As the weather starts to turn, many riders are preparing for some of the biggest horse shows of the year.These months can be full of stress as local and national riders gear up for medal finals season. Whether you’re doing the Big Eq in Harrisburg or your local circuit medal finals, the testing phase can be scary and stressful. But not if you show up prepared!
In May of 2023 the new USEF Equitation tests made their debut, and if you haven’t been paying attention, there have been several updates to the test list! A judge can choose one or several tests for the riders to execute collectively on the flat, or individually over fences. The more you practice these tests, the more comfortable you will be when riding the testing phase. The execution of these tests is a critical part in the final placings of the riders participating. Practicing these tests is more important than ever to make sure you are prepared and ready to show of your skills.
You can find this information on page 19 of the USEF Rules For Equitation Division Here.
2023 Movements that may be selected:
1. Work collectively or individually at a walk, rising/posting trot, and/or sitting trot, and/or canter.
2. Downward Transition Test: a) Walk (4-5 steps) b) Halt (4-6 seconds) c) Halt and Back for (3-5 steps). When riders working collectively are asked to halt and then back, they should walk forward a few steps and halt again after backing and then proceed with any further instructions from the judge.
3. Question(s) regarding basic horsemanship, tack or equipment and/or conformation. The judge may ask question(s) that are appropriate for the level of expected skill of any given class or specifications.
4. Working either collectively, or individually, riders may demonstrate the lengthening or collection of strides on the flat at the walk, sitting or posting/rising trot and/or canter.
5. Figure Eight at the trot, demonstrating change of diagonals. In any Figure Eight movement, the rider should start at a center point at the halt. To finish the movement the rider is to return to the halt at same position as the point of commencement.
6. Figure Eight at the canter on the correct lead. In this movement, the rider will begin at the halt and demonstrate a simple change of lead. This is a change whereby the horses is brought back into the walk or trot (either is acceptable unless the judges specifies) and then restarted into a canter on the opposite lead. in the center of the figure, then will proceed to the second circle on the opposite lead. The rider will halt in the center at the same point of commencement to finish the figure.
7. Jump a shortened course. The riders must jump all obstacles in the same direction of the original course unless the judge clearly states that a jump be attempted in the opposite direction of the original course. If the judge requests that a jump be used in the opposite direction it must be a vertical and if there are ground lines, they must be correct.
8. Jump low obstacles at a trot as well as a canter. The maximum height of trot jump is determined as 6” lower than class requirements and is not to exceed 3’ for horses and 2’ for ponies. An Oxer may be used as a trot jump in classes listed at 3’6” or higher.
9. Demonstrate a half- turn or a half-turn in the reverse. In all cases where a figure is requested between 2 jumps that requires a change of direction, the rider will not be charged for crossing their path nor will this count as a refusal between the obstacles.
10. Change leads on a line demonstrating simple or flying changes. The simple change is whereby the horses is brought back into the walk or trot (either is acceptable unless the judges specifies) and then restarted into a canter on the opposite lead. The flying change is performed in one stride with the front and hind legs changing at the same moment. The change of the leading front and hind leg takes place during the moment of suspension.
11. Figure Eight at the canter demonstrating flying changes of leads. Like all Figure Eight movements, the rider is to first halt at a center point. The flying change is performed in one stride with the front and hind legs changing at the same moment. The change of the leading front and hind leg takes place during the moment of suspension.
12. Collection of strides between 2 fences. It is recommended that a line chosen for this test be not less than 70’. a. For safety purposes, judges may only ask for additional strides to be added and must not ask rider to leave out a stride.
13. Work collectively or individually at the walk, posting/rising trot, and/or sitting trot, and/or canter without irons. In any case where riders are asked to perform without irons they must be allowed to walk or halt and be afforded the opportunity to cross their irons if they wish.
14. Execute serpentine at a trot and/or canter on the correct leads. If trotting, the rider is to demonstrate the changes of diagonals at the center points of the figure, if cantering, the rider should demonstrate the simple or flying changes of lead in the center of the figure. The simple change whereby the horses is brought back into the walk or trot (either is acceptable unless the judges specifies) and then restarted into a canter on the opposite lead.
15. Canter on the counter lead on the flat. For the purposes of Hunt Seat Equitation on the flat, a counter canter is defined as a balanced canter on the outside lead. If working collectively, no more than 12 riders may counter canter at one time. Riders must complete one full revolution around the arena in each direction.
16. A canter on the counter lead may be used on the approach to a jump. For the purposes of Hunt Seat Equitation over fences, the counter canter is designed to improve balance and suppleness. When utilizing this test, rider may be asked to:
1. Approach a single jump on a counter lead. This test requires riders make at least ONE turn or bend of a course of not less that 90* and not more than 120* on the counter lead.
2. Demonstrate a counter canter between 2 jumps on the course. For this test, the rider upon landing off the first jump can choose from the following acceptable options:
a) If the rider lands firstly on the inside lead, they may demonstrate a simple or flying change of lead before cantering through the first 90*-120* turn and continue to hold the counter lead to the next jump. Either the simple or flying change is acceptable.
b) If the rider lands firstly on the outside lead, they may continue to hold the outside lead to the next required obstacle.
c) A judge can not require a rider to land on the counter lead.
