Dressage Gurus --need thoughts on first show in 40+ years . .

In 1971, I took 5 dressage lessons. Since then I have pretty much just supported my kids and grandkid in their dressage pursuits. However, that has included occasionally working their 3-Day horses in dressage when they lived at home (not for 10 years). Other than that, I fox hunt, and do a little Mounted Archery.

November DD gave me a horse (Hugh Jackman=HJ) she’d had showing in 3 day for 7-8 years, rather successfully --dressage in the 30s to 40s I think that translates to 60s-70s in Dressage scoring). He was no longer suitable for jumping, and was left with me possibly for MA, but that didn’t work out. Instead, I rediscovered dressage! (We still have a large dressage ring, nicely maintained).

Starting in April, after a winter of loafing, HJ was put to work. He is spot on. A true joy to ride. We got as far as walk-trot; could not figure out how to cue canter --so took a lesson. Instant success --now he lifts off nicely when asks and maintains a beautiful canter.

We have signed up for a show August 13, very local, likely very small. By July 13, I need to decide what classes to enter.

Questions: We can and do clearly rock Intro A, B, and C. This week we are working to Training Level 1-2-3 movements --serpentines and all that. We work in the dressage ring practicing transitions, lines, and circles 2-3 days a week (for about 40-50 minutes). The 3 other days we do trail riding and just keep ourselves fit. So WHAT DO I ENTER?

Intro A B C sound comfortable and safe . . Should I do Training Level? Push myself? I in theory could do First Level --but wow! It looks HARD (for me --I am sure HJ was schooling much higher with daughter, likely 3rd level 3-Day Prelim to Intermediate).

I can do 4 tests --what to pick? One easy? two moderate? one difficult? BUT I recall a rule about how many different levels one can do at any show --like Intro and Training OK but a horse showing Intro can’t do First Level –

I want to 1) have fun 2) be successful --but I don’t want to ridiculously under challenge myself - or over challenge myself. I have arranged for a groom to come with me to hold HJ between classes, and I’ve arranged for a stall for him, even though I live only 7 miles from the venue.

Last question --I am told that someone can READ the tests aloud to me --true? I would think this is an excellent idea even if I know them --just-in-case --again, thoughts?

Thank you!!!

If you can canter, you can definitely do training. Look at the Purpose and Introduce sections at the top of your test, this will give you a really good idea of where you are. At training level the judge wants to see that your horse is moving forward and thinking about coming into the bridle. First level you should be showing consistency in the gaits, tempo, and connection. In the lower levels the things that make your test better than the other competitors are accurate geometry and obedience. Might I suggest Training 3 and First 1?

You are right that you can’t skip a level.
“USEF Dressage Division Rulebook, Article 119: Participation in Dressage Competition, Number 2: “Horses may enter no more than two consecutive levels at any one competition” The USEF chart lists TR/1st , 1st /2nd , and 2nd/3rd as approved for cross entering.”

I believe you may have a reader at every level except the FEI tests (PSG and above). I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with a reader above second level. It’s very common below second level. But you should also know your test!! I’ve seen readers get lost and read the wrong thing and rider is confused… ring turns into a bowl of spaghetti…

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In Eventing, advanced is equivalent to third level, prelim is pretty much equivalent to first level.

4 tests would be a lot, at rated shows the horse can’t do more than 3.

How is your stretchy trot? If it’s not that strong, how about Intro C and Training 1.


Go a level below what you can school at home. All the moving pieces are harder to keep on track in competition. It’s not the movements per se but the precision in geometry and transitions. Also get video and then compare to the judges comments. Set yourself up for success at this first show and then you can show a higher level at the next one!


I’m with Dutchmare…Do Intro C and Training 1. Keep in mind: ideally your Intro ride would be the first ride for you, before you step up to training. BUT no guarantee and it would not be surprising if the schedule ended up with the Training 1 first of the day.
Yes, someone can read for you. BUT memorize your tests even if you have a reader. Stuff happens, wind blows the wrong way, reader mistake, etc. I find them distracting; need to focus on me, horse.
Practice your transitions - walk - trot, trot-canter and back. SO important. think about your geometry for any circles, half circles, etc.


