Dressage riders are scrambling around looking for test copies since 2011 is the ?new test year? in the United States. The U.S. Equestrian Federation writes new tests on a four-year cycle and has issued new versions for Training through Fourth Levels, effective Dec. 1, 2010. In order to stay in line with the USEF four-year plan, the U.S. Dressage Federation has also issued new tests at the Introductory Level and for freestyles from First through Fourth Levels.
The dressage tests that aren?t changing this year are the eventing tests, revised by the USEF for 2010, and the Federation Equestre Internationale?s (FEI) international tests, which were new in 2009. However, the Training-through-Fourth tests are the ones used most commonly, so whenever those tests are rewritten it sends a seismic shudder throughout the entire dressage community until the riders become comfortable with the new patterns.
The concern now for riders is where to find the new tests. The easy answer is to do a web search, since so many clubs and private individuals now pick up the tests from the USEF/USDF sites. The question is what form you want them in ? a simple list of movements, a replication of the test sheet itself (including directives), a compact book containing all the tests, a laminated weather-proof book, movement-by-movement diagrams, a DVD. All are available or soon will be. Now is the best time to invest in a commercial product, if it best suits your needs, because no changes will be made for another four years.
The alphabetical stew of organizations tends to confuse people who expect the USDF to be in charge of dressage tests. However, the USEF is the body that actually runs competitions, writes the rules, licenses judges and thus writes the dressage tests. The dressage committee of the USEF does such a thoughtful job that many other countries, including Canada, adopt our national-level tests for themselves. The USEF turned the responsibility for freestyles over to the USDF, and those tests were rewritten for 2011 to correspond to the new movements in the regular tests and to make scoring changes. In addition, the USDF writes Introductory tests, and these are mainly used at schooling show.
While all the patterns in the USEF tests are new, the actual content at Training, Second and Third Levels is relatively unchanged. The biggest changes in the tests are in the Collective Marks. The rider score, which previously was one box with a coefficient of 3, has been divided into three separate boxes: Position and seat; correct and effective use of aids; harmony between rider and horse. In addition, the score for gaits no longer has a coefficient. Overall, the Collective Marks have a lower point value than in the 2007 versions and their impact on the final score will be lower.
Other highlights of the new tests include:
The overall number of tests has been reduced to three tests per level. Training through Second levels previously had four.
The stretching circle at posting trot previously required in Training 3 and 4 is now also required at Training 1 and 2.
Posting is now optional throughout the First Level tests.
Requirements at Fourth Level have been reduced to make it more distinct from Prix St. Georges.
Newly written directives, so riders have a better idea what the judge is looking for.
There is a new USDF Introductory Test 3 that includes canter. The criteria for the rider score in Introductory tests now also include geometry and accuracy.
The USDF freestyles now have separate scores for medium and free walks and for the halts. The technical score now has separate boxes for gaits, impulsion and submission, while the coefficients on the artistic score have been revamped.
If you just want to study one new test, find it online and print it out. If you want a roadmap for your training in a convenient package and low price, order the USEF test booklet for a bargain $5. Or get two, one for your house and one to stash in your tack box at the barn. If you need visual help to learn tests, pick a version with diagrams.
Article by Associate Editor Margaret Freeman.