USEF ‘S’ Dressage Judge : FEI Trainer : AADA Founder
TRAINING THE MOVEMENTS SERIES
As many competitors prepare for the USDF/Great American Insurance Group Regional Championships, there are several little tips at each level that can help riders improve their scores and achieve the opportunity to participate in the coveted victory gallop or victory trot. The next series of blogs will analyze movements in the highest test of each level which can make or break a winning ride. Often, the movements with a coefficient of two are the most important pieces to bring a score up along with a little more rider focus on accuracy.
FREE WALK IN TRAINING LEVEL 3
Training Level Test 3 is the initial level I will give some pointers.
There are two movements’ scores which are multiplied times two: Movement #7, KXH Free Walk, H Medium Walk and Movement #12, B Circle right 20 meters in rising trot allowing the horse to stretch forward and downward, before B Shorten the reins, B working trot.
In this week’s blog, let’s talk about the Free Walk. The directives are the same from Training Level to Second level and the judges will be scoring based on the same basics and criteria at those three levels. So, I am going to quote the directives found next to the movement box on the test sheet with clarifications of what the judge expects to see:
“Regularity and quality of the walks”
There are two walks in this movement. Both must show a clear 4 beat rhythm for a high score. The horse’s back should swing with suppleness.
“Reach and ground cover”
This relates to the free walk. Judges want to see the hind feet stepping clearly in front of the footprints of the front feet with reaching freedom in the shoulders. The steps should be active and marching.
“Allowing complete freedom to stretch the neck forward and downward”
So often I see riders hope that the horse will stretch if they rock their upper bodies back and forth and just open their fingers. In order for the horse to stretch and reach more with the hind legs and shoulders, the reins must be longer than the medium walk. Now of course if you think your horse will take off with you then maybe riding near the buckle is not a good idea, but you must show a clear difference in the walks. How much stretch is enough? If you clearly show freedom to stretch, with the mouth more or less in horizontal line with the point of the shoulder, you are on the right track. Even more stretch as long as the quality of the walk is maintained could improve the score.
Here is a bit of the accuracy factor. The Free Walk is to be ridden from F to K to H. That should be two straight lines keeping your horse’s ears framing those three points. Often, I see wandering horses, shoulders or haunches left or right (or swaying) or overbent necks.
“Willing, calm transitions”
This is where the rider first allows the reins to lengthen at F (after the prior movement of Medium Walk), then just before H shortens the reins and asks the horse to compress his body into a medium walk which is still a walk of moderate length. The horse should be on the bit and energetically stepping with the hind feet touching the ground in front of the hoof prints of the fore feet. The rider should follow the natural oscillation of the head and neck. This transition is what judges call a modifier. For instance, if the judge is ready to give your free walk an 8 but your horse has a little opinion about coming back onto the bit, your score could come down slightly. The medium walk is judged all the way to the beginning of the next movement at C. So, keep riding the quality of your walk right up to the trot transition.
Now watch the movement in the videos below
I hope this helps explain how to improve your Free Walk score which in turn will also influence the Gait score in the Collective Marks in Training, First and Second Levels.
Stay tuned for the next Blog:
Riding Training Level Test 3 movement #12, the stretch circle also found in First Level Test 3 movement #10.
AADA was conceived by Lisa Schmidt, a USEF S dressage judge, USDF Gold, Silver and Bronze medalist, coach to many successful Adult Amateurs and former USDF Region 1 Director. Her vision is to make the AADA an educational and community building resource to promote the AA in dressage.
Visit her on her training page at: Lisa K Schmidt