Who doesn't know the feeling of having had a good ride, but then looking frustrated at the 53% you were rewarded with and the placement as third-to-last? Or the barrier of 65% that just won't break? Your ride is "satisfactory," but just not "good." When talking about dressage, we also talk about harmony. Sometimes, at least.
What makes the difference? Sometimes, it's just the little things. If you are "mindful" about your riding and pay attention to where you win the points, it's possible to boost them with a few points. And everyone knows that it's the little things that count in dressage!
This exercise is often underestimated by riders. Many use the opportunity to relax and let their horse walk on long reins - remember, it's a long rein, not a loose one. Maintain impulsion in your horse, and if nothing else, push it forward more than usual.
Tip: Here, you aim for long strides and good stretches, so practice the exercise at home to make sure your horse doesn't start ambling.
Simple things like making your circles the right size will improve your result. Critics will often say things like "not quite to the letter" or "circle too small" - the judge can't judge a 15-meter circle if it's 20 when you ride it.
The directions for the exercises are right there, stating things like "transition," "rhythm," etc. Sometimes, they are very detailed. When you go through the criticism, take note of what the judge is looking for. You'll see that transitions and bending are given significant weight.
Tip: Sometimes, the judge's signature can be a bit hard to read. Keep your criticism, write the name below the signature, and if one day you face the same judge, look at the criticism to see what exactly that judge focused on.
Of course, you should use the entire arena throughout. However, you can easily see what the judge is looking for the most. If your exercise says "RMC, medium walk," followed by "C, Working trot," and the directions on the sides show that the judge is mostly focusing on transitions, then use your corners to properly bend the horse and perform a good transition.
Many people tend to become tense during a competition, especially if their horse is fresh or misbehaving - or just because they feel pressure on themselves. This results in many riders leaning too far forward, looking down, and having tense shoulders - a typical defensive position. This not only affects your score but also makes it harder for you to use your aids correctly.
Tip: Head up, shoulders back, and sit down!
We hope these tips are useful and that over time, you achieve the results you dream of.