Wednesday, March 18, 2015

First Attempt at First Level Test 1

That post title is practically binary code.  Sorry about my lack originality.  

So, I'm not very good at reading dressage tests, apparently.  I think I read the first level tests when they were released and had an anxiety attack and thought they all had leg yields in them. Turns out that despite what my panic-induced brain believed, there are no leg yields in Test 1. We are getting better at them, but it's nice to know we don't have to worry about that in our first outing (where I plan to do Training 3 and First 1).

I have been learning First-1 on paper and have walked it out on my horse with cell phone in hand a couple times.  And for the past several months I've been schooling individual pieces of it.  Last night we ran through the whole thing for the first time and it was... uh... a little harried.  Shockingly when you put all the pieces together it gets more difficult.  I tried to do it from memory a couple of times and kept getting lost.  Thankfully, my barn mate Alyssa took pity on me and read it for me off my phone.  I'm going to try to walk you through the test and probably confuse all of us in the process. This should be fun!

It starts with the usual center line (Tucker has got that straight line thing down!) and halt/salute.  Our halts are about 50/50. Sometimes great, sometimes we stop and throw our head in the air like a proud lion surveying his pride across the Savannah.  Tucker thinks it's very regal.  The rest of us, not so much.

First up it's two reverse turns.  So, you head left at C, and half way up the long side at E, turn in toward X and then back to the rail at H to change direction.  Then repeat on the opposite long side at B, ending at M.  Next, our favorite part, the stretchy circle at C.  Tucker is the best at those.  (I thank eight years of hunter hacks).

We shorten our reins back up before C, followed by a lengthening across the diagonal, but they took it easy on us this year and it's a shorter diagonal, so you wait to turn until you're at whatever-that-second-letter-is (also known as "S"), and then down the diagonal to F in the opposite corner.  We're pretty good at lengthening and shortening the trot now.  I'm feeling good about these diagonals.

Then there's a transition to walk at A.  We have been working for roughly five months on our medium walk, really hoping we get something better than a 5 this season.  He is much less "stuck," so fingers crossed.  Then free walk across the other diagonal, again it's a short diagonal, from V to R. Tucker thinks free walk =  leisurely stroll and gaze around at his surroundings.  I occasionally convince him to actually stretch and walk forward.

Next it's the walk-trot-canter combo.  Pick up the reins by R, trot at M, canter at C.  Tucker nailed his canter transitions last night, I was so proud of him.  Now is our favorite part, we go for it and lengthen the canter from S to V.  Followed immediately by our least favorite part, which is a 15-meter circle at V, in the first half of which we are supposed to fluidly, elegantly, calmly, and smoothly return to a working canter.  Haha.  Ha.  Ha.  I have been practicing this wrong, I thought the circle was at the end of the ring.  Comes up a little sooner than that!  It wasn't too pretty last night.  But we'll work on it.

Then we do what I call the half-and-half diagonal, where you canter the first half, trot the second half, from F to H.  The biggest challenge here for me is subtly keeping enough bend in the canter that he doesn't try to do a lead change without adversely impacting his straightness (last night the "subtle" part eluded me).  The transition itself usually isn't bad, since he's been doing simple changes on the diagonal all his life and he understands these.  

Right lead canter transition right away at C (nailed it!) followed by the lengthening canter/15-meter circle combo in the other direction.  His right lead canter lengthening is awesome.  His right lead return to working canter is the opposite of awesome.  

You still with me?  We're almost done.  Transition back to trot at A, then lengthen trot across the short diagonal from V to M.  Then you head past the judge at C one last time, hang a left at E and come back up the center line, and halt at G.  (I was previously unaware there were letters on the center line.  Is this common knowledge?  Am I ever going to stop sounding like a clueless hunter princess?)

Then we halt, Tucker throws his head in the air and defiantly looks the judge square in the eye, I bow my head in shame which looks exactly like a salute, and give him a big pat anyways and exit the ring stage right.  

Piece of cake, right?  


  1. I knew about the center letters, but that test sounds rather daunting. I'm hoping to hack it at training level this year, I guess.

  2. I just rode through this same test for the first time in its entirety the other day and almost had a mental meltdown myself at the 15m canter circles NOT at the end of the ring. Say what now, dressage?!

  3. Somehow I missed your great return to blogging! I must have been knee deep in baby/HITS, but YAY! so excited to read about Tucker again.

    Not sure if you have it but the equitests App is a life saver and lets you record a reading of your test that you can play over and over and over again while you somehow managed to still not memorize it.. I loved it - you know when we had to learn something more complicated than line-diagonal-line-diagonal :)

    Also fun fact - that opening teardrop movement was how I started my musical freestyle in 1998, which is also when First level (again) decided to start with the same movements prompting ENDLESS comments about my lack of original choreography. It's first level people. I've got like 4 things to "choreograph" Not going to be thrilling :)

  4. "bow my head in shame which looks exactly like a salute" - yep, sounds about right!! those 15m circles sound, uh, not great haha

  5. Dude. I made the mistake of not actually riding the whole 1st level test out with Tango before our show the other weekend, and that whole "lengthened canter into a 15 meter circle" thing read fine on paper, as it sometimes does.

    Riding it though? Ugh. Not great for me. Too much outside rein, weird bending issues, and definitely not bent on the circle until 25% of the way through the circle. Next time, baby, next time. And uh... I'll practice it.

  6. You would get along with my Friesian client. She had anxiety reading through the new 1st level tests this year.

  7. You could not have picked a better show or judge to do this at (well...the show could have been a week later so I could actually go..but besides that). You and Tucker are great at the horse park and the judge will be honest with her scores and is honestly someone I consider an angel from heaven because she is just that great of a person.

    YOU WILL ROCK IT! And you know what the best part of dressage is? Even if you mess up on a movement they are all scored separately so who cares, just make the next movement better!

  8. The letters, (along with the white pants) is why I have a problem riding a test before the judge. Why the heck couldn't they put the letters in some sort of recognizable sequence? A, X, C, E, H...? If they went A-Z wise around the arena and up the middle I think I could memorize. But hey, I always know where A,X, and C are. (Therefore I have the centerline movements nailed.) We are our own worst and Tucker are going to have a blast and be wonderful, maybe get some pointers, and definitely get hooked!


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love reading them! If you have a question, I will make sure to get back to you.