Wednesday, November 22, 2017

thoughts on the new eventing dressage tests

The announcement of new 2018 eventing dressage tests left me excited but also a little nervous. Excited bc the eventing tests are kinda boring haha. Nervous tho bc.... well.... The old BN-B test treated me very well over the years and I didn't want to lose it to something less friendly!

After the announcement I quickly glanced through the BN, N and T tests with the general impression that some technical elements from each level now show up a test earlier than before. For example, moves from the last Training A test can now be found in Novice B.

coming soon to a ring near you!!
Riders will face more than just 20m circles and diagonal lines earlier in the levels, something I like. And movements equivalent to USDF first level start showing up in Training A now, instead of Training B. Additionally there are a few halts at G instead of X, which doesn't really change much but will test the rider's memory lol.

Overall I appreciate the new challenges in these tests, that it's not only USDF training level equivalent moves until Training B / Prelim A. While it might further the perception that lower level eventing is essentially a dressage competition, I'm not sure that's true. Testing riders on more advanced moves might have the opposite effect of rewarding those who put in the schooling vs just those who have a pleasant enough horse for straight lines and 20m circles.

Anyway, soap box aside, this post is not just about my general feelings on the new tests. This weekend is the Bob's No Halters schooling dressage show at OF -- which you may remember as Charlie's first ever horse show last year. And the organizers agreed to let us ride the 2018 tests even tho it's still 2017 (schooling shows rock, y'all!).

So I'm hoping to get a head start on familiarizing myself with the new moves. Especially now that Charlie is cantering, I opted to sign up for BN-B and N-A (BN-A is mostly unchanged except for one big difference we'll discuss below).

So. Let's go ahead and dig into these two tests, shall we?
pdf of test sheet here
I'm a little miffed that the BN-A test is virtually unchanged as it's historically a difficult test for me. BN-B on the other hand was always my absolute favorite. And yet it's undergone a complete facelift and is barely recognizable now. Sigh. It could be ok, tho. Maybe.

Anyway, the entry in both BN tests is brand new. Test writers chopped the 10m half circle turn off the center line at C and replaced it with a diagonal turn to the corner veering off from X. This is exceptionally kind, and an opportunity for riders to demonstrate straightness on the aids by staying straight on the center line with a crisp turn onto the diagonal from X. For those of us who struggled with balance in that turn off the center line at C, this is a gift.

From there, tho, the test goes a little bit downhill for me. The old version had riders execute all the trotting in both directions, with a lovely relaxed diagonal change of rein in between, before beginning to canter. Then all the canter is done back to back (again with a breather for trotting across the diagonal) before the free walk and finish.

This test is a little more like BN-A where you do your trot and canter in one direction, then change rein for the trot and canter the other way. The only difference here is they don't plunk the free walk right smack in the middle of all that and instead leave it for the end. Thank god.

Regarding those trots and canters, they've adopted quite a bit from the old N tests here. Trots are now done at the ends of the ring, and canters in the middle. Plus there's that half circle of trot to develop your canter. The idea I think is that it's more difficult to stay accurate in the middle of the ring vs at the ends, so this is technically more advanced.

So long as riders don't get lost amid all those half circles it should ride fine, tho. As in the old N tests, both canter circles are done at the same letter, so remembering that all the canter circles are at E will help riders stay on course.

Another notable adaption here is that the medium walk is scored separately from the free walk (this is true in the new BN-A test too). This pleases me, since you may remember from my data analysis of Charlie's and my tests this past year that the medium walk scored separately in USDF tests was a stand out mark. Riders will have the opportunity here to show a distinct transition from free walk to medium walk and get horses fully back on the aids before the trot transition.

Finally, I'm very happy to see separate scores for the final transition back into trot, turn up the center line, and halt (again, also the case in BN-A). I can't tell you how many times I've had a nice center line score ruined bc of a hollow trot transition, or a wonky halt. So now riders can maybe still get some nice scores here even if they biff part of that little tour. Or. Ya know. You could biff all of it and sink your entire test lol. Who knows!

While it's not clear where the coefficients are for these tests, in all I think there are some very interesting changes here. I'm very sad to lose that second trotting diagonal change of rein and to canter so early in the test. But there are also a lot of really friendly changes in the scoring to hopefully make up for that.

pdf of test sheet here
Phew, ok. You staying with me folks? Let's keep right on going and take a look at the Novice A test next.

The entry returns to using 10m half circles off the center line at C. Sad but not unexpected. These turns on and off the center line are legitimately the hardest turns you see in dressage below first level, and riders who treat them with respect will be rewarded with nice scores.

