How to ride a dressage test

Test riding is an art form! It's so different to riding your horse at home where you can take time to perfect a transition, or get your horse through and straight. Riding to markers in a tight space and in a strange environment couldn't be more different. So get help from the best on Horse Hero! Britain's top dressage rider (and triple WEG silver medallist) Laura Bechtolsheimer, works with her father and trainer Dr B to show how it's done! Riding her youngsters Stepdance and Teddy (who make their debut test appearances), Laura performs an Elementary and Novice test under the scrutiny of Dr B who offers advice on 'ring craft'. Putting the theory into practise, you can follow 4* eventer Alex Peternell during his performance in the Advanced dressage test at Highclere Horse Trials. Alex critiques his test and talks about the psychology of his performance. Priceless viewing and lots to practise with your horse!

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Laura & Dr Bechtolsheimer demonstrate a Novice test
Laura Bechtolsheimer and Dr B give a masterclass on riding a Novice dressage test. Dr B tells us what is expected at this level. The first 4 or 5 stages of the scales of training need to be in evidence. The horse should show relaxation, rhythm, a steady contact and a little impulsion, but no collection and movement should not be too flashy. He also offers tips on ring-craft including how to maximise marks on poorer moves and minimise loss of marks on stronger moves. Dr B highlights a few of the questions in Novice 34. Laura then rides the test on her huge youngster Teddy, who gives a premier performance, as this is his first ever dressage test!

Laura Bechtolsheimer & Step ride an Elementary test
Dr Bechtolsheimer explains that an Elementary test is still early days in a horse's training. Judges will want to see evidence of the scales of training including relaxation, rhythm and a secure contact. But they will also want more impulsion, better straightness, the first degree of collection and some lateral work. Dr B says making a battle plan at home is essential so you have time to identify your weaknesses and work on them. "You can't expect to perform in a test what you haven't worked on at home. Getting a good mark starts before you enter the arena as judges like to see a confident looking horse and rider." Laura rides 6 year old Step in his first test!

Sports Psychology Live at Highclere Horse Trials: Part 1
Four star eventer Alex Peternell competes in the Advanced class at Highclere on AP Uprising. This is preparation for Blenheim, but he had a fall at Barbury a few weeks earlier which he has to put it out of his mind. Fiona Price talks to Alex before the dressage about his mental prep' and his game plan for each of the three phases. Alex explains about riding in the moment and visualising not just the moves or lines to the fences, but the feel too. He shows us his OCD ritual before getting on, then talks us through his warm-up. We see the test which Alex critiques afterwards. This is a fascinating live insight! (Show jumping & cross country to follow in Part 2.)

Susanne Miesner works on test riding with eventer Vittoria Panizzon Susanne Miesner works on test riding with eventer Vittoria Panizzon
Continuing her first lesson with German dressage trainer Susanne Miesner, Italian eventer Vittoria Panizzon works on test moves with the Olympics qualified mare. During the warm-up (in a previous video) Vittoria focussed on the connection. As she begins test riding, Susanne asks her to maintain a steady frame with the sensitive mare. The centre line to the first halt is text book, but when she moves off into trot and shoulder-in, the connection is lost. "The difficulty in the lateral work is lack of security in the outside rein" says Susanne. She also asks Vittoria to keep the poll higher and her hands lower, to help the mare with her balance.

Julie Tew prepares for 4* test moves Julie Tew prepares for 4* test moves
Sir Roselier prepares for Badminton with event rider Julie Tew. Lumpy (as he is known at home) is a legend in the Tew family. He has completed 27 three star events and 4 four stars. Now 17 years old, he tends to start off a little stiff. Julie shows us how she works towards softness and evenness in the contact, as well as activity from behind, prior to attempting any of the advanced movements from the four star test (shown in another video). Using counter bend in trot and canter, on a circle and the diagonal, Sir Roselier becomes more supple and forward going. Julie also provides a crystal clear explanation of the aids while she is working.

The making of Laura Bechtolsheimer's new Kur! The making of Laura Bechtolsheimer's new Kur!
Laura Bechtolsheimer is making a new Kur for Mistral Hojris (Alf)! She has enlisted the help of Dutch 'dressage to music' master Cees Slings to choreograph and compose a Kur for her Olympic partner Alf, who is not known for his appreciation of music! We see Laura, Cees and Dr B working at home on the project. We eavesdrop on their conversations, watch Alf warm up and get a sneak preview of some of the moves in the new test, which we've set to music of our choosing as the real thing hasn't yet been composed! Once the Kur is performed in public, we'll publish the full item in training but we don't want to steal Laura's thunder!

Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 1 Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 1
Up and coming composer Tom Hunt begins work with rising dressage star Mike Eilberg, on an original score for Mike's new Kur. 15 year old Monty (owned by the Bechtolsheimers) is a powerful horse with a big presence. Mike shows Tom footage of Monty's current Kur and talks about what he wants to achieve with the new one. Mike then rides Monty for Tom to highlight his strong points including piaffe, passage, extended canter and changes. They decide on an inspirational or emotional score to maximise transitions and the strong beat of Monty's step. Next, Tom needs to write some musical ideas for Mike to try, while Mike creates a new floor plan.

Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 2 Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 2
In Part 2, composer Tom Hunt revisits Mike Eilberg and Monty to see how they have been getting on with his musical ideas for each of the basic gaits. The aim is to establish what Mike likes and what suits Monty in walk, trot and canter so that Tom can develop the theme for variations such as half pass, extensions and changes. Helped by father and trainer Ferdi Eilberg, Mike and Monty test the music out before spending time working on more difficult new moves they are planning to introduce to the floor plan. Mike says, "it's all about calculated risk!" Now Mike and Ferdi must complete the choreography so that Tom can write the entire score. More to follow!

Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 3 Michael Eilberg creates a Kur with composer Tom Hunt: Part 3
Having tested choreography ideas with some of Tom Hunt's music in Part 2, Mike tells Fiona Price about the challenges he faced in completing the floor-plan for his new Kur. Monty (brother to Laura B's Mistral Hojris) is more lively at a show which created problems in gauging timing at home. After shortening the original freestyle, Mike took Monty to a show environment to run through the test and film the routine for Tom to finalise the music. Mike talks us through the changes he made in the final version, and we get a sneak preview of his test with Tom's music superimposed. Wow! Mike will debut the Kur at the National Champs' 2010.

Anni Macdonald-Hall helps Roland Tong fine tune the Prix St George: Part 2 Anni Macdonald-Hall helps Roland Tong fine tune the Prix St George: Part 2
Before practising moves for the Prix St Georges test, trainer Anni Macdonald Hall asks Grand Prix Rider Roland Tong to create some half steps from a collected walk. Moving forwards and back in canter also helps to prepare Ambiance for the collection in the pirouettes. In the tempi changes, Ambiance shows a little greenness when tension stops the hind leg coming through properly. Anni instructs Roland to keep his leg on coming back after the extended canter and also into the halt on the centre line. Ambiance, who is new to Prix St Georges, runs through the test with Roland and they iron out the glitches from the previous day's competition.

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