Wednesday November 29, 2023
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Dressage Guidelines


We thought it might be a good idea to give you some basic information about Dressage.

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Arrive a good two hours before your scheduled test time.  Nothing is worse for your nerves than running behind schedule. Make sure you register your horse’s arrival at the secretary’s office. Collect and make a note of your competitor number.  Remember to display your number either tying around your waist, or using a bridle or saddlecloth number.

Take time to explore the show ground to familiarise yourself with the surroundings and sample the atmosphere.  Check exactly where your class is being held and your route to the arena. Check if you are to ride inside or outside the arena before you enter for your test and where you can work in.  Follow the Pony Club code of practice for warming up (full details in the Pony Club Dressage Rules 2023) and don’t forget your gloves!  

Check and make sure that your bridle, bit, spurs (if permitted) etc, meet the criteria specified in The Pony Club Dressage Rule Book.  Keep an eye on the time; it’s up to you to be at the arena at the correct time.  Ensure you have been tack checked 15 mins prior to your start time.  Remember to remove any boots and bandages well before your test begins.

Give yourself a good 30 minute warm up period. Walk on a loose rein for the first 5 to 10 minutes before you begin your warm-up and it will help calm your nerves and relax your pony.

If your horse is lively or fresh lunge (check with the Official Steward) for 10 or 15 minutes before your warm-up.  This will settle your pony and get him in the mood for work.  Ponies competing may be ridden only by their competitors, or in exceptional circumstances, and with the permission of the Official Steward, by another member of the same team.  While exercising any pony whether competing or not, at a Pony Club competition, it is permissible to use only the saddlery allowed for Pony Club Dressage competitions.

Avoid exhausting your pony.  You should know his stamina level and how much work your pony needs to warm-up and get ready to perform. Ensure your pony is in good shape when you enter the dressage arena.

When it is your turn to do your test ride around the arena until the judge signals you to start (either a car horn, bell etc) – Commanders are permitted in all classes except for the Novice, Intermediate and Open Area Competitions and Championships.

Salute: All riders must take the reins and whip, if carried, in one hand when saluting and drop the other hand down by the side and bow with their head only.

Dismounting and/or fall of horse of rider: If, after the rider has entered the arena, he dismounts without a reason acceptable to the Judges, no marks will be given for the movement. In the case of a fall of horse and/or rider, the competitor will not be eliminated, but will be penalised by the effect of the fall on the execution of the movement concerned and in the collective marks.

Resistance: Any horse failing to enter the arena within 60 seconds of the bell being sounded shall be eliminated. Any horse refusing to continue the test for a period of 20 consecutive seconds during the course of a test shall be eliminated.

Grinding of Teeth and Tail Swishing: Grinding the teeth and swishing the tail are signs of nervousness, tenseness, or resistance on the part of the horse and can be taken into account by the Judges in their marks for the movements concerned as well as in the appropriate collective mark at the end.

Assistance: The Voice. The use of the voice is prohibited and will be penalised by the loss of two marks from those that would have been awarded for the movement in which this occurred.

Outside Assistance. Any outside assistance by voice, signs, etc. is considered as assistance to a rider or to his horse.  A rider or horse receiving assistance must be eliminated.

Error of Course: If you go wrong the judge will sound a horn or ring a bell. Don’t panic, as you will only lose marks for the one wrong movement.  Stop as soon as you can and if you know where you went wrong, raise your hand and return to the start of that movement. If you’re not sure where you went wrong, ride towards the judge. The judge will then tell you where you went wrong and where to restart.

First Error 2 marks; Second Error 4 marks; Third Error 8 marks; (The points deducted are cumulative; after three errors of course 14 points are deducted).  Fourth Error Elimination (After the fourth time the competitor may continue his performance to the end, the marks being awarded in the ordinary way).

Leaving the Arena: All riders must leave the arena in free walk on a long rein at a convenient place after performing a test. A horse is eliminated if, during a test, it leaves the arena when the surround is 23cm (9”) high or more. Where the surround is less than 23cm (9”) and is marked by boards or similar, no marks shall 24 be given for the movement when the horse places all four feet outside the arena. Where the arena is marked by a line only or intermittent boards, it is left to the discretion of the Judges as to the marks deducted. Any horse leaving the arena not under control will be eliminated and, for this purpose, the test begins when the horse enters at A and finishes with the final halt.

Put your pony way, then check your marks on the scoreboard.  Your test sheets should be available for collection about half an hour after the end of your class.  Always double check the addition of your scores and if you find an error point it out to the organiser or secretary within half an hour of the end of the class finishing.  If you can’t wait to collect your score sheet, leave a stamped addressed envelope with the organiser and they will send them on to you. 

Judges are often near the scoreboard after the class has finished; so use the opportunity to ask them questions.  Few dressage judges will object to clarifying points or assisting with your understanding of the terminology.


Generally, teams are made up of four members, with three scores to count. 

Team competition results – When all the tests have been totalled, the competitors in each arena shall be placed in order. Points shall be awarded to each competitor depending on their placing (1st =1 point, 2nd = 2 points etc for the whole arena).  The points for the three best placed team members shall be added together to give the team score. The winning team will be the team with the least points.  In the event of equality of team scores the collective scores of the three best team members are added together, the highest placed team is the one with the highest collectives.  In the event of equality of collectives the result will be declared a tie.

Whichever discipline you ride at it is down to YOU to know the Rules including correct dress, tack etc.  If you are unsure always ask.

Finally . . . . . enjoy yourself!!