Article published in "Topline
Ink" Equestrian Magazine
for Memorizing Dressage Tests
by Ivetta Harte "L" Dressage Judging Program
Graduate with 'distinction'
Since memorizing dressage tests is a non-physical aspect
of dressage, try to look at it from a classroom point
of view: what learning style worked the best for you in
school? Each person has a different learning style: visual,
aural, verbal, physical, or logical. Some of them overlap.
Different styles of learning uses different part of the
brain. Dressage riders also can choose different options
that can help them in memorizing a dressage test according
to their own style of learning.
you are a visual learner you will prefer using colorful
images. There are several ways to create a visual study
guide for dressage tests. On a regular piece paper, sketch
a dozen diagrams of the dressage arena with coordinating
letters. Now take a green color pen for trot, red color
for walk and blue color for canter. Sketch all of the
test movements in order with the corresponding pen colors.
Some tips for coding the movements: small circle with
an X in it means “halt.” Small circle means
a transition. Solid line means canter. Dashed line means
trot. A dotted line means walk. Small arrows show the
direction. Large arrows indicate lengthen, medium or extended
gaits. Put the final paper in a plastic sleeve and put
it in the folder. Keep this folder next to your bed and
glance on your tests before you go to bed. You can also
buy prefabricated diagrams of the tests available on the
The next thing for the visual learner is to create a
tiny cheat sheet of the test that can be put in a breech
pocket or clipped to your belt. Make small diagrams of
your test movements on 1 piece of index card paper. Then
cover this paper with some clear packaging tape for protection.
Punch a hole in the top, and put it a keychain clip. You
are ready to ride your test with a cheat sheet on your
For the aural and verbal style of learning, you would
prefer to work with music and sound. This is where your
favorite iPod or MP3 player comes in handy. Dictate the
whole test on your iPod, MP3 player, voice recorder, or
CD, movement by movement so you can listen to it over
and over. You can also record it with the actual timing
of the ridden tests and ride the test while listening
to your iPod.
you have a physical learning style, hands-on experience
will work the best for you. Create the dressage arena
letters using a fat black marker and index cards. Position
them in your kitchen, living room, or bed room and repeatedly
“walk” your dressage test in this home-made
If you have a logical learning style and love brainteasers,
try to think of your tests as a puzzle: After a halt,
I turn right and the judge will be sitting on my left
hand side. I’ll be trotting toward the arena gate,
where I came in. Then I need to find the X by doing a
trot loop, I’ll end up on the other side of the
arena, away from, my back to the judge, and I will be
looking at the “A” side of the dressage arena,
when I entered my test. After passing an “A”
entrance, I’ll be looking towards the bleaches (or
video camera, flags, a tree, cows, friends, etc…)
and as soon as I’ll see bleachers, I’ll start
preparing for my canter depart. After the canter departs,
I’ll be able to see the judge and take a couple
of relaxing breaths. Then the most balanced movement comes
in: the 20 m circle in the middle of the arena! After
that, I’ll be cantering toward the judge and getting
ready for the down trot transition right next to the judge,
I almost will be able to hear the judge give my score
– that’s how close the down trot transition
is to the judge. The judge will be whispering on my left
hand side during my down trot transition. My test caller
will be standing at B and I will have to start my free
walk right next to my test caller…. And so on.
technique can be useful for people who have difficulty
remembering the dressage letters. Keeping an actual dressage
arena in mind, assign a realistic visual picture to the
dressage letters: left of the judge and next to the bleachers
= H, right of the judge and next to the parking lot =
M, left of the entrance and next to the feeding room =
K, right of the entrance and next to the videographer
= F. When at X during the halt/salute movement, B is to
Think of how you drive and how you remember the driving
routes – that technique might help you to remember
the dressage tests as well.
All learning styles can benefit from the DVD USDF “On
the Levels” that shows the flow of the tests, gives
visuals and sound.
If your horse is obedient enough to stand next to the
show arena right before your test, try to watch the rider
before you who is riding the same tests as you are and
in your head, go over your test pattern one more time
watching the rider before you.
There are many fun tools that can help you to memorize
your dressage tests: colorful diagrams, small cheat sheets,
iPods, DVDs, and puzzles. The key is effort and repetition,
as well as refreshing your memory right before the test.
To know your test, even if you are using a caller, can
help to calm your show nerves as well.
here to print the dressage arena diagram to draw your
own dressage tests diagrams
Read more dressage articles published in Topline
Ink Equestrian Journal Magazine for the Dressage and
English Sport Horse rider.