Showing tips (Intro)

I’m riding in my first Dressage show, in probably 16 years. It’s an ideal show, at our home barn, just a schooling show and at Intro with my 4 year old. But of course I’m over thinking it all :slight_smile: :upside_down_face:

I’d love any tips to make these easier! I’m ashamed to say it’s been years since I even volunteered at a show or watched at the sidelines. I wasn’t really planning on showing for a long time but I think it will be good for me and my horse to get some more direction/get out in the world.

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Know your pattern inside and out. I would practice mine in my head while driving down the road. If I remembered the test AND didn’t drive into a telephone pole, I was ready to ride the test. But remember safety first!!

Practice being mindful enough to ride your corners absolutely correctly. No cutting the corner. No riding the corner too deep.

Hands together, thumbs up. Reins should frame the neck.

Ride the body, not the face. Good idea to video your walk and trot so you can see that what you think is forward when you ride may not be forward enough for the test.

Forget the face. Ride the body correctly, the head and neck will be correct.

Smile!! And good luck, have a great time. Ride like a Queen.


This is great!! Thank you!!

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“Ride Like a Queen” is excellent advice!

It’s Showtime–think of it as a performance and give it some sparkle, and show off how proud you are of your lovely horse.

And remember, everyone else is so involved in their own little world that they aren’t watching you, so your only audience is the judge, who really wants you to succeed.


Have you ridden this horse at your barn when it’s set for a show?

Horses tend to lose their ever loving minds when things get moved around and set for a show and a bunch of strange horses show up. Be ready for a lot more horse.

Besides that, remember your test and have fun! Get your geometry right first and worry about everything else later.


Nope, this will be the first time. Things get moved around weekly so that part is normal (and spooky lol) But I’m sure the extra commotion will make it more exciting. I’m thinking that the biggest goals are to survive and hopefully have a more confident horse afterwards.

If I get rung out what happens? They ring a bell and then I just walk out? Hopefully that doesn’t happen but I want to be prepared for anything lol.

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He’s pretty level headed although can be a bit spooky but not a stupid way. I was planning to walk him around in the morning when the upper level test are going on. And definitely lunging that day even though normally we would not :slight_smile:

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if you get rung out, which would take an absolute melt down or multiple errors, stop and let the judge address you. You then walk out via A.

Intro is about steady level balance and flow. Small mistakes are expected in a baby horse and not the end of the world.


Stop by the judge and tell the scribe your number so she can be sure she has the correct test sheet. Listen for the judge’s bell or whistle that lets you know you have no more than 45 seconds to start down the center line. Remember that the judge is on your side and wants you to do well.


If you lose your way and go off course a bell will ring. Just look at Judge for direction. This is not a disqualification. It’s just an off course. After direction you’ll be able to continue.


A couple things to remember though, they may be less strict for a schooling show.

  1. If your horse wears protective boots of any sort they must be removed before you go into the ring.
  2. If you are at all nervous, especially for your first show there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a reader call your test for you! My first schooling show I knew my test up and down, but got a little frazzled in the ring and nearly went off course. I had a friend read for my second test.

I agree with the other tips above. Try to ride each movement to the best of your ability and focus on what you’re doing right now and preparing for the movement you’re right about to start. If you mess up, don’t worry about it. Just move on and get back on track as quickly as you can.

Good luck and remember at the end of the day its supposed to be fun!


Ride the movements. It sounds a bit obvious, but if the test says “a circle” then ride a circle not an egg shape. A “free walk on a loose rein” still means walking with purpose: an awful lot of riders allow their horse to fall onto their forehand and then just wander along. The number of times I’ve seen otherwise good marks drop away because riders take a time out in this movement. “Trot at A” doesn’t mean go into a trot three strides after - it means at A. It is easy to gain marks by being accurate and riding the test correctly. It is also easy to throw away marks by being inaccurate.


And for those of us who aren’t trying to earn a living at it, it’s also good to remember that it’s horseback riding, not finding a cure for cancer.


This is excellent advice for any level, even if you have a test reader, and I’ll add:

I practice my test in my head in two ways:

  1. as if I’m watching myself on video, i.e., from an outsiders perspective, and

  2. as if I were riding it, so I visualize myself on the horse with the neck and ears in front of me. This is particularly useful (although difficult at first) because it allows me to really think and feel where I’m going to half-halt, where I’m going to prepare for the bend turning off center line, where I might have to ride a little shoulder-fore to keep my horse straight, etc. It’s far more useful than the other method (though requires more focus on my part).


Are you doing one test or two? Honestly, if you haven’t shown in a while and are at all nervous, I would say to ask someone to read for you. Memorize your test, but have that reader there as a backup, just in case you step into the ring and your mind goes blank. If it does, don’t worry, it’s happened to all of us :wink:

I’ve been doing Intro this year with my 4YO–they’re not expecting perfection, just a steady, accurate, consistent test. None of the transitions are at a letter, they’re between them, so work on preparing to transition at the first letter so you have a stride or two to do it, so you can do it correctly–between C & M doesn’t mean at C, take your time getting a nice trot transition. There aren’t a lot of movements in the Intro tests, so use all that time you have between them to make sure they’re correct.

Also don’t sweat turnout. Just be neat and tidy. It doesn’t have to be matchy-matchy and sparkly. At schooling shows this year, I’ve seen a lot of folks in colored breeches and polos, so don’t feel like you have to roll in looking like a bedazzled StayPuft; it seems like the all-white days are over, especially with the new attire rules.


Thank you guys so much! This is all so incredibly helpful.

As far as turnout, I was planning on wearing my old hunter jumper hunter green coat which is still in good condition and hopefully still fits lol. I should probably go try that on today. I don’t have my white breeches anymore but I have some nice tan ones so I can wear this time.

I have a Buckskin who is pretty flashy on his own so for now he just has a plain browband. I probably will use a fly bonnet as he has the most measly little forelock. Would probably be tough to braid lol. His mane is currently roached so that’s a check off the list!


Luckily, next weekend there is another schooling show at a local barn, so I plan on going to watch as long as I can. Hopefully that’ll help me feel a little bit more prepared.


Great idea! One word of caution, though. As you know, schooling shows can make their own rules, so don’t assume that the show next weekend will go by the same rules as the show happening at your barn. If there’s a prize list for your show, read it carefully. The last thing you want is to be eliminated because of a rule you weren’t aware of.


Good tips.

One question as I’m filling out the registration form right now. They are doing intro test one (I’m assuming that means A) And then there is also intro choice test. Which I’m assuming means I can pick which test I want to ride for the second one. Can I just do the same one over? I will see about talking to the organizer as well but I just wanted to know what the standard was. My brain is so wired about this whole thing that it would be nice just to ride the same test if possible…

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Usually that is fine but it’s probably a good idea to double check.

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