what’s on first?

I’m hoping to hit up at least one or two rated dressage shows next year, and in thinking about those shows, I’ve been reviewing the first level dressage tests to see if it’s anywhere in the realm of possibility.  I’d like to minimize the amount of time I spend showing at training level, simply because it doesn’t necessarily help me accomplish any of my goals (bronze) but does require that you spend money.  Much of my time will, of course, be spent at schooling shows getting both Murray and myself accustomed to the show environment and relaxed and blah blah blah things that have to come first, but once we can go to rated shows…

So, what’s on those first level tests anyway, and do we have it?  (This is based on first-1, which would obviously be the first level I show at.  I’ve not started obsessing over first-2 yet.)

almost square, almost as good as we can do.

Trot-halt, halt-trot. Regularity and quality of trot, willing calm transitions, good halt.
Murray has a solid trot-halt about 87% of the time — solid, square, balanced, and he does it like BOOM off my seat.  We can maintain immobile as long as we want. Trot to halt?  We started working on this literally this week — because I read the test and was like “oh shit” — and it turns out that Murray can trot off a halt, especially with a voice command.  While it’s willing, it’s not necessarily balanced or soft.
Can we do it? ~ 50%

10 meter circle at the trot. Bend and balance, regularity and quality, shape.
This is actually two 10 meter half-circles, but if you can do half a circle, you can do a whole circle.  I do these fairly regularly when schooling to set up the bend for other movements — shoulder or haunches in, for example — so I think we’ve got a pretty solid foundation on these.
Can we do it? 80%

IMG_1983aaaaaalmost stretchy, he can get quite a bit lower than this now

20 meter stretchy trot circle. Forward and downward stretch over back into light contact.
Murray loves him some stretchy trot.  I school it daily.  Into light contact is a bit tough, because he prefers no contact, but it’s still quite good.  I need to work on this happening within the one 20 meter circle.
Can we do it? 90%

such lengthen?

Lengthen stride in trot.  Moderate lengthening of frame and stride.
This will definitely be the hardest movement we attempt other than the halt-trot transition.  Murray struggles a lot with extending his trot because it’s sooooooooooo hard to push with booty and it’s much easier to just canter instead.  We have started working on this, but it needs much more work to  be considered a true lengthening.
Can we do it? 35%


Medium walk, free walk. Regularity and quality of walks, reach and ground cover (free walk).
Murray treats walking with impulsion or actual movement like I’m asking him to give birth to a cow, but because of this I also force him to do it all the time.  We sometimes get some head flipping and tantrum throwing, but if I don’t push it too much it’s usually okay.
Can we do it? 80%

Lengthen stride in canter. Willing, clear transition, moderate lengthening of frame and stride.
Can Murray lengthen his canter?  You bet his sweet bucking booty he can!  Kid loves to take off in the canter in the black tack.  On the bit is another question… but we can do this.
Can we do it? 90%


15 meter canter circle. Size and shape of circle.
Since we’ve been practicing 10 meter circles at the canter, I imagine we can do a 15.  However, I need to be able to geometry at 15 meter circle before we can attempt it.
Can we do it? 70%

The rest of the movements are symmetrical or redundant.  At a glance, it looks like I can definitely complete about… 65% of the movements.  If I get an average of 6 points on those movements, and a 3 or 4 on the rest (let’s say average 3.5)… that means I will get a delightful 51.25% on my test.  Almost the magic score (the one that reads the same whether you’re an eventer or DQ).  But not quite.

IMG_1963we are so good at dressagez

Obviously today, November 4th, showing first level would be a big fat waste of my money (and time and emotions).  But would it be a waste to do it at a schooling show in a few weeks to see feedback I get on?  My test riding and regular riding of Murray have converged a lot more in the last month, so I don’t need to do a whole heck of a lot to “convert” to test riding, just get back in the court and figure out my geometry.  I don’t think it would waste my money or time (test practice, show practice, etc.), but would it be super disrespectful to the judge to head into the class that “unprepared”?

10 thoughts on “what’s on first?”

  1. At schooling shows, do as you prefer. It’s for practice.
    Rated, supposed to show one level below what you’re schooling at home. In best scenario 😉

    Don’t forget to account for the coefficients when calculating and predicting the scores!

    You can do this! !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Elinor! I would really like to get the experience of pushing Murray a little bit in the show ring, so he knows that it’s not all lazy circles. But I also need to balance his mental state, so there’s that to consider.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re really not that unprepared. You shouldn’t do rated bc of the $, but go ahead and do a schooling. 1-1 is very approachable. It’s all the same skills as training, just made more difficult with smaller circles. It’s not until 1-2 that you get into leg yields and add a new skill. Before Nilla tried to kill herself I was working with my trainer on the plan of showing 1-1 in 2016.


  3. I’d definitely do the schooling show! They’ll be happy to have you, and unrated dressage shows are a great way to get feedback. Our shows are usually low-key enough that you can even chat with the judge during a break or after your test.


  4. eh i say give it a shot! if you’re really worried about appearing ‘unprepared’ or somehow disrespectful, maybe add on a training test to ride first as a sort of litmus test for where Murray’s brain is 😉


  5. Go for it! Let me know when your first rated show is (and I totally recommend coming down to Yarra Yarra or Greenville even though you have shows much closer to you), I want to come watch if I’m free!!


  6. There’s no harm in trying and it certainly doesn’t sound like doing first would be much of a stretch for you guys. That’s what schooling shows are for, go for it.


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