Ten Tips for The Budding Dressage Diva

For those of us not looking at a palm tree right now, show season is right around the corner.  Showing takes a lot of time, work and expense, but there are plenty of things you can do before you get out the shipping wraps and put on those white breeches. Here are 10 helpful tips from a dressage coach to make showing easier, whether you’re at home or at the show.

1) Memorize your tests. Don’t rely 100% on a reader, because you need to know where you’re going yourself. There are times you can’t hear them, they get behind or you’re concentrating so hard that you tune them out.

2) Get to know the letters. Don’t be staring wildly around for the letters when you are in the test and the judge is watching. Before you ask; no, there is no discernible pattern to the letters and yes, a lot of them rhyme. No, it doesn’t make any sense and no, nobody seems to know why.


Dressage arena letter K


3) Ride every single corner and turn correctly. If you practise something correctly often enough at home, it will become habit. Corners are valuable for fixing balance and setting yourself up properly for the next movement.

4) Take circle size and shape seriously. Since the beginning of dressage, circles have been a mystery to many…like Outer Space.

Outer Space

Or Stonehenge.




So for the love of God and your coach’s blood pressure, find some diagrams of dressage circles and sizes. Study them until you have nightmares.

5) Practise in an actual dressage ring. It’s harder than it looks to stay straight riding next to a fetlock high barrier. It would also be helpful to get your horse used to flower pots around the ring. You will find these at most shows and for some inexplicable reason, a lot of horses put these in the same category as Freddy Krueger or plastic bags.

Flower pots and horses


6) Learn the math. Some movements, like the free walk, are a coefficient of 2. Before your eyes glaze over thinking back to grade 5 math class, it simply means they are worth double. So if you get a 7, you’re really getting a 14.


Math addition

     This is a possibility too, but try to stay optimistic.


7) Pay attention to judge’s comments  if you have previous tests. This is especially important if they repeat the same thing multiple times or use a lot of exclamation marks.

8) Don’t discount show nerves. Participating in test-riding clinics and schooling off property can be helpful. (Personally, I can sum up what helps me in one word. You think I’m going to say meditation don’t you? I’m not, it’s alcohol.)


Dancing wine glasses


9) Embrace the mistakes and learn from them. Remember we love this sport and our horses. If we wanted utter consistency, we would all be sitting on bicycles and looking as happy as these two.


Old fashioned bicycle


10) And finally my budding dressage divas, above all else, remember the most important thing when showing…

Don't embarrass your coach

Now get out there and don’t forget to be awesome!

Who’s got number 11?


2 thoughts on “Ten Tips for The Budding Dressage Diva”

  1. #11 – NOW is the time to dust off your show clothes and try them on for size. There’s a phenomenon known as show-atire-shrinkitis that runs rampant this time of year. If left unchecked it leads to such unflattering behaviours as spanxing yourself into your white breeches that have mysteriously shrunk 2 sizes over the winter. This is followed closely by squeezing, stuffing and sausaging yourself into your “I-swear-it-used-to-fit-with-room-to-spare-last-fall” show jacket, twenty minutes before your ride time.
    The ideal mantra to have running through your brain as you halt at X, is NOT “please don’t let the buttons bust off my jacket”


    1. Oh this is a good one. How HOW did we miss it? Especially since one of us (who shall remain nameless) had it happen and almost took her reader’s eye out.


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