Dressage Third and Fourth Level Changes

FEI Dressage Judge Janet Brown Foy explains the changes to the Third and Fourth Level tests for the 2007 competition year.

Third Level

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All the tests: Wherever possible, we “flipped” the direction of the half-passes, so the judges can now see you and your horse half-passing toward them, rather than away.

Test One: To demonstrate that your horse can maintain the proper bend and flexion without the support of the inside rein, we added a 20-meter canter circle with a clear release of the inside rein for 4 or 5 strides over the center line (Movement 16).

Test Two: Because longer lines usually enhance the scores for mediums, we moved the medium trot (Movement 2) from the old short M to E diagonal to the long MXK diagonal. For the same reason, the medium canter now covers the entire H to K long side (Movement 17) instead of the old 36 meters from H to V. And we eliminated the rein back at C toward the very end of the test where it seemed like an afterthought. We also have the movement in most other tests.

Test Three: We changed the two medium trot short-diagonals after the shoulders-in, to one medium across the long diagonal (Movement 2). And we now follow the shoulders-in (Movements 3 and 9) with ten-meter half-circles (Movements 4 and 10) into half-passes (Movements 5 and 11) so you’re half-passing coming toward the judge. We moved the turns-on-the-haunches at C and R to the HGM line where they are easier to ride (Movements 13 and 14). And while you still finish the test by halting at G, you no longer make collected trot turns at E and X. Instead, because it’s easier to have a better finish with a longer line at the end, you turn down center line at A in collected canter, and make a transition to collected trot at X (Movement 26).

Fourth Level

All the tests: We didn’t necessarily want to make them harder, but we did want to design them to do a better job preparing you and your horse for the Prix St. Georges level. For example, we several times ask for medium trot and canter in one direction, and extended trot and canter in the other, because your horse will often, but not always, be asked to do that at the FEI levels to demonstrate that he is equal on both sides (if a test only asked for these movements on the left rein, for example, it could unfairly benefit one horse while punishing another). It’s important for competition and for his training to be able to do that, even though it is sometimes more challenging.

Test One: We clarified the judging and performance of Movement 2-medium trot across the diagonal with what used to be “6 to 7 strides of collected trot over X”-by changing the word “strides” to “steps.”

Test Two: We replaced the canter quarter-pirouettes at C with half-pirouettes on the diagonal lines from R to V (Movement 17) and S to P (Movement 20). And instead of half-passing immediately after the pirouettes, you now do flying changes upon returning to R (Movement 18) or S (Movement 21). We also clarified the size of the half-pirouette by adding the wording, “approximately five meters in diameter.” And we somewhat simplified the trot work by cutting down on the pattern’s multiple direction switches.

Test Three: We really put this test on a diet, reducing it from 33 to 25 movements! The canter half-pirouettes you used to do on a short diagonal line between M and V and H and P, you now do on a squared-off serpentine. At the collected canter, you turn left at P and before V, do a half-pirouette left, return to P and turn left (Movement 17). At B you turn left again, do a flying change at X, and at E, turn right (Movement 18). At S you turn right, before R you do another half-pirouette, and back at S, you turn right again (Movement 19).

The changes go into effect December 1, 2006, the day the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) 2007 competitive year officially begins. The tests are redone every four years (the last round was 2003) by a USEF test-writing subcommittee of the USEF technical dressage committee, with the test writers trying to make updates that benefit riders, horses, judges and horse show managers.

These changes were provided with the expertise of Janet Brown Foy, an FEI “I” judge and USEF “S” dressage judge and “R” Sporthorse Breeding judge who served on the test-writing subcommittee with Kathy Connelly, Axel Steiner, Debbie McDonald, George Williams, Hilda Gurney, Jayne Ayers and Marianne Ludwig. She also helped to produce an instructional video about the new 2007 tests entitled “On the Levels.” The video is available from the U.S. Dressage Federation.

Read about the changes to the Training, First and Second Level tests in the December 2006 issue of Practical Horseman.

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