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.