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Level Journey Timeline

I am probably way too optimistic but after years of having one wrong partner after another I am hoping for good things! New young partner and I are on the cusp of being ready to show 1st level which is the highest I have ever ridden due to riding partner problems. New horse has matured nicely in the last 6 months and that lightbulb for training has clicked with a vengeance. What is everyone’s experience with timeline on moving up? If I am wanting to start getting scores for my bronze would it be crazy to think I could get both my 1st and 2nd level scores next year? I started adding up what the horse registration and membership fees along with show entries is going to cost and that’s going to be quite an investment itself much less the training and lessons that would be needed for all the 2nd level learning. I were to get both levels next year plan would be to skip rated showing the following year to master 3rd if horse is capable. Am I crazy? Is this doable or am I on a bit of a high that needs to be reined in?

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There is at present a thread on the leap between First and Second. It would make good reading for you.


I’m no expert but my daughter just got her final score for her bronze. It took exactly 2 years from her first level scores to her third level scores. Her horse is a good boy but nothing super fancy or expensive and she is a teenager from a non horsey family so I’m assuming it’s a do-able timeline for many people.
We did have to switch trainers to get to third level and we had her do some training rides on the horse. The horse had been trained thru first level when we got him so we werent starting from scratch.

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It probably depends on the horse’s aptitude for collection and mediums. Building strength for a decent medium can take a long time for some horses. Also whether you are schooling the 2nd level work yet. If you’re not doing SI, HI, W/C/W transitions and CC, it might be a bit difficult to get that all developed so you can put it together in a test by next year.

I’m in a similar boat, but my mare is on a strange trajectory with her training. SI and HI were introduced last year, we’ve started HP and W/C/W transitions this year, and she is already pretty adjustable in the trot, but it is her canter that needs to show up so we can be respectable at second next year.


Yes, we’ve had many conversations on the concept of timeline. It is different with every horse/rider combination. My suggestion would be to play it by ear. Get your 1st level scores, and be schooling 2nd at home. Only then will you know if he’s ready for 2nd or if you need another season. I would say don’t be in a hurry. Or, as I often say to my students: don’t be the sorcerer’s apprentice. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. (Clichés? I got a million of them.) Focus on 1st and be happy with your successes. Good luck!


It’s very doable, depending on where are actually are in your training. If money is an issue, maybe don’t show at all until you’re solid 2nd and then do both level 1 & 2. If you’re rushing thru 1 to get to 2, I feel you’ll have issues. That leap is a pretty substantial one and your basics and beginnings of collection need to be solid. Can’t fake your way thru.

I personally started at 2nd. Got addicted and couldn’t wait to get to 3rd. Once I did that, I had to go back and get my first level scores. Then back up to 4th and PSG. I don’t recommend this but people do it.


Software keeps eating my posts.

I like this post’s suggestion. Also, OP, make sure your horse gets a lot of exposure to offsite work. We have a lot of great schooling shows in our region. A lot of horses don’t make progress because of the mental pressure more than just the movements. At second level the horse is really asked to compress for the first time and collection can be especially stressful in a show environment.


Congrats on the new horse. I got all my 1st and 2nd level scores within a year. It’s definitely doable!

I agree it’s helpful to be doing a mix of 1st and 2nd. I had only one score that “counted” due to ownership changes (darn paperwork) at 1st before doing 2nd. I did a mix of them at a few shows and my 1st level scores were higher when I was doing 2nd too.

We did the 2nd level movements piece by piece in lessons until we were ready to string them together. I started everything at the walk.

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You could get them all in a weekend if you are prepared (and choose back to back shows)!


I am crazy lucky in that I live super close by to a facility that hosts rated shows. Just have never had a horse that has been rated show worth it. There are a couple other facilities within a few hours that I could go to to have more show date options.

That’s awesome. Gives me hope. Horse has been a sponge for learning suddenly so I am hoping that things really fall into place.

