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The Test

What is a dressage "test"? The word "test" inspires fear into so many people, but lets look at the true meaning of testing.

A test is used to demonstrate proficiency and knowledge. It is the hope of the teacher that they covered the basics and each subject taught well enough that the student can easily perform on a test.

The dressage tests are written is such a way that they teach the horse and rider how to level up. They give a guideline of what the horse and rider needs to be able to accomplish and understand in order to move forward in dressage.

A common mistake I see is a rider drilling the horse through the movements of the test where they are located in the test. This is a huge mistake and if I see any of you doing this I will pop out of nowhere and give you Samuel L. Jackson eyes...

How do you avoid this? Take the time and energy to understand why each movement is important, why it is needed in the journey of training, and what it is accomplishing to help you and your horse become more refined athletes.


The leg yield is not just a cool sideways movement. It is the ultimate relationship test between the inside bending leg and the outside straightening rein. It teaches the horse to relax into two pushing/opposing forces... to find comfort in it. It teaches them to lift the bending ribcage into the outside ear (effectively budling the core muscles on both sides of the horse). It is loosening the ribcage and the lumbar in the horse AND teaching the horse to be able to engage one hind leg while carrying on the other. This movement teaches the rider the proper balance between the pushing inside leg and the catching outside rein. It teaches the rider to easily control the outside shoulder by gaining access to the rest of the horse's body. Just because leg yield disappears after first level does not mean that it's importance disappears. You will see most grand prix horses performing leg yield in warm-up, as it is the basis of straightness, not because it is in the grand prix test.

Each movement in dressage was designed to access the strength and balance of the horse and rider together.

So how do you rock your dressage test? Understand why the movements are there, learn to do then in all different configurations (straight lines, circles, in different tempos, in different lengthen of strides, etc.), understand how they will benefit you in harder movements, and understand the biomechanics of why the benefit the horse and you as the riders. Figure out how you can use them to benefit other movements. Learn to think like a physical therapist and not like a test taker.

Show your horse how to move easily through the movements by making the movements work to benefit the movement of your horse. Only through training like this can you hope to "pass that test."

Need help through the test movement maze? Sign up for virtual (or In person) lessons with Deidre Dressage. Also available to guide your group through the movements through clinics at your barn!

All competition photos were taken by the crazy talented Susan J. Stickle

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