When do you feel ready to move up levels in competition?

The title says it - when do you feel ready to make the leap to the next level in competition?

I found it was easier when I had a specific goal (ex. earn my bronze) I was willing to stretch a little more.

Now that I don’t have as clear a goal, I am struggling between “more practice at the level I’ve been at” and “take the leap to the next level”. My trainer’s POV is very much the latter lol and as a perfectionist I don’t want to get sucked into having to feel 100% confident before I give it a try, so looking for the balance.

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Formerly I was at a H/J barn trailering out for 2 dressage lessons a week. I was NOT jumping, just boarding as that stable was really close to my house. I was so incredibly anxious about showing after not having ridden for 30 + years. I actually was using two different instructors ( who agreed with each other on most things) the both thought I needed more work at home. BUT. I was really enjoying moving a bit before I was probably truly ready. As soon as we could make an attempt at all the pieces of a test I was ready to get to a show. My theory at the time was that by the time I got relaxed we would be fairly solid. Plus we went to a lot of schooling shows.

Fast forward to my post pandemic life. First horse had some health issues so she stepped back with a new owner. Now I have a younger horse who is in full training and we don’t move up till we ARE solid at home. So I guess I I have finally decided to listen to the advice I was paying for all along… also we are going to mostly recognized shows.

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It depends, what level?
Maybe try to qualify for regionals or get points for your gmo?

If you have an average mover and you’re scoring regularly in the mid-to-high 60s, you should move up. If you have an above-average mover and you’re regularly scoring in the low-70s, you should move up.

But you should be schooling 1 or 2 levels above what you’re showing, anyway. So definitely move up at home, then take what you feel confident with to the show.

I’ve seen people school (for example) 1st level for years, wanting to perfect it before moving up, not recognizing that starting second (and maybe even some third level stuff) at home will improve your first level work dramatically. Keep pushing and stretching to further improve the basics (assuming your coach/trainer thinks you’re ready to push and stretch a little bit).


I’ve only just made it to 2-1, but I’d say when the current level feels easy and I can ride through the next level test at home with a reasonable expectation of not totally mucking up any of the movements. Like right now we are OK at 2-1, but our C/W transitions aren’t consistently clean, so I won’t show the next tests until we’re reliable. The horse is the type that will take years to develop a decent medium, so I’m not going to wait ages until that happens when all the other work is there.

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This answer!!


Why don’t you have as clear a goal? Start shooting for that silver medal. If you rode well enough to earn your bronze at 3rd, then one would assume you were schooling 4th at home. It’s always been my feeling (YMMV) that if you can competently do a 4th level test, you should be able to manage PSG. But yes, I would think it’s time to move to 4th unless there is some reason your horse can’t manage it. I got my bronze on a horse I trained from TL (former hunter) to 3rd. I was very proud of our progress. But, poor guy (Hannoverian/TB) was as long as a city bus. My coach said there was no way I was going to get him to collect enough for 4th level (and beyond). So I sold him as a lower level schoolmaster. :frowning: Sad, too, because I loved that horse. But I digress.

So unless there is a reason you or your horse can’t handle 4th, I would hope that’s your next goal. No? <3


What does “solid at home” mean to you - I think that’s where I am struggling. Can do all the movements? With some level of quality? Zero mistakes? Only small mistakes? Only an occasional big mistake?

I think the level you show at can vary with your reasons for showing.

Some people view it as a chance to show their accomplishments and gain validation. They only show when and at a level they are reasonably sure they can do easily.

Others take the view that showing is part of the learning experience. So they might be willing to show at a level that is not as confirmed in order to get more insight into how to improve.

It doesn’t help that many horses are at different levels in different movements!

I haven’t shown in ages, but consider my horse and I “solid” at a level at home when we can do the entire test correctly and repeatedly at a level consistent with his abilities. Small mistakes, sure, but we are not struggling with anything. Of course, horses being horses, that is not to say he is “solid” at a show until you have done it!


I haved moved up when I feel my horse can consistently perform test in the next level, and not just tear 1 of the next level.

If your horse is capable of moving up, why not make you next goal to qualify for 4th level championships (even if you don’t go)? Or get a 4th level club or regional championship? You don’t have to achieve it but it is a goal to work towards for your goal-friendly brain!

Alternatively, you can set goals like teaching your horse tempis or pirouettes. Even if you can’t put the fourth level test together tomorrow, there are plenty of goals to work towards.

If your feel confident at schooling your horse and have the money, enter your horse at the next level and school your horse through it. One of my favorite riders Isabell Werth says she does just that. Go to schooling shows and ride at the next level. You’ll both benefit from the experience and decide what you can do at a recognized show.

Good luck!

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I’ve usually moved up when my trainer and I felt we had a good chance to score a 60 or better. This has been true for all levels. The work at home is satisfactory and if I can reproduce it in the ring we’ll get a 60 or better. It doesn’t always get reproduced at the show right away. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Okay, “solid at home” to ME means we can do all the movements and several in a row with some quality. Mainly because when I go to a show I have to believe it is POSSIBLE. I used to just jump in and try the whole test once or twice before trying it at schooling shows. I will still try the first test at a level before we are ‘solid’ at the highest test in the new level. I am probably the most optimistic and foreword(upward) thinking rider n my barn. But I also find showing a great learning experience. Now I am tempered by my instructor/trainer.


I don’t want to show a level if it’s not easy to ride through the test at home. My older mare, high 60s are really good. My younger mare, high 60s are me dissatisfied with the rides… so once I’m showing more, she’ll be one who I consistently score in the 70s with before I move up. Right now, we’re working on going places rather than competing, and I’m hoping we’ll be at second when I’m back out at rated shows with her, though maybe I won’t hate the new 1-3 as much as I detest the current one.

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What if you have a really crappy mover? :grin: