Essays of an Equestrian

Dressage tests are a pain in the rear to learn.

The good part of being a lower level rider is that the lower level tests probably won’t cause you to fling yourself out the nearest window. But the higher you go up the levels, the harder the tests become not only to ride well but to remember the sequence of the movements.

Adding to this is the fact that usually a rider is going in more than one test. I’ve heard of pros (maybe Lendon Gray?) that have the innate ability to know all the tests of all the levels just off the top of their head.

My memory could never handle that load. I have a hard enough time with the lower level tests. I tend to ride in one or two tests at a show and I have to refresh my memory for weeks ahead of time. I’ve come up with a way to “test” my test.

I do it driving. I have found if you can repeat your test out loud, without hesitation, while you drive, then you KNOW the test.

If you end up plummeting into a ravine, it is an indication that you do not adequately know your test. You need to go back and review your test some more.

My reasoning is this: when you ride your test you constantly have to tweak things. Some of those things are quite unexpected, such as a spook. You can also become unraveled by a judge’s whistle or gong and that tends to fluff up the nerves for many an amateur.

The other part of the skill of test memorization is remembering where all those silly letters are in the ring. I know many who use an acronym. There is a popular one which I would tell you if I could, but I can’t because I can never remember it. It is not unique to me. It has something to do with eating nine pies. Oh wait, that’s remembering the planets of our solar system. Maybe it’s the one with king’s horses or something. So I have come up with my own system which doesn’t make sense to anyone but me but it’s the one I can remember. I’ll try to explain it.

Let’s take a training level test for example. For training level you are often riding in a 40 meter long ring with two long sides and two short sides. The letters in the middle of the short sides are A and C. Air conditioning and Atlantic City come to mind. You enter at A, so by default C is on the non entering side. Okay got it.

Going on the first long side you have M, B, F. M is next to C because when I was younger I worked in a stock brokerage firm who had a fund called Cash Management. So C is next to M. M-B-F becomes my unusual take on a often used sequence of curse words, the first word being Mother and the second Bastard. You can fill in the F on your own.

The other side is K-E-H. At that same brokerage firm my boss (a nice lady) was named Eileen Hatcher. So to me K-E-H became Kill Eileen Hatcher, even though I never actually wanted to kill her or anybody.

H is next to C and I remember that because I knew a quarter horse guy whose name was H.C. and then the last name. After years of knowing him I found out the H.C. stood for Horatio Cornelius and I then understood why he went by H.C.

H is across from M like in the word HiM.

K is across from F like in the term Kitchen Freezer.

So as you can see, my acronym system is quite unique to me.

So if you should see me driving down the road before entering a dressage show, watch out. You have been warned.

If I’m all over the road it’s because inside the car I’m doing a pattern and muttering to myself “Kill Eileen Hatcher – Kitchen Freezer – Mother Bastard F***** – Cash Management” and then I just might drive into a tree.

Thankfully although driving without a hands free phone is illegal in many states as is texting, trying to remember your dressage test while driving is still perfectly legal. At least until Oprah gets wind of it, then there will be a campaign to stop “Driving while dressaging”.

Or at least until enough of us drive into a ditch.

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The good will of the horse is like the scent of a rose. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.