Nailing the Novice Test

Welcome to the first in a two part blog piece by Champion Dressage Rider Lucy Pincus. Lucy is an International dressage rider who has represented Team GBR and successfully competed in the under 25’s Grand Prix.

Moving from prelim to novice can be quite a big jump the movements generally come up quicker so a higher degree of balance and harmony between horse and rider is required. The main difference seen between prelim and novice is having to ride transitions at the markers rather than between markers, showing some medium trot and canter strides, counter canter, 10 metre circles at trot and walk to canter. However not all of these are asked for in one test. In general the higher numbered the test the more difficult demonstrating a higher degree of collection and straightness.

10m circles in trot

10 metre circles ridden at the trot are testing the rider’s ability to show control over the body of their horse. When riding the 10 metre circle judges are looking for the horse to stay in a good rhythm, show a supple bend and be balanced throughout. In order to do this the rider must make sure the trot is slightly collected so he can come around easily without losing the quality of the pace. When riding 10 metre circles a common mistake seen is the rider not riding the horse around from the outside and pulling on the inside rein to bring the horse around which leads to the horse falling out and losing the accuracy of the circle. To overcome this the rider must have the bend around the inside leg before the circle so the horse comes around easily and the rider can ride the horse around the circle with the outside leg and not be reliant on the inside rein. The 10 metre circles at novice level are mostly ridden on the long side this makes it slightly easier to judge the size, when riding the 10m circle the rider must make sure the circle hits exactly the centreline and at no point should the circle become bigger or smaller this ensures it is a round shape. .

Walk to canter

The transition is judged on the fluency, accuracy and the quality of the canter. The horse is expected to show that he is on the aids in the transition by showing a clear walk to canter not coming out of the frame. It’s also really important that the horse keeps the four beat walk rhythm prior to the transition otherwise this will lead to loosing marks. The walk to canter transition is often after the free walk on a long rein so it’s really important to make sure that the horse’s activity and attentiveness is regained before the transition as this can often be lost after the free walk. Prior to the transition in the test it’s important to get the walk on the aids this means putting the horse in a collected walk but active so he can easily make the upward transition. If the horse is not active enough in the walk this will lead to the transition not being direct enough or the transition not being straight because the rider had to give a too stronger aid. It’s also important to have a slight bend to the inside so he knows to pick up the inside leg. Once the horse is prepared the rider is ready to give the canter aid with the outside leg back and the inside leg on the girth making sure you half halt before the transition to warn the horse that you want to canter. .

Keep an eye on the Champion facebook page for part 2.