dressage · dressage tests · Uncategorized

Summer Plans: First Level

In the spirit of putting things out there and then working up to them: I’d like to enter Tristan at first level this fall in our barn schooling show.

To that end, we’ll be lessoning a lot, working on fitness, and I’ve already broached the idea with my barn manager (who teaches us right now). She thought it was definitely feasible provided we keep working hard at forward.

So I’ve been looking through first level tests with an eye to the specific things that we’ll need to do that are different from Training, and where we are on those.

Photo Jun 05, 9 09 39 AM

plus some photos from last year’s fall show because I think I never shared them?

1. 10m half-circle + full circle in the trot

Okay, we’ve got that! We definitely school it pretty regularly. The trick is keeping it together, of course: keeping up impulsion while not letting his outside shoulder bulge out.

2. 15m circle in canter

We’ve done it. It’s not always pretty. This will require me to really work on that outside shoulder.

Photo Jun 05, 9 10 27 AM

3. lengthening of stride in trot and canter

Ummmmmmmm. Nope. Never really done it. I’ve played with transitions within the gait but more as an aid to adding impulsion. I’ve asked for nice big trots across the diagonal just for fun but never with the kind of discipline that a true dressage lengthening wants. Plus, it’s Tristan, anything that’s even vaguely more energy will always be our sticking point.

4. leg yield

We have these down COLD, we do them basically every day, whew, finally something I feel good about. I mean, there’s still loads that can go wrong but I have done this horrifically and perfectly and every way in between so I know how to take them apart and fix them again.

Photo Jun 05, 9 11 20 AM

5. change of lead through trot

Yup, got this one too, it’s just a matter of polishing it. I am actually pretty militant about doing this on the diagonal when schooling because it really freshens him up to turn down the diagonal at the canter, drop to the trot at x, and ask for the other lead. We probably put more strides in the trot than they want, and I am often focusing more on GO GO GO than I am on light, prompt transitions, but we have the basic concept down.

6. counter canter

lolol we’re fucked. Well, okay, no, we need to work on it. How’s that for optimism? (you guys my horse actively tries to fall over in just a correct lead canter, he is going to mutiny when I ask him to try even harder to balance, sigh) The good news is that it’s First 3 and I can just…not. But I am nothing if not overambitious, so probably we’ll be tinkering with this a bit.

Any advice for me? What was the hardest thing for you to get right when you moved up to First Level? Is reading this making you want to just go gallop a cross-country course instead? Any videos or tips that you found particularly helpful to think about?

5 thoughts on “Summer Plans: First Level

  1. I’m moving up to 1st 1 this weekend. We aren’t really ready, but we are really ready to be done with Training level so I am going to try and just view it as a way to dip my toes in to see what it feels like…


  2. I totally just winged it on Moe; I figured we had all the pieces there (leg yields, some semblance of lengthening, etc), so why not give it a go? Moe isn’t very fancy (and struggles with connection sometimes), so my strategy has been to earn as many points as possible by being extremely accurate. It’s worked out fairly well- we’ve scored in the mid 60s in almost every First Level test we’ve done over the last couple of years.


    1. It was also helpful to me to take a hard look at where the coefficients are in the tests I’ll be doing. A good free walk and a good stretchy trot can help you make up some points!


  3. You can definitely do it! I did it on my (now retired) Standardbred! šŸ˜‰ Definitely agree with Stephanie above about looking at movements with coefficients. Don’t give up easy points on movements you can do well. Also, don’t stress too much about the counter canter. I started by introducing VERY shallow loops on the long side and gradually worked up to a full loop through X.


    1. First time at First level went pretty well actually. Don’t have lengthenings yet really, but in general I was very pleased! Thanks for the encouragement..

      Liked by 1 person

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