As promised something related to the tests I judged on Saturday.
Accuracy – specifically, CIRCLES
Accuracy is incredibly important, especially in dressage tests. That is why making accurate movements can boost your scores so significantly. Accuracy helps keep balance, rhythm and impulsion, and gives you time to set up well.
With circles what is possibly the number one thing to think about is even-ness of the shape – each quarter should be the same. I saw an awful lot of squares, half square half circles, and eggs on Saturday, and that sadly dropped the scores of otherwise well performed movements. At A and C your 20m circle should not be anywhere near your corner. You have 4 points on a circle and those are the points to aim for. Work on a diamond shape where you hit each point and then do a straight line to each point to help you work out where they are. Then start bending each line into a curve that creates your circle. You can also get a piece of string (20m long) and measure your circle out, dropping sawdust or shavings (or tiny cones if you have them) along the circumference so that you have something visual to help you keep the shape. The circles at E and B were tending to egg – either too far to A and C or not far enough. Practice these circles until you know exactly where in the school you need to be at each point of your shape!
When judging I want to see a clear distinction between corners (proper corners too, not wafty ones!) and circles, as there should be a couple of metres difference between the two. Not only does this mean your shapes and movements are accurate, but it sets you up well to have a good rhythm, good balance, and good bend to the inside. This accuracy will get you more marks; in two tests with similar level of horse and rider in pace and tempo, being accurate, especially in circles, can give you a good lead – a mark for an inaccurate circle will rarely get you more than a 6, whilst you can get an 8 with an accurate circle. 9 and 10 are reserved for truly beautiful accurate shapes, beautiful rhythm and way of going, a soft connected horse, and a still and correct rider. But you won’t get to 9 or 10 unless you get your accuracy up first!
All the tests I saw on Saturday were great, but I so wish that I could have given more marks but the movements had to be more accuracte, especially the circles!