How important is geometry?

Correct geometry is the line in the sand between going out there and riding a pattern, and actually understanding the correlation between correct work and how it affects how the horse can move up the levels.

Now, for us mere mortals, especially at the lower levels and with young green horses, early days in the show ring are as much about survival as they are about the training scale, and sometimes the perfect circle gives way to staying in the ring:)

Bit you won’t see incorrect geometry if you watch well scoring tests at higher levels. You can’t get there without it being right.


Oh, but it is! If you look at the directives in, for instance, Training Test 1, you will see “shape and size of circle” mentioned numerous times. When you look at Training 3, in addition to shape and size of the circles, geometry is specifically mentioned in the directives for the serpentines. The directives are what are being judged in the movement.


Geometry is important.I’ll bet those less then perfect circles/lines were not done intentionally. We are all trying to ride correct figures.

Plus one for scribing. Plus one for not leaving points on the table. If you sit on a super mover or don’t care what you score is (like just getting your horse out for the experience) then MAYBE relaxation is more important. With my last horse we needed every point and the mare was glad for me to nit-pick. My young horse needs diplomatic gentle reminders (but he makes up for it with better movement).

Another thing I have noticed is that if my horse lacks energy steering becomes more difficult.Best example is on the centerline(CL). When we come in with a tentative trot we tend to wander a bit more. Since both of the most recent of my horses had great brakes I always tried to SEND them up the CL. One of my instructors likened it to squeezing a tube of toothpaste, a firm squeeze sends a straighter stream then a slow one. Also riding more forward keeps my younger horse better focused.


I meant that Geometry is not a specific individual score on the test, not that you don’t lose points for each movement it wasn’t accurate. It’s part of the score for the movement, and for Rider, but the OP seemed to be looking for a separate score for it.


I’m not sure that’s what she’s asking. Her question was whether geometry is evaluated, and the answer is yes, and very specifically in many movements. I don’t think the geometry of a movement is ever a separate score, like transitions sometimes are (although more often than not transitions are evaluated as part of the directives, just like geometry), but if I’m interpreting the OP’s questions correctly, geometry is definitely evaluated, and as a specific component of many movements.


Bad geometry can reduce the difficulty of the movement and that will absolutely lose you points. FOr example, a leg yield that is too long (easier path), or the center loop of a canter serpentine (with no changes ) that is too large, not straightening after a SI on the centerline (your haunches will be in as you make the turn at C). Falling out of the trot or canter early at the final (or first!) halt before X… 10M circles that are 12 M, or 20M circles that are 24M…


My question, really, was: Why am i seeing so much wandering in these videos? Don’t people train that? Is it not important until you reach first level or better? I am watching just about every video i come across…mostly not footage from shows, but home videos. So, i guess i need to just watch and recognize that when i see a lot of the same errors, it’s because that particular thing is a ‘hard’ thing. LOL…like walking a straight line. When i think about all the trails my animals have in their pastures, small wonder a straight line is a foreign concept to them though!

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I haven’t gotten to where i am riding tests…well, my coach had me do one once, and that’s when we learned my mare is go-ey sort of animal. Since then, we just worked months on transitions, and now are where we are keeping my mare together on an entire arena trot(yay!) We do lots spirals (at a walk… bending her like a banana), lateral movements (also at a walk), turning on the fore and haunches and also square stops. We rarely take a long trot or walk down centerline, or quarter lines. so i’m not sure where we are on straight lines. Coach tells me our 20m are nice circles, we do a couple of them in the center every lesson as well as at the ends. We do a LOT of leg yield with body straight and with body bent (both ways) like a banana from center or quarter lines.
Mostly all i’m doing now teaching my partner what i am asking. ie: What all the stuff i’m doing with my body means in translation to her movements.

This mare is too easily pattern trained. We have to keep moving, keep switching stuff up

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I think your answer is that you are watching unskilled riders doing bad tests.


Here is the thing about dressage - the concept is actually pretty simple. However the execution is devilishly hard. The human has to have perfect control of their own body. Then they have to develop the horse’s body and the horse does not understand the language at first. Like two dancers where one party wants to dance in unison and the other party wants to stand around and eat.


OK…on the pyramid: I suppose i assumed ‘Straightness’ meant your horse’s hind was tracking directly behind her fore.

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It does. But ALL the “levels” are present to some degree or another from the very beginning. Even collection - when you transition down from trot to walk or halt, you have to collect a bit or else you fall on your forehand. The pyramid is not a series of steps to be conquered in sequence before you move to the next one.



Yes, you are watching beginner videos. Yes, this is all harder than it looks. However, do you know that any given video is meant to show going down the rail as opposed to leg yield, shoulder in, or half pass?

When I’m actually warming up a horse I do a lot of freeform patterns as I try to feel out where she is sticky or resistant that day. I might only aim for 3 or 4 good steps. I want the horse mobile and on the aids. Like if I stretch at home, I feel my way into what feels right or uncomfortable and try to work towards more mobility.

And yeah, until the horse feels identical in either directiin they aren’t really straight.

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A rider at our barn says she can’t do dressage bc she failed geometry. I told her jumping is like trigonometry - too many angles.


I liked this explanation of the training pyramid and how to use it. (Note that now the term “suppleness” is now used in place of “relaxation” )

Note both that the scale is recurrent - you keep circling back and improving each level as you go - and that “straightness” requires some degree of the previous four basics. It aint easy!


Haul your horse off property to an electric show ground, and then try to send that horse straight into a terrifying looking judges stand and see how straight you get. :slight_smile:

What you do at home, you’ll get maybe (MAYBE!) 80% of at shows.

I can do pretty darn straight lines and a bang on 20m circle at home, yet I expect it to be less than perfect at my first-for-the-young-horse dressage show this weekend. If it starts to go sideways in the ring, it’s more important for me to 1) give her a good experience at a show and 2) correct it as tactfully as possible… than it is for me to be perfect.


And also, I don’t think I ride a test more than once before I show it, and that’s to find the sticky spots. I school the individual movements that need work.


In addition to all the good answers to your questions here, I suggest you go to some shows and REALLY watch a cross section of classes from training to GP.
If you volunteer to scribe, you will learn LOTS.

Especially in training level, where there are fewer and simpler movements, the geometry has a proportionately large impact on the total score. In addition, the judge is obligated to try to impact the rider’s perception of the basics of dressage. Riding basic figures with correct geometry is absolutely necessary if you want to go up the levels.

The geometry issues you mention are due to lack of experience and/or training at the elementary level.

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Not indifference. (good to know)