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New Test Symposium Review

posted Jan 30, 2015, 9:40 PM by The Administrator
2015 New Test Symposium By Michell Combs 
The Sacramento Valley Chapter of the California Dressage Society (CDS) hosted the USEF 2015 New Test Symposium at the lovely Murieta Equestrian Center on January 10, 2015.   Under a covered arena and surrounded by heating lamps, 245 paid participants gathered to listen and learn from FEI 5* Judge, Lilo Fore.   

Lilo was on the USEF Test Writing Committee and she is a highly accredited and respected member of the dressage community.   The symposium consisted of an introduction to the new tests, demonstration riders who rode a test and then Lilo isolated specific movements in the test pattern. Lilo, clearly a talented trainer as well, coached the horse and rider teams to show the “wow” factor in the movements so we could observe the difference between a 7, 8 and 9! We (Sarah Lindsten, Taylor Lindsten and I) had a great time watching, learning, evaluating and writing down the “gems” and “pearls of wisdom.” 

Some specific notes about the new USEF tests: 
• The skill level for each level and test is in a specific progressive order 
• The pattern changes are to reflect more rider’s responsibility 
• The stretchy trot is removed from training level test 1 because the horse may not yet accept the bit and the rider tended to pull the     horse’s head down – not meeting the directives of the pattern 
• Renvere is removed from second level and put into third level 
• There is a new focus on transitions to show the rider’s ability to create good riding and throughness in the horse 
• Changes to the diagonal lines make it easier for the judges to evaluate movements, especially the medium walk and the flying        change 
• The directives provide more information for the judging criteria 
• There are now 5, not 6, collective scores. Harmony was moved into Submission. 

The symposium scheduled three demonstration horse and rider combinations for each level (training through fourth). An added bonus was observing tests and movements at the FEI level. Each horse was impressive and the quality of riding was equally very good. 

Training Level 
At training level participants observed the horse’s balance. Lilo shared that each horse has a natural tempo and the rider should not ride quicker than that. However, the rider does need to influence the energy! Lilo asked the participants to notice the weight on the horse’s front legs. The rider might need to bring back the tempo a touch for better balance. In discussing the rider’s responsibility, Lilo says “if you don’t train the movement, you can’t present the movement.” The other main judging factor at this level is accuracy of geometry. Lilo emphasized how important it is for the rider to ride a correct 20-meter circle. The circle doesn’t need a lot of bend. The horse must move “between the leg aids.” Lilo explained that every down transition is really an up transition because the horse is going to a new gait. The new gait needs energy into and through it. Instead of thinking downward transition to medium walk, think up transition to medium walk. Then the rider may be better able to create the energy needed for a better score. At training level Lilo says she wants to see nice riding and to give the horse the opportunity to show itself. She adds, “mistakes are ok.” A horse not on the aids and may be against the leg is worse than a little mistake. The participants asked Lilo about the “training level frame.” Lilo explained that frame depends on the horse’s conformation. The rider doesn’t necessarily have to force a lower frame. A horse with a naturally higher carriage is fine, even at training level. Lilo’s advice to the rider is not to focus so much on the horse that you forget to ride the movement. To the participants, she asked us to think about the overall test. Was it satisfactory, fairly good or good? 

First Level 
At first level Lilo says the judges must look for the horse to be adjustable in transitions and frame. She says the busier a rider is the less they know what they are doing. Lilo shared that a good way to judge the horse’s halt at X is to compare the halt placement with the reader who is at B or E. That’s an easy visual give-away for the halt being early, late or on target. Lilo checks the horse’s tempo by counting out loud such as in the trot: one-two-one-two. Lilo explained that the horse’s inside shoulder can be freer when the outside rein is straight and the inside rein is a tad longer. She had the demonstration riders ride forward and “up and out” thinking about reaching out with the shoulders. She spent a lot of time at the trot and canter explaining through the demonstration riders how to take a fairly good gait and change it to “wow.”

Second Level 
Now the judge raises the expectation for the horse and rider. Lilo says that the medium pace shows up at second level because it requires a degree of collection. In the level itself the shoulder-in is now a coefficient, halt & rein back is a coefficient and the scores for the serpentine and simple changes are separated. Lilo says the judge should observe more balance to the outside rein in the shoulder-in. In having the demonstration riders show the “wow” factor, she had the rider think medium but not do it. She had them ride each beat with a little more lift off the ground, a little more engagement and a little more expression of the gait. She emphasized it is not just the hind legs but the shoulders have to move too. She explained to the participants that collection isn’t “less” it’s “more” engagement and “more” compression. She compared it to a champagne bottle without letting the bubbles out. She asked the riders to ride the medium paces by thinking of the hind legs and let the shoulders up and out. For the canter she said to ride the uphill on the downhill. Get the horse off the ground sooner and ride forward into connection. She said to collect forward. In scoring the movement, Lilo showed us what she expected of the canter and when to observe that it needed more volume. She further explained how to develop the “wow” trot and canter, Lilo says it begins as a rider movement and then the horse learns to make it their own. She said it was fine to have the rider think they are training a grand prix horse – just don’t do it yet, pretend. 

Third Level 
In observing the quality of the half-pass, Lilo had the demonstration riders think trot more than half-pass. She had the riders go into the “wow” trot and canter then do a haunches-in on the diagonal line. At first the riders were so into the mental expectation of the half-pass that they lost the energy and quality of the gait. However, after Lilo’s instruction, each rider improved the movement exponentially. She showed the participants that a rider’s “defensive” position is to ride a little behind the horse. Lilo shared in the half-halt a rider should not influence the neck but should influence the behavior. She taught one rider to release from the half-halt to complete it. 

Fourth Level 
Fourth level is where the collected walk is introduced. With the patterns changing, the judge now can observe movements better. The collected walk is a separate score. The placement of flying changes changed so the judge can see them better. As for the rider, Lilo explained they should not “chase” the horse. She said they need to keep the horse in balance and show expression. She wanted to see an active hind end and lift in the shoulders. For the half-pass at this level she had the demonstration riders think a tiny medium and then forward & upward into the half-pass. One of the riders asked how to present the canter zig-zag. She said at fourth level there is time to straighten before the change but, she added, there certainly is not time at grand prix. At that level you zig-renveres to change and zag. 

The added end of day bonus was observing riders piaffe and passage. The participants learned what the judge was evaluating from the expectation at the intermediare level versus grand prix. Lilo explained how much travelling was allowed before deductions. Then she assisted the demonstration riders to show improved quality of movements. 

The symposium was highly educational from both a judging and riding perspective. The talented demonstration teams and expertly organized event made it that much more rewarding. Sharing the experience amongst friends was a real treat as well. It is our hope to be able to offer a similar symposium for the ADA