So I wanted to write this post for Melinda, who is going to her very first dressage show this weekend. I know that some of these things sound silly, but I didn’t start riding dressage all that long ago and I remember all the things I didn’t know my first time around. I hope that this post is helpful and feel free to comment and add if you think of it or ask questions if you want to know something!
1) The classic dressage look is all white and black. You can visit my post on dressage show apparel here. If you are a hunter and already have tall field boots, beige breeches, and a navy coat I would recommend just wearing that your first time out with a white shirt and stock tie. Save your money if you are not sure dressage is the right thing for you. The only purchase I recommend you making even if you are just doing a single show is to buy a white square pad. You do not need dressage tack to start with, but the white square pad versus a contoured pad really does make a big difference in the looks department of your horse.
2) Do you have to braid? The answer is…it depends on what type of show you are going to. If you are going to a USDF show, even if you are doing Intro, you really should braid. If you are going to a schooling show I would recommend you braid because it looks better, but you do not have to do it. Just make sure your horse looks tidy and neat and not as though you grabbed them out of the field.
3) Intro? What did you mean by that? Dressage has levels. Ten of them. They go Intro, Training, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Prix St. George, Intermediate, and Grand Prix. Each level has a certain number of tests that go along with it. For example at intro there are 2 tests, at training 4, at 3rd there are only 3 tests, etc. When you go to a dressage show you must sign up ahead of time for your level and what tests you want to do in the level.
4) Test? I am sure you will all get a good laugh at this, but I started riding dressage through the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA). At my very first show freshman year my team asked me if I was ready for my test. I answered back that I didn’t know we had to take a test. What was I supposed to have studied! They all laugh so hard. In dressage, the pattern you ride is your test. And yes, you really should memorize it because it just looks better impression wise. As though you really put some effort into the show.
5) Check for your times. More than once I have seen someone who came over from hunters not know that times are always posted before the show. These people show up when they think there time should be. Which is often no where near when they were scheduled to ride. You will either call the secretary or check the shows website about 3 days ahead of the show and you can find your time down to the minute.
6) Once you get to the show and go warm up a big faux pas is having your trainer go to the center of the ring. That really is just not done in dressage. Most trainers have a walkie talkie system that they use, or they ask you to ride in a certain part of the ring. There is nothing wrong really with your trainer going to the center of the ring to warm you up, but we dressage riders tend to use the whole ring and you will just stick out like a sore thumb.
7) Once your time has come go to the show ring and ride around the outside of the ring. As long as there is space you are expected to ride around the edge of the ring and not enter the dressage ring itself until the judge indicates to you that it is time. Now, if there is no space around the edge of the ring you can enter the dressage arena without the judges indication, but you cannot start your test yet. You must wait until the judge signals that they want you to start.
8) How is the judge going to signal? With a whistle or bell. Once you hear the judge either ring the bell or blow the whistle you then have 45 seconds to head up the center line and salute.
9) Saluting in dressage is not a military salute unless you are in the military and wearing your dress uniform. Normal saluting in dressage is taking the reins and whip in you left hand, dropping your right straight down to your side, then putting your head down so you are looking at the ground, looking back up and picking your hand up to pick the reins up again.
10) If your first show is a schooling show, the judge might have time to give you a few quick hints after the test, so once you do your second salute proceed at a walk and walk towards the judge up the arena. Once you get close enough to C, say thank you and if the judge wants to talk to you they will do so at that time.
So those are my 10 easy tips so you all fit right in at a dressage show. If anyone wants to add any please feel free to comment!