How do they do it?

At the next rated show near me one professional is riding 9 horses. 2x OT, an OP, 2x OI, 2x CCI3-S, CCI4-S and one A. That’s 6 dressage tests to memorize, 6 stadium courses, 6 xc courses, and 27 rides total in 3 days.

It’s the 6 dressage tests that boggles me the most. How do hey do it?


When I was competing I could read through a dressage test once and then go and ride it.

When I was working in one place with horses I was riding 8 dressage horses a day. An athlete physio told me I had the most toned butt out of all the sportsmen she worked on!

When I grew up on Peppers back I could stay in 2 point for ages and not even think about it. In those days in Jumping equation you stayed in 2 point except for halting and acknowledging the judge.

I could know a showjumping course without even walking it

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Yeah, but my point was could you memorize six dressage tests and do 27 competition rides in a weekend?


I could read through a test and then compete.

The most I rode in one competition was 3 at a one day event and 4 at a Hunter Trial but I was doing all the strapping which I guess they are not.

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I definitely couldn’t! I bet showing that much they probably know most of the dressage tests by now (until they change again). All the stadium and xc though, I can’t imagine.


There’s a professional near me who rides 5/7 horses in a one day recognized event. He’s literally in the saddle all day. Last show he asked for the cross country map for prelim looked at it for a few min said thanks went out and was clear. It was very impressive. If you live and breathe this sport I can imagine it’s not that hard to memorize. Especially dressage they’ve probably been competing those tests on a bunch of different horses


What I can’t comprehend is having the fitness to compete that many horses in a day. Around here most HTs take place in one day and I’m usually exhausted by the end just with one horse, especially if it’s hot!


I think the secret to the six dressage tests is that they ride six tests Every. Single. Weekend. In the national levels there are 14 possible tests. They’ve been the same for three years. Someone with that size string is riding each of those tests in competition 10x/year (probably more often, honestly). Plus however they school tests and test pieces at home. Repetition FTW.


Really great help and great pattern/course memorization. That’s how they do it. Even with all the fitness in the world, the memory overload would kill me. Steady nerves, compartmentalization of each horses needs/skills/quirks. An army of adequate help or a platoon of excellent help to manage tack changes/warmups/ grooming etc.

I marvel at this kind of organizational skill and execution.


Sure…remember they ride as a job. They coach and evaluate the same tests they ride, over and over and over again. I used to show against a trainer in straight dressage who rode a TON of horses all over the levels and even when the tests changed…he was fine. Remember he has a zillion horses to ride so he can tinker with tests on loads of horses without souring the one horse on that one test. And yeah. The fitness is off the charts.


I know a professional trainer that does this on the regular. Recently rode numerous horses, 22 dressage tests in one weekend. It’s mind boggling, but he also has one of those incredible memories. We were chatting once and he remembered the name of a horse he rode for someone at a clinic he was teaching once 5 years ago. The horse boarded at my barn and I couldn’t remember its name for squat.


Back in the Dark Ages before she was an Olympian - Lendon Gray spent her winters in Alabama and worked for Peggy Whitehurst. She would take her string to the shows and show all the way from training level to Grand Prix. Never had a caller and rode them all from memory. And per Mrs. W - she never had an error on course.

Two tests were all I could ever handle.


It does seem remarkable, what they are mentally capable of doing. On the other hand, the non-horse portion of their lives tends to be a chaotic mess :slightly_smiling_face:


For the x-country, I imagine they’ve been to this venue before, and the Prelim or whatever test is always pretty similar, so they just have to figure out which fences they chose to use? If you know the lay of the land and all the fences, that makes it much easier. Plus, the fences are flagged. There’s only so many ways to go.

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This! The tests stay the same day in day out - quickly analyzing a TON of horse’s needs on that particular day - that to me would be the biggest challenge!

As one poster said, it is their job! When I was a teacher I could and did memorize 5 different lessons each day, and remember 180 names . . .sometimes I made mistakes, but not often. We do what we have to do . . .


The same tests are used over and over again and do not regularly change. At FEI there are only 2 tests to learn so it will be A or B. What throws the pros is when they change the tests! Then they have to work a little harder to remember them.

I got lost on a twisty, turny, windy XC course a few weeks ago and later heard that that’s not uncommon at that venue. :rofl: One poor girl was lost for so long that she got eliminated!

With so many portables these days, the courses can actually change a lot from event to event. Only the water, ditches, banks, and more permanent fences might be consistent and even then they might not all be used every time.

But yeah, if you are a pro and have ridden at that venue many times before you would have a better frame of reference and know the landmarks. I will hopefully never make that same mistake again (though I will definitely find new ones to make!).

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For 2022 there are 35 tests including FEI to remember!

Hopefully the average pro doesn’t ride intro or BN, or even the young horse tests too often, but the additional C versions of tests for 2022 for M, P and I would send me over the edge :scream:

Yes, this is definitely venue dependent. In the places I ride/rode often, one I have to look at the map but do not need to walk the course as there is enough room that jumps can move significantly but it’s pretty open and straightforward so looking at the map, I know where I am going and know what the jumps look like. One venue I didn’t even need a map - you went from start, to one field and either did a loop left or a loop right and I have totally asked at the start box if we were looping left or right. One venue I do generally walk as it can be a bit twisty. The last venue, no matter how many times I competed there (and it was A LOT), I ALWAYS had to walk - it was SO twisty.

As for stadium jumping, my experience has been that the course doesn’t really change between levels except for 2 stride/1 stride/bounce addition/removal.

For dressage - that is more to remember but you can practice at home.

That being said, I have seen more than one pro miss a jump out on XC on his not-first horse at that level, and probably one out ten horses for the day.