Long Arena Tests

What do people think of long arena dressage tests? Even at prelim level?

I rode two dressage tests today; one was short arena and one was long arena. The short one is one I`ve done a few times, and whilst it was an interesting one (Novice 30), I quite enjoyed the challenge of Novice 38 – the long arena.

Once I`d got my head around where the extra letters were, and explained them to my reader (who also had to know the test inside out) the test was nice and symmetrical, yet a more flowing and complicated series of movements. Being a long arena I found it tested my accuracy and meant that the movements were more interesting, a twenty metre circle is harder when you`re riding it in sixty metres! Otis needed to focus more on me as he isn`t as complacent in a large arena and cannot predict the movements. It took it`s toll on us though – that centre line felt as though it went on forever! It was early afternoon and the arena was a sun trap, so a combination of heat and fatigue from a longer arena meant that when I saluted Otis just dropped his head and gave a big sigh.

So how did we do? The tests were fairly marked, and the comments made sense. In the short arena test I need to work on changing the rein in canter, with a couple of strides of trot over X. Sounds easy, but I had too many trot strides. I`m always balancing between Otis rushing, or trying to do a flying change, with him hollowing and dropping the contact. Today I got a good, forwards downwards transition, but too much trot before picking up canter. Otherwise, our canter work is improving, and from the video he looked more consistent. We were seventh.
In the long arena test Otis was tired (partly due to the heat, the deep warm up arena which took it out of him, and the fact our two tests were fifteen minutes apart), which hindered our medium trot work. However, in the free walk on a long rein Otis really stretched and got our best mark yet for it. This is something I`ve been focusing on as he naturally holds his neck quite short and hollow. We were second in this class, so I was very pleased with him.

Anyway, there aren`t many local dressage competitions which offer long arena tests at the lower levels, and I think they`re missing out. Obviously some venues are limited by their facilities, but if they have a 60x20m arena then they would be surprised by the interest in a long-arena class. It`s like stepping up half a level in dressage, and pushes both horse and rider as well as adding variety to the usual short arena tests.

Additionally, why doesn`t British Dressage put more emphasis on long arena tests? Providing more of them, or at least updating them more frequently. It would encourage more people to give them a go, but also raise awareness and knowledge about riding in a bigger arena.

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3 thoughts on “Long Arena Tests

  1. firnhyde July 16, 2014 / 5:06 pm

    In South Africa, adults and juniors ride all their tests in a 60x20m arena. Only pony riders (under 11) ride their tests in a 20x40m. For grownups and older kids even the very basic first tests are done in a long arena.
    I personally dislike small arenas even though I do dressage on a small, short-striding horse; there’s no room to think and the horses like to use the corners to balance themselves when they’re trotting a 20m circle. In a big arena, they have to learn to make an actual circle and not just go round and cut the corners.
    The disadvantage for me is that at shows, while you’ve been hanging around waiting for your turn near one end of the arena and your horse is fine with it, the other end is an awfully long way away and of course they will rush and spook in the new scary place. But that’s just greenies!

    • therubbercurrycomb July 16, 2014 / 10:14 pm

      A good point about the spooky end! It’s also a long way for the reader to shout!
      I agree it does make you ride more to get a correct movement without the walls to guide you as much, but it’s interesting there are so many long arena tests in Africa. I think the UK has a big deficit of long arena tests, and are slow to modernise and update them 🙂

      • firnhyde July 17, 2014 / 9:02 am

        My theory is that we can have more long arena tests simply because the country is bigger and has fewer people in it, so properties are larger and there is more space for people to build long arenas. No idea if that’s true though!

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