Dressage expert Peter Dove shares some pearls of wisdom on common mistakes made by riders in dressage tests and how to prevent them and earn more marks


1. 20m circles

Peter says: “Riders need to be accurate at all times, both while competing and schooling at home. When riding 20m circles, I see a lot of what I call ‘squircles’ where the shape is completely wrong. Competitors will either go into the corners and then make a flat shape at the apex of the circle where the horse tends to end up on its outside shoulder or they will follow the track too far around the arena and then turn to make the top of the circle which means it ends up square.

“In order to ride a correct 20m circle, imagine the shape you need to ride is a balance beam which has just enough room for your horse to go along the top of it. Then think to yourself about which side of the balance beam your horse would fall off, and make the correction. If it is a left-handed circle, your horse should always be making steps to the left. Imagine a circle inside a square — the circle will only touch four points of the square — as soon as your horse touches each point, it must immediately leave it. For example, if your circle starts at A, your horse should step off the track as soon as it reaches the marker.

“You shouldn’t be anywhere near the corners of the arena — after starting your circle from A, you should be aiming for the next point on the track 10m from the corner (or 4m beyond the corner marker letter). Don’t let your horse continue wandering through its outside shoulder once you reach the apex of the circle. Finally, once you return to the starting point of the circle, straighten your horse up onto the track.”

2. Change the rein across the diagonal

Peter says: “The most common mistake riders make when performing this movement is that they come out of the starting corner too quickly. You need to bear in mind that you have 6m out of the corner to ride before you reach the marker from which the movement actually starts. Therefore, ride into the corner, with your horse’s legs stepping away from the track smoothly at the maker.

“Don’t aim your horse’s nose at the marker at the end of the diagonal — your horse is long, so by the time its body has all got onto the track, you will find yourself already in the corner. So instead, as you ride across the diagonal, aim your horse’s nose half a horse’s length before the marker, so that you help prevent falling through the corner.”

3. Corners

Peter says: “I advise riders not to think about riding into the corners as they think they should. Instead think of corners as ¼ circles. Start the turn 5m from the corner and ride a smooth curve so that you maintain balance and rhythm.”

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