Gerogery Horsemans Inc HRCAV

if it's not fun then don't do it!

Dressage Tests

Impossible to explain it all in one article, hopefully we can address a few basic things instead :)

The Arena

Dressage arenas can be 20mx40m or 20mx60m rectangles. HRCAV will usually use 20mx60m like the one to the left. The arena has a fence around the outside, usually knee high, with an open gate at A. The letters around the outside will be placed around the arena, but the centreline, quarter lines and all the inner letters are not visible.

The Judge

Most competitions in HRCAV will have one judge, positioned at C. The judge will speak their scores and comments out loud to another person (the penciller) who sits besides them and writes down everything the judge says.

What do I do at a competition?

At a competition with dressage tests, you will be given a time for your test. Be ready and warmed up ahead of that time and present to the marshaller or organiser, someone standing around with a clipboard collecting names. Some competitions won't have one, but there should be a gear check for HRCAV comps, so present to gearcheck.

Keep an eye on the competitors riding, and make sure you know who is the rider before you (you can check their number on the draw). Watching people riding the same test as you will help you remember it. Be sure to stay at least 10m away from the arena if someone is competing.

When the person before you leaves the arena, ride up on the OUTSIDE of the arena to the judge, but stay back from the car (10-15m), visible but keep your distance, they will still be writing down scores. When the judge calls you, go over and say hello. The judge will be after your name and competition number. They will tell you when to enter the arena (most will say "come in when I beep the horn").

When you finish your test, you do not need to approach the judge again.

What if I get lost in my test?

HRACV usually allows for riders to have a caller without penalty. Not all organisations offer this, most will have a penalty for callers or callers may not be allowed at all.

A caller stands at the side of the arena, usually at B or E, and yells out the instructions for the rider. The caller is not allowed to correct your riding (such as "sit up straight!"), they can only tell you the next move ("20m circle at B").

If you do get lost, or forget the next move, and you don't have a caller, just halt, the judge will beep the horn, get out of the car and ask you what is wrong. Stay calm, it is OK to make a few mistakes, especially if it is all new to you. The judge will help remind you where you're going next, and you can continue. There will be a point penalty for every mistake, such as forgetting to halt or turning the wrong way. A buck, rear or pigroot etc. does not count as a mistake, but you will get marked down or may get 0/10 for that move. If you make a mistake (error of course) and you don't realise, the judge will beep the horn, stop what you are doing and either correct it or listen to what the judge has to say.

The judge may also beep the horn if there is a problem, like your horse is lame. If the judge tells you to leave, that's the end of the test and you are disqualified. If you exit the arena or fall off before the end of the test, you are disqualified.

More coming soon!


Led Classes

There are two main types of led classes you are likely to come across competing
in Australia. One class is based on the horse, and is usually separated into classes based on height and sex (an occasionally on breed or age). The second is a handler class, which will usually be separated by the handler's age though may be separated by experience or assessed level.

Open Led Classes

Open led classes are common place at agricultural shows, from local shows through to Royal shows. They are occasionally included in HRCAV show programs. An open led class is usually seperated by height of the horse, though can be again separated by the sex of the horse, and in some shows into a "light" or "heavy" categories (based on how solid the frame and bone of  horse is). The led classes in Gerogery's Official Show Ring will be separated by height.

Presentation for a led class is pretty simple. The horse should be presented clean and neat, nicely trimmed and preferably plaited. For open led classes the horse may be shown in their bridle, or a leading halter may be used. They may be led using the reins, or by a chain or butterfly lead. The handler should be neat and tidy as well. At agricultural shows it is not unusual to see handlers dressed in dress pants and a collared shirt or a suit, but competitors who are also riding usually compete in their riding clothes, while locally you may see some handlers in jeans and polo shirts. At HRCAV events it is most appropriate for the handler to be dressed in their riding uniform. A whip may be carried by the handler, excessive use will see the competitor eliminated.

Generally speaking, a led class will involve the competitors entering the ring and circling the judge on the right rein (i.e. the handler will be on the outside of the circle) so that the judge can get a good overall view of the horse. The judge may ask competitors to do some trotting on the circle. At this point the judge may reduce the numbers in the class by calling in the horses s/he prefers for placing and dismiss the rest. However, the judge may chose to give all the horses in the class a workout. When the competitors are called in they line up in a row and stand the horse up nicely for the judge to inspect. Once the judge has inspected the horse a workout is given. A workout will involve a walk, a trot and usually a halt. No canter is asked for in the led class. A handler should use the space given to best show off their horse (i.e. use decent amount of space, don't short cut, give your horse plenty of room to move)

A horse is judged on it's conformation and movement. Some consideration will be given to behavior of the horse on most classes.

Breed Led Classes

Breed led classes vary between breed registries and societies, and each society's rulebook should be consulted.

Handler Classes

Handler classes are judged on the handler's ability to show the horse to the best of it's potential, based on a normal led class. Handler's dress appearance is more important in this class.


With the weather warming up and show season (and our very first Official Show!) just around the corner, it seems timely to have a short How-to session on the basics of plaiting!

This is the instructions for "banded", "Pony Club" or "Australian" plaits.
For sewn plaits - please watch this :) this is a nice simple and effective way to do it

What you need (banded plaits);    

- comb
something for you to stand on
- hairspray/gel/mousse
- plaiting bands

1. To start with you will want a mane of a manageable length. A mane that is too long or thick is difficult to plait. You probably want around 10cm of mane for a nice plait. Pull the mane if possible (some horses don't like it) as cutting it straight will make the plaits messier. Be sure to trim your bridle and saddle paths.

2. When washing your horse before a competition day, be sure to give the mane a good scrub, right down to the roots! Dirt between plaits can look pretty unsightly. DO NOT use conditioner on the mane, this will make plaiting just that bit harder :)

2. You may wish to comb out the mane while it is wet, remember not to add leave-in conditioner - it will make the mane slippery when it comes time to plait.

3. Put a small amount of hairspray, hair gel or hair mousse onto the mane (if your horse doesn't like the noise, put it onto your hand and smooth into mane) - this will help you grip and make the plaits neater.

4. Separate the mane into even parts, one for each bobble, temporarily fix in place with a rubber band. These will vary in thickness between horses but should be about the same all the way up the neck (unless your horse has rubbed his mane, then it may be thinner in parts). The general rule is you should have an odd number of plaits. This step may take you a few goes to get even sections (but will be quicker for you the more you do it).

5. Plait each section of mane and secure the ends with rubber bands. This is called "plaiting down" and some people will leave manes like this overnight, and continue plaiting in the morning. If you are short on time or unsure of how quick you can be, continue the steps the night before.

6. a)  Take the banded end of the plait, and point it towards the sky.
    b) Then thread this part of the plait, through the middle of the plait at the base of the mane, and gently pull through so the banded part hangs down again. It will cause it of a bump at the base of the plait.
    c) Wrap the end of the plait around the bump, so that it resembles a bobble/rosette. Secure with a rubber band or two.

7. Apply hair spray/gel/mousse, and if returning the horse to a paddock put a neck rug or hood on them.

Be sure to practice this a couple of times before a competition! And please do not hesitate to ask some at the next rally or two to show you if you are stuck or would like some pointers :)