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Dressage Tests

dressage, Dressage Tests, dressage training, Second Level

And Then I Turned the Page: Second Level, Test 2

Last week, I left my lesson ecstatic. I loved Second Level!
Second Level Test 1 was tough, but doable. I bubbled with enthusiasm and hope for the future. I imagined a fun and successful show season.
The next day, on a long flight to Florida, I reopened the test booklet and turned the page: Second Level, Test 2.

Second Level, Test 2 begs the question: Who am I? Where am I going?

Second Level, Test 2 begs the question: Who am I? Where am I going?


Reading through the test I found myself lost several times. I started to panic. Who was I? Where was I going? The test includes an abundance of counter canter. Plus, you do some fancy half-turns and half circles that look like freeway on-ramps, if viewed from above. Who made up these tests?
I had to look it up: was travers the same as haunches in? (Yes) Speaking of haunches, the test also includes the turn on the haunches — which are an intuitive nightmare. You’re not actually moving the haunches so much as moving the forehand around the haunches. You employ a mysterious mishmash of aids which confuse the heck out of me and the horse. It all happens in slow motion (at the walk, right in front of the judge) and try as I might, I can’t really tell what the hind legs are doing.
My previous day’s confidence eroded and I found myself swimming without a life vest in a sea of self-doubt. As the plane landed, I texted my trainer: “Just read Second Level Test 2. OMG.”
As we waited for our rental car, small children scampered through the airport. They were delirious from lack of sleep and the excitement of being so near DisneyWorld. I snarled at them as they passed, exhausted from my own day of travel.
Plugging my phone into a nearby power outlet, I began watching youtube videos of real-life competitors riding the test. I needed to know what was happening as soon as possible.
The videos gave me a better picture of what happens/when and helped me to calm down. I started breaking the problem down into manageable pieces. I also started to have fun, watching those really expressive horses who were practically calling out to the judge, “Not enough preparation on that transition!” or “Could have been more tactful!” By the time my husband got the car, I was snorting with pleasure watching wringing tails and the occasional buck into the canter depart.
My trainer texted me back, “It’s going to be fun!” And so I cheered up.
Upon my return home, we worked on several of the harder parts of Test 2 in our lesson. It is going to be a lot of work, but it really is going to be fun.
Dare I read Second Level, Test 3? Perhaps not yet. I’ll work up to it, perhaps after a shot of tequila.

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dressage, Dressage Tests, Second Level, transitions

Page-Turning Dressage

The other night I finished the novel I’d been reading and was left with nothing but the 2015 Dressage Tests, which were conveniently by my bedside. Second Level, Test 1 is a fascinating read if you’ve never ridden the test and expect to ride it in the near future. There were surprises, thrills, and chills.

Caught in the act.  Dressage nerd deluxe. Skittles is bored. Photo by Al Gilmour, somewhat tolerant horse husband.

Caught in the act. Dressage nerd deluxe. Skittles is bored. Photo by Al Gilmour, somewhat tolerant horse husband.


Surprise! I hadn’t realized we’re supposed to ride a right shoulder in up the long side, turn across the middle, then continue in left shoulder in. Was there a trick involved? Some fancy preparation? No, it’s pretty straightforward. Thank goodness!
Thrills! As I read, I realized I needed some clarification about the canter serpentine. It’s a really neat move but at Second Level you’re supposed to come down to the walk for the lead changes. Getting those walk steps in the down transition is tricky! The up transition is tough, too — Micah tries to sneak in a few trot steps. This needs work.
Since we hadn’t worked on walk/canter transitions in a while, the left lead canter transition was sticky (sometimes downright crappy). After a few practice rounds, things went pretty smoothly. I like this movement, so it will be fun to work on. The quick transitions make it impossible for Micah to run off at the canter and they balance him up nicely.
Chills! The hardest part of the test, in my mind (other than freaking out with show nerves) is the counter canter. I’m still in the ‘hopeful’ stage of counter canter — hoping I can maintain it. Micah senses my lack of confidence and drops back to a trot, so I have to fake my confidence for now. After some trial and error we got a good start on that movement — which ends with a walk transition. That’s the really hard part! This is kind of a sneaky test.
We’ll be practicing the walk/canter/walk transitions a lot in upcoming weeks! I’m pretty excited. It’s challenging,fun, and rewarding. Thank goodness I read the test!
Just so you know, I love being over-prepared since show nerves turn my brain to mush. Since our show season doesn’t begin until early May, thanks to our wacky weather, I should have ample time to get this right.
Next time you can’t sleep, read a dressage test. I guarantee you’ll drift off to dreamland with visions of horses in your head. And, may your own transitions be smooth and timely!

Related posts
A Personal Best, for Many Reasons
October 16, 2017
Ode to a Fallen Friend
October 10, 2017
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017