Top tips for your very first dressage test

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Top tips for your very first dressage test

If you love riding and want to take your hobby to the next level, participating in a dressage competition is the perfect way to do exactly that. This will test the connection between you and your horse, and there’s few better ways to improve as a rider.

If competing in dressage is something you’re interested in, then read on for our top tips on how to prepare and ride your very first dressage test.

Decide on a show

If you’re new to the world of dressage, it can be hard to know which level you should be competing at. That’s why it’s important you choose your first show, and test wisely.

As a rule of thumb, you should compete at a level lower than the one you’re training at. For example, if you and your horse are comfortable performing an Introductory routine together in training and you’ve moved on to practising Preliminary exercises, sign up for an Introductory class.


While it’s natural to want to push yourself, getting some experience under your belt should be your main aim when it comes to your first ever dressage test. Sticking to what you know will go a long way to building your confidence and giving you a springboard for bigger and better things.

Practice makes perfect

Even the most experienced of riders can get nervous when they enter the dressage area. No matter what your level, there’s only one way to overcome these competition nerves: practice, practice, practice.

So, block off plenty of time in the build-up to your first ever dressage show to get comfortable with your routine. Go through all the movements you’re going to be tested on until you can perform them with total confidence and you’ll go a long way to banishing the competition nerves.

Make sure you’ve got the proper attire

Dressage has a rich heritage that dates back centuries. If you want to turn up and look the part you’ll need a selection of items that are particular to the discipline;

  • A riding hat (obvious we know)
  • A white shirt with a stock or tie
  • A showing jacket
  • White, beige, or cream gloves
  • White, beige, or cream breeches or jodhpurs
  • Black or brown riding boots

Get your horse kitted out too

Before you can compete, you need to make sure your horse looks the part too. At the lower dressage levels, your horse will need to be in a snaffle bridle and a plain noseband, and you won’t be allowed any training aids, or boots. You could opt for a dressage saddle, however, a general-purpose saddle will be fine at the lower levels. A white saddle pad is also required.


Your horse needs to be well turned out.  Plaiting isn’t necessary, however many riders and grooms choose to do so. When situated correct, plaits can compliment the horses conformation, particularly for those who lack muscle on the topline. Quarter markers can be used to enhance the horse’s quarters too.

Follow this advice and you’re sure to look and feel the part during your first ever dressage test. This will give you the best possible chance of success. Good luck!


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Author: Suzanne Ashton Founder, Everything Horse Ba Hons Marketing Management email:

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