of all things, my older horse would try to blast down the centerline in our entry once we started having to enter at the canter.

I almost never practice a whole test. I will do 1-2 moves or string the canter tour together, but a hot horse will often anticipate the upwards transitions and a lazy horse the downwards, so I just practice transitions in general that happen where I ask for them.


Tried that today. Nope, very happy to walk straight down the centerline.

The OP is planning an intro ride on a former cow pony, not a hot horse doing a canter tour.

As someone who way over thinks (and gets way too nervous) competing and has never competed above training level (schooled through PSG movements, but test riding is a different ball game for me) – the living room approach is a go-to for me!

I rarely (like raaaaaaarely) show, but I’ll usually do 1-2 test lessons with my coach and then replay over and over in my living room. For me it’s about reminding myself - where on the circle do I open up my inside hand and gently relax my outside hand? As I turn up the centerline drop my outside shoulder and hip to prevent horse from over-correcting to inside, keep eyes gently up and forward.

Coach gives me tons of coaching on where in the ring to do certain correctiosn because harder for Judge to see. The living room approach allows me to repeat those ad nauseum until they become muscle memory – without horsey having to become bored to death or drilled to death.

Do I think this necessary to succeed? No. Is it my coping mechanism to over-thinking and show stress? Yup!

Chiming in: Intro is a great place to start! “working out the kinks” can be fun with shows too, and intro is a perfect place to do that :slight_smile:


Enter Intro 1 & 2, practice at home to learn your tests. Bring a friend and relax after you’re done. These tests are exactly what they are, an introduction, they are there for green horses or newbies.

You can also train a friend to call your test, if you are afraid you might forget.