Previewing the New 2018 Dressage Tests with Marilyn Payne + Videos

Marilyn Payne speaking about the new USEF dressage tests with Matt Brown and Gretchen Butts today at the USEA Convention. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The new 2018 USEF dressage tests were unveiled last month, and those in attendance at the USEA Convention today were treated to a special preview of the tests. Marilyn Payne, Gretchen Butts and Brown, who worked with Sue Smithson and Mark Weissbecker to write the tests, all gave helpful tips in a packed session this morning.

Key Changes in 2018 Tests

  • The A tests for all levels are introductory and track left.
  • The B tests for all levels are more difficult and track right.
  • All transitions and movements are mirror images in the tests.
  • Free walks and medium walks are always separated as different movement.
  • The free walks have all been extended to allow more time to show the movement.
  • Halts are always separated.
  • At Preliminary level all trot work is optional rising or sitting.
  • In the Intermediate A test, medium trot is optional rising or sitting.
  • In the Intermediate B test, rising trot is mandatory.

Marilyn’s Tips for Better Scores

  • Develop a lengthening gradually. “You don’t have to come out of the corner and blast forward.”
  • When changing rein, don’t change your diagonal in the middle of the movement. Wait until the end so you don’t disrupt the flow.
  • Getting a good score for the halt is not about simply halting square. “It’s the transition into the halt, too. If the horse is balanced in the transition and soft on the aids, then you’re going to get a higher score. And (the horse) has to stand. You should count to at least 3.”
  • In the leg yield, the horse should be parallel to the rail with just a slight flexion at the poll. The horse should not have an exaggerated bend.
  • In the counter canter loop, maintain the bend of the lead you are on.
  • If the reinback requires three or four steps, you won’t get a better score if you do four. “If you have three good steps, quit and just walk forward.”
  • In the stretchy trot circle, you want to see the horse taking the contact and stretching through his back. “It’s not how low the horse goes; it’s the quality of the stretch.”
  • In a free walk you can have a long rein or loose rein.
  • Use your corners! “Riders don’t use corners enough, and corners are very beneficial to rebalance the horse and prepare for the next movement.”
  • The medium walk should be a marching walk and the horse should over track. “So many times we see after the free walk you pick the horse up and the steps get shorter.”
  • Turn on the haunches can be up to a meter wide. “You don’t want to see the haunches stepping out. It is a turn on the haunches, so don’t do a walk pirouette because then you increase your chances of getting stuck.”

We have preview videos of five of the new 2018 tests thanks to David Frechette, Jennie Brannigan, Janelle Phaneuf and Hannah Sue Burnett. Scroll down to watch them all.

Many thanks to Sue Smithson, Gretchen Butts, Mark Weissbecker, Matt Brown and Marilyn Payne for working on the new USEF tests. Bring on the 2018 season!

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