This would be 50s-60s in percentage.

I agree 4 tests is too many in one day. I also agree Intro C and Training 1 is a good start. It’s always better to show where you can score well, then to struggle through.


Consider picking one test, like training 1, and entering both the training 1 class and the USEF test of choice class and doing training 1 again. Less to memorize, and a chance to improve your score after a break. Training 1 is so similar to intro C, I’d be afraid I’d confuse the patterns.


I’m surprised a show is allowing 4 tests on the same horse in one day. I would do 3 tests, tops. Max tops. It is hot in August and the arena is a frying pan

Given your skill set and the horse’s, and you want to do three, I would to Training 2 and 3 and First 1. If you land on 2 tests, do the training level tests.

Practice with your reader, not all are created equal.


Ok, so I’ve always felt a show is where you show the judge, “This is what we can do,” not “This is what we’re working on.” I would limit to two tests, probably intro B and C. You and your horse should be confident in the work.


Professional Scribe here :rofl: . You will get tons more goodwill from the judge if you can show that you definitely “belong” in the division, and are just polishing your work, as opposed to trying to stretch yourself and just show that you “know the tricks.” There is a different balance expected from a First Level horse as opposed to a Training level horse, and judges will score you as such (and it is pretty obvious right away.) Stay safe and keep the judge happy :slight_smile: I’d do Intro C and Training 1.


By no means a dressage guru but just did my first dressage show ever (horse’s first show too!) after 20 years in hunter jumper land.

Do the level where you are confident! Things come up faster at the show. Do a super easy test first to get in the ring and then shine at your confident level.

Oh and have fun!!


At a one day schooling show I would recommend Intro B, Intro C and Training 1. These three tests would definitely not make a strenuous day for your horse. If he was scoring 30’s - 40’s (70’s - 60’s) in dressage at 3day prelim, he should be quite capable and successful at Intro and Training level at a first time out for you after so long. You should be able to tell from the prize list if the Intro classes will be in a small ring. Be sure to verify that so you can change your home arena size for practice. Many riders become flustered when they’ve schooled at one size at home and are surprised if the ring is different at the show.

I agree you should learn your tests but if you are prone to a case of nerves at shows, there is nothing wrong with having a good caller at a schooling show, at least for your first test if your nerves are escalating! Do what is best for you.

Schooling shows are for polish and fun, so enjoy this first outing! Congratulations and have fun! Let us know how you do please :grinning:


Training 1 twice! If they have a toc (test of choice class). It let’s you compare exact patterns and what happens if there is a problem. Oh, our left lead depart is solid, but I can’t let him get strung out going right or he runs into transition. THATS what the judge meant by counterflexed- I can fix that! More March needed in walk? Let’s try in next test.
Easiest on your nerves too. Absolutely get a reader!


30-40s in Eventing is 60s and 50s in dressage. Not 60s and 70s. Big difference.

70 is 30, anything over 70 is in the 20s. 40s (40-49) is 51-60%).

As of today: I say Intro C and Training 1. Maybe in 4 weeks it would be Training 2 and Training 3.

I don’t recommend more than 2 tests (unless you’re including Intro B). Have fun, watch some other rides, read your comments and then gauge where you are for your next show. Looking forward to an update!


An eventing dressage penalty score of 30 = a dressage score of 70. An eventing penalty score of 40 = a dressage score of 60. In other words, subtract an eventing dressage score (penalty points) from 100 and you will have the standard dressage score.

I really don’t know what your argument with me is :thinking: The OP has the same understanding as I do.


If the horse scores between 30-49 in Eventing dressage then that translates to between 51%- 70% in pure dressage. Few people would call that “in the 70s”. Yes a 30 = 70%, but “in the 30s” means he’s generally scoring higher than 30, I.e., lower than 70%.

Of course that’s at prelim, which is obviously a much harder test. Who knows what he’ll actually score on Intro C and Training 1.


Agree with this. And two tests is plenty for one day, even at low levels.

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Yes. So an eventing score in the 30s translates to an dressage score in the 60s

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Uh-huh. A 37 would be a 63. A 35 would be a 65, a 30 would be 70. No argument from me. I use my trusty calculator :slight_smile:

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