The test proceeds to a trot circle then change of rein. But lo! The change of rein is done via a two-loop serpentine instead of a diagonal! I LOVE this. It's one of the nicest chances in low level eventing for riders to demonstrate a series of changes of bend. Balance and accuracy will be key here, and riders could treat it kinda like stacked 20m half circles slightly flattening at X.

Then the next trot circle, followed by a full walking tour. And again, the medium walk is scored separately from the free walk. The test is even explicit on where the rider should develop the medium. I remember from auditing Janet Foy a couple years ago that she instructed transitions in gaits be completed before the horse's shoulders reach the letter. As indicated in this test.

Then we're off trotting again to prepare for all the canter. I like this test's progression from trot to walk to canter - seems like it might have really pleasant pacing. We have the same half circles to develop canter as N riders should already know, and in this test all canter circles are at B. Plus there's another trotting diagonal change of rein between canters - which you know I love.

Then it's down to trot, and up the center line before the final halt. Not unlike the old (and new) BN-A. That part's a little harder for a big strong horse like Charlie who struggles a little bit in the downward transitions from canter. Getting him balanced in trot so quickly from B to F, and then turning immediately up center line at C will require.... some riding haha.

Really tho, this test excites me. I love the serpentine -- it's a friendly lead up to those E to B turns that are still in the new Novice B tests (that test's main change, as far as I can tell, being the inclusion of a stretchy trot circle. tricky tricky! but at least there appears to be a good set up for it).

so eager to do this again!
Obviously I won't really know how any of it goes until I've ridden the tests haha. All is well and good on paper until you actually string it all together, right? From what I can tell, tho, these are inviting tests that set the rider up well enough to demonstrate a reasonable degree of training for the level.

What do you think? Have you looked at any of the tests yet? Any plans to ride the two above, or others that I haven't discussed? Do you think the new versions are improvements on the old? Or are they worse? Or something in between?

Do you think these tests will make low level eventing even more of a dressage show than it's already perceived to be? Or do you think they'll help level the playing field a bit more?

26 comments:

  1. i too am glad of the scoring changes but glad BN A stayed pretty unchanged. LOL I am a terrible learner :) I have been riding that test for 2 years now and i still freak that i will forget it. I do agree some of the additions for the other tests are good and some will be interesting to watch. HA! Have a great weekend with Charles in Charge :)

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    1. I mean, I went off course this year for the first time ever I'm a test I've ridden many times so I hear ya!! Lol

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  2. I absolutely hate both Training tests, so that's great. Canter lengthenings on a circle are stupid in so many ways, and I just don't like the flow as much. BUT... I absolutely LOVE Prelim A, especially now that rising trot is allowed at Prelim. That test has my horse's name written all over it. Too bad we're showing Training...

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    1. EHH you will be at Prelim soon enough!

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    2. I never thought twice about lengthenings on a circle with Isabel bc... Well I never had to think twice about lenthenings with her ever. Now with Charlie tho I can see it will be very very different lol. Also I hadn't realized prelim could be done in rising trot now! I loved the old prelim a for Izzy too but haven't looked at the new sheets yet since Charlie is so far away both over fences and on the flat lolol

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  3. Like you, BN B was my favorite test so it was a little jolting to see how different it is. I'm not a huge fan of cantering within the first 30 seconds or so, as P can get a little strong and excitable. I like gathering up good scores before we canter :)

    To this day, each time P has done Novice B (2 or 3 times), that's been his highest scoring tests. I was glad to see the turns are still in there, and am actually excited for the addition of the stretchy trot circle, as P can kill that (when not distracted!). Developing the med walk from the free walk while on the diagonal and not on the straightaway will be a bit of a test of straightness. I'm curious how the F-X-G centerline will ride.

    Have fun this weekend!

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    1. I only ever rode novice b in competition once and it happens to be a day of uncharacteristic tension and reactiveness in Izzy. We scored a 33 or there abouts, which isn't terrible on paper but it was not competitive. Our one time doing novice a on the other hand remains the only time I've won an event - and that even after we had a rail! This new version of novice a I like a lot too. Regarding that f-x-g final line, that's a gift to novice level riders and requires far less balance than a typical centerline. All it asks for is accuracy and straightness and riders at that level ought not to have any issues there lol

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    2. If that’s the case regarding the F-X-G centerline, I wish they’d go back. P does his best work on the centerline!