17. Demonstrate a turn on the forehand done through the halt.
18. Demonstrate a turn on the haunches done from the walk.
19. Demonstrate Shoulder-in, Shoulder-out, Haunches-in, Haunches-out, Half pass or Leg Yield in both directions at either the walk or the sitting trot. (Shoulder In) (Shoulder Out/ (Haunches In) (Half pass) (Leg Yield) Haunches Out)
20. Hand Gallop. A hand gallop may be used either when riders are working collectively or individually on the flat and it may also be used on the approach to a jump. The rider must be in a half-seat when executing the hand gallop. A hand gallop may not be requested into or out of a related distance line.
21. Ride without stirrups over fences. The riders must be allowed to remove the irons from the saddle or cross them if they wish.
22. Demonstration ride of approximately one minute. Riders must advise the judge(s) beforehand what ride they plan to demonstrate.
23. Change horses. (Note: this is the equivalent of two tests.) Riders will only change horses for Championship classes. Riders will not be asked to ride a different horse unless they have ridden the course on their own horse first.
a) When a swap of horses is requested, the rider must be given a minimum of 90 seconds to do a brief flat and jump no more than two (2) schooling jumps.
b) Riders may be requested to jump a previous course or a portion of the previous course.Tests 1 – 22 shall not be included even if included in the former course.
We got together with some of our current (and former) Eq riders around the store and on our social media to give you some of our favorite exercises to practice so you can go into your finals feeling cool and confident!
Focus On the Fundamentals
My biggest piece of advice is to focus on the fundamentals. Go through each of the movements, figure out where your trouble spots are and then practice with those until you’re feeling comfortable. Once you are comfortable on the flat, go ahead and introduce some jumps into the mix.
Some go to exercises are anything that involves the figure 8 pattern. You’d be surprised how easy it is to mess up this pattern when under pressure. The biggest thing to remember is to begin and end your figure 8 from the halt at the center of the figure 8 where the two circles meet. Make your circles round and intersect them in a straight line across the arena (not on the diagonal)! Practice them in both the trot and canter because they help focus on your bend, straightness, and accuracy.
Timeless Excercises To Practice
There’s a reason why trainers drill on practicing trot jumps, the hand gallop, and no stirrup work. These are a go-to for most judges and often separate those who have done their homework and those who have not. Making judging a littl easier.
There is no better fix for your position than riding without stirrups and while it’s not the most fun exercise, it is super beneficial. The best way to practice no stirrup work is to build up your stamina in small increments. There is no point in riding for the entire ride without stirrups only to have sloppy position and execution. Instead, drop your stirrups for shorter periods of time or a single course and focus on the best and most accurate equitation that you can!
In terms of the trot jump- this is a question that will end up in most tests and while it sounds simple, it can also be an easy place to lose points. What makes a great trot jump is an even rhythm, straight track, and quiet position. While schooling, focus on maintaining an even rhythm up to the base of the jump (lots of horses will try to canter the last stride), as well as keeping your horse balanced, and staying soft and quiet over the fence (it’s very easy to throw your body forward to stay with the horse as it jumps).
When it comes to the hand gallop, it’s important to show the correct use of the half seat position and really show the change in pace. You don’t want the judge to be wondering if that is supposed to be a hand gallop or not. It should be a smooth but prompt transition forward. Also, make sure to slightly balance a few strides before the fence so you get a nice round jump.
– Listen carefully! You are allowed to ask the judge to repeat it one more time for you if needed, and ask questions if you need clarification.
– Start and end your test with a halt. This is the signal to the judge that you are beginning and ending.
– If the judge doesn’t completely specify something (for example, which direction to track, or whether to show a simple change through the walk or trot) you are free to interpret however you like. So this is your opportunity to be different from everyone else or showcase you and your horse’s strengths. If the judge doesn’t say to do a posting or a sitting trot and your horse is the equivalent of a bouncy ball? Then don’t sit the trot, put yourself in your best light.
– Make sure to know the numbers assigned to the jumps. When the judge reads off their test, they will refer to the jumps by the numerical order you jumped them on the original course sheet. They’ll say “ Please jump fence 3,5,6AB” not “jump the white gate, to pink flowers, and roll back to brush.”
– It’s not always about who has the flashiest test, but the most accurate! So don’t get too caught up with doing all the inside turns other horses are doing, ride the horse you have and ride the test as accurately as possible.
– Don’t rush! If you are being tested on the flat collectively and the judge calls for a test, take your time!
Wait for a clear opening in traffic to execute the test. Your being judged on the execution of the test, now how fast you do it. Go ahead let the other riders run into each other trying to show a simple change of lead as quickly as possible, as the chaos passes execute your test and get bonus points for staying calm and planning the execution of the movement.
One of my favorite things to do is school tests from years prior. I have been collecting tests when possible for the last few years. Check out THIS LINK to take a look. My ring at home is small so I tend to recreate the hardest part of the tests in my ring and use it for practice. Still can’t get enough? Check out MEDALMACLAY.com for their list of courses. One of my all time favorites is the Region 5 course from 2012. Talk about creative use of space!