If I am one of the lucky ones showing rated money isn’t the biggest thing. But if I am paying for membership to multiple different organizations the idea of getting both sets of scores in one year to be able to take break from membership fees the following year would be nice.
My trainer doesn’t seem to be concerned about 1st at all. Says that a bit more time and strength in canter work and we are set. I haven’t had the so what’s next conversation yet with them as I don’t want to seem like I am rushing. Just am excited to not feel held back anymore. Trainer isn’t one to take short cuts and takes us back to basics if we need to refresh anything so I am confident they will continue to suggest new things as we are capable.

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Schooling shows are plentiful in the area and I will continue to attend them as I am able. I will be able to do a couple test runs of the 1st level tests before doing them rated. Possibly even at the same facility the local rated shows are if timing works out.
Horse needs to continue to build strength but once it’s there I don’t think collection is going to be a problem for this one. Compressing themselves in a not wholly unpleasant way has been the go to when there are questions about what I want.

This sounds like a great plan.

A lot of dressage shows run back to back, like Thurs/Friday is one show and Sat/Sun another. You need scores at 2 shows under different judges. You can also do Test of Choice to get the scores you need.

Aim just a little higher if you are an amateur, and you can qualify for Regional Championships! The ammy scores for 1st are 63% and Second 61% IIRC. And if you are qualified you can show in the Dressage Eq Final as well.

I started off the year doing First 3 and finished at Second 3. I didn’t do many shows (4) and am headed for Regionals in a couple of weeks. It’s nice to have a goal to work toward!

My horse is a good boy—I bought him at 6 unbroke, and he is 8 now and can be very competitive despite his mediums being quite untalented…he got a 72% at Second 3 with my trainer earlier this year. His lateral work makes up for the lack of shoulder freedom, he is very good in that.

He came along faster than most because he has a great brain and he was old enough to go right into work…for an 8 yo he’s “behind” but for year 3 he’s on track.

Our goal is to come back from Regionals and start working on the changes for Third. We’ll see how long that takes.

You mention your horse wanting to compress…if judges read that as tension it’s a score killer, so be aware of that. When my horse is tense for some reason or another (almost always ME), it tanks my scores.


Totally agree with doing schooling shows to save money and get mileage. You don’t want your first show off property with 0 miles under your belt.

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Buckle up and bring your sense of humor. :blush:

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Yeah, we started them a bit last winter but put them on hold for show season. It’s an adventure! If we have another show season at Second it’ll be fine.

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Also USDF offers “Opportunity” classes through First Level. This is a great way to get miles without having to pay all the membership fees.

I actually find with my super green ones that the 3-4 day shows are the best way to introduce them, especially if you just show Opportunity. First day I walk them around and longe a bit, then see how they do. Usually on day 2 or 3 I’m comfortable climbing on, and by the end of the show I do an Intro class or 2. It’s nice to have the time for them to relax and settle. If they don’t end up showing at all, that’s fine, though I can’t recall the last time I couldn’t do a walk-trot class by the end of the show. The horse I am showing now I did this with 60 days under saddle and he was great, but I absolutely went in with the mindset that it was just for the experience, no pressure. I spent hours just letting him graze and see everything.

The downside to schooling shows is that many young horses can’t just trailer in, show off the trailer in their first show, and have a good, relaxed experience. I wish we had multi-day schooling shows!

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Lots of great points!

And re: changes. I did the same as you and ended up with 2 clean changes in my 2nd level CH Class. So annoying but I was so happy to be done with 2nd and moving on.

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I own another horse that is the tension queen and ever since she has retired from being my dinky show horse I haven’t seen the word tense show up on a single test sheet. :rofl: Needless to say I am very happy about that. New horse has more talent in one leg than my other one does in her whole body. I am so excited to be working with one that is willing and able to use their body for good and not a tense false framing hard case. Much of that is conformation driven but some is also mental as the other one came with mental baggage.