Ask the Judge – 2018 USEA Eventing Dressage Tests

Dear Amy,

I have heard that the USEA eventing dressage tests will be changing soon. Could you tell me when the new tests go into effect and what changes there might be? Also, where can I find these tests?

Eventer Chick

Dear Eventer,
The new USEA eventing dressage tests go into effect December 1, 2017. These tests were published in November and can be found online on the USEA website, among other places. There are some significant changes in most of these new tests. Let’s take a look at a few of the changes in Beginner-Novice through Preliminary, In all the tests at all levels (Beginner-Novice through Advanced) halts are now required to be sustained for at least three seconds. This rule makes the eventing tests conform with the United States Dressage Foundation dressage tests. In the past, the length of the halt was not specified in the eventing directives.

Changes in Beginner-Novice
Beginner-Novice still has a Test A and a Test B. These tests have basically the same movements as before, with the biggest difference being that the final halt in Test A is at G rather than at X. The letter G is an imaginary point on the centerline beyond X (which is in the center of the arena and before C.) The exact point is the intersection of the centerline with a line drawn from H to M.

Changes in Novice Tests
The Novice level still has Test A and Test B. In Test A, the new tests now include a serpentine of two loops, from A to C. The judges will be looking for the quality and regularity of the trot, the shape and size of the loops and the changes of bend, accuracy and balance. Remember: serpentines do not use the corners: they have the same curvature as a circle. To ride this movement correctly, you would start with a 20-meter half circle tracking left from A to X. Approaching the intersection of X, you should straighten for at least a stride or the length of one horse from nose-to-tail before bending to the right and continuing on to the half circle of 20 meters to the right. This movement is only asked for in one direction (starting from the left.)

In Test B, there is now a “stretchy” circle. Your judge will be looking for your horse to be going forward with a downward stretch over the back into a light contact, maintaining his balance. The judge will also assess the quality of the trot, the bend, the shape and size of the circle, and the willingness and calmness of the transitions before and after the stretch. The aim of the stretchy circle is not to lengthen your reins as much as possible; it is to show how much your horse can stretch over his back. This movement is only asked for in one direction, to the left.

Changes at Training Level
Training Level still has Test A and Test B. In both tests, there is a new movement at the end of the test. Instead of turning down the centerline from A to make your halt, you will be making a half circle of 10 meters at B onto the centerline. Then you will continue straight on the line towards G. At G, you will halt and salute. The turn and the halt are scored separately.

In Test B, they have added new movement. At B, half circle right of ten meters at the trot, returning to the track at M. Going the other way, this same movement is E, half circle left of ten meters, returning to the track at H. Some people call this movement the ice cream cone, because that is what it looks like on paper. The judge will be looking for the bend and balance in the figures, the size and shape of the half circles and the regularity and quality of the trot. When riding this movement, remember to prepare your half circle with bend, and have it centered around your letter. Then, when you finish the half circle be sure to be on the centerline before making your return on the half diagonal. Be sure you keep the straightness and ride this half diagonal to the track the way you would ride a full diagonal.

The new Training Level B test also introduces canter work on the diagonal. In the canter left, leave the track at H and at X, make a transition to the working trot and continue along the diagonal to F. The judge is looking for balance in the canter, the smoothness and accuracy of your trot transition, the quality of the trot and the overall ease and straightness of the line. When riding this movement, your transition to the trot ideally should be when you body crosses over X. Remember to ride your diagonal as straight as possible and letter to letter, H-X-F.

Modified Level Changes
Modified Level was introduced into the eventing world in 2017, and is a steppingstone from Training to Preliminary. In its inaugural year, Modified Level had one dressage test, which took place in the small arena. In 2018, there are two Modified Level tests, Test A (in the small arena) and Test B (in the large arena.)

In Test A, in the trot, you have a pair of conjoined 10-meter half circles in opposite directions. (First, E-X half circle left, followed by X-B half circle right.) There is also a leg yield from D to H going to the left, and then from D to M going to the right. In addition, in the canter, you will be asked to do 15-meter circles.

Test B introduces the “counter change of hand in leg yield.” This is two connecting leg yields, with one change of direction. In this test, you leg yield right from F to X, and then immediately leg yield left from X to M. This test also has a halt at C as well as a rein back of three to four steps.

Preliminary Level Changes
Preliminary still has two tests, A and B. Preliminary Test A rides in a small arena; Test B rides in a large arena. In Test A there are single leg yields from D to H and D to M. There are 10-meter trot circles. This test also has the same “ice cream cone” half circle movement as in Training Level B, but this time at the canter. The movement is shown in both directions, and introduces the counter canter: the half circle is performed in the true lead, but as you return to the track on a diagonal line, you will be performing a counter canter. A similar movement was seen in the former Intermediate Test A, so it can be considered quite challenging for this level. When riding this movement it is important to keep your accuracy. Make sure you steer and finish your diagonal line at the designated letter.

In Preliminary Test B the entry does not have a halt or salute. There is also a “stretchy” movement similar to the stretchy circle in the Novice test, but this time it is performed in a two-loop serpentine at the trot. When riding your serpentine keep the shape like you would in Novice test A. Be sure to show a clear stretch of frame: the outline of your horse should look different in this movement than in the rest of your test.

There is more counter canter work in this test as well. You have a canter loop that starts from the long side on the true lead, goes to the centerline and then heads back to the track while maintaining the same lead. This loop must touch the centerline before heading back to the track: It is important that your horse’s front legs step onto the centerline. Remember to maintain the bend of your lead throughout. This movement is only shown in one direction, starting from the left.

The final halt in this test is at L. L is an imaginary letter on the centerline after A and before you get to X; it is at the intersection of the centerline and a line drawn across the arena from V to P.

I think these new tests look interesting and a bit more challenging than the previous tests. Remember all to ride:your corners, stay accurate, have correct geometry and preparation for all transitions: attention to all the small details will enhance your presentation. I look forward to seeing how these new tests ride! Good luck.

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