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    3. yea honestly i'm with ya there. i like the "A-X-H" or "A-X-M" lines for the *entry* to the test bc it kinda sucks to have a bobble on that very first turn off the center line to start your test on a somewhat bad impression.... but then again center line turns are something that can be practiced and polished. the 10m half circle turn is the hardest turn you will see in low level eventing before training level, and any rider who can make nice work of it will usually be rewarded with a nice score. my dressage trainer always has us practice them and isabel routinely pulled 8s, charlie even got a 9 on one this season. so it's worth the effort. but. ya know. in an otherwise challenging test sometimes it's nice to have an easier movement thrown in there too ;)

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  4. Novice A looks like a nice relaxed easy flow test that will play to Chimi's strengths but Novice B looks hard! You have a stretchy trot right after your first canter in the beginning of the test and then have to walk by C when you're still cantering at E. The next movements just seem to come up really quickly and your transitions are going to have to be on point and smooth bc there's no time to have some wonky steps and smooth it out before you're doing something else!!! I might have to start practicing my dressage tests this year instead of memorizing it right before the show 😂

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    1. Yea novice b is absolutely testing riders on how quickly they can change gears. Obvi a critical test as jumping technicality increases, but can be very challenging to demonstrate in the sand box!! Charlie is certainly not there yet haha but I'm excited to try a!

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  5. Honestly... this made my head hurt in a good way. All I know is that diagonals look good on BB because I can turn up that trot into her pseudo medium and show off her outrageously bouncy but nice to look at trot, so we'll probably keep trying to play at BN.

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    1. yea -- my thoughts EXACTLY. those diagonal changes of rein at trot have always been really nice moments in my tests on both horses. they provide the perfect opportunity to settle a little bit, or rev up -- whatever is needed -- while also dialing up the wattage on the trot to really show it off to the judge (but still not being straight on or in full profile so any little bobbles are more easily masked haha). i'm SO SAD that the second trot diagonal is gone from BN B bc that test just.... did us a lot of favors haha

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  6. Did you see the typo though? In novice test A, movement 10 you're doing the canter circle left but the directive talks about the quality of trot. I hope it gets fixed before causing any issues.

    These will be good to work on through the winter! I'm looking forward to having them in hand.

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    1. ha whoops! i had not seen that in the directives, mostly bc honestly i don't really look at the directive ideas all that closely usually. mostly i'm just looking at the movement itself. it's pretty clearly just a typo in the "idea" section tho so i'd say the onus would be on the rider if they messed that up. still tho.... presumably they'll fix it before the tests become official in december!

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  7. I loved BN B and had my best scores in it by far, so I'm really sad to see it go. Those trot diagonals are where we shine. I need someone to make the visuals to go with these again, I can't turn the directions into a pattern in my head. Such a visual learner!

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    1. if you're a visual learner actually it would probably be best to make your own visual charts -- just draw however many rectangles as there are movements and plot each movement. boom. test is charted out into a pattern!

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  8. It will be interesting to try out the tests and see how they ride.

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  9. I briefly looked over these when I first heard they were changed. I was glad I have to admit for what looked to be the extra added challenge because riding the usual USDF Intro test was just....there was not much to it lol. But I've never ridden any eventing dressage test, so we'll see how these tests flow!

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    1. Yea the intro tests aren't my favorite either tho I'm sure they will continue to be used at events that offer 18"-2'3 options. USDF training level on the other hand pretty quickly grows in complexity relative to the eventing tests. You don't really see all of USDF training level dressage until you reach novice or training level eventing. And it isn't until eventing Training A that we finally see glimmers of first level. So.... The eventing tests are still pretty take compared to USDF tests, but I'm happy to see some new life breathed into them!

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  10. Interesting! I'm sure you will put in the schooling and I hope it all goes well in the new year :D So exciting!

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  11. I'm glad to see some real dressage being introduced to the lower levels. I always thought the old tests were a bit of a cop out. I do, however, hate any and all circles off of A and C.

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  12. this is ahead of us but i'm glad they're doing more for the novice tests. i competed at novice for awhile on the angry red mare but oh my god the tests are boring and frankly, not a step up from BN.

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  13. Love that they divided out the walk scores. Those are points that are easy to soak up if you're careful in training and riding the test, but also easy to miss if you are skating by on a horse that's usually talented at the free walk but actually tense.

    Lots of interesting changes here. I think the lower level dressage stuff being spread out is only to the advantage of eventers. You guys end up working on more advanced dressage concepts in jumping before you touch them in the dressage ring otherwise, and that has always seemed weird to me!

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