Posts in Dressage TestPro

It’s all a question of Balance

July 29th, 2020 Posted by Dressage TestPro 0 thoughts on “It’s all a question of Balance”

Two sources of inspiration came my way when I came up with this blog.

One was a recent post about George Morris talking about balance in the rider with particular reference to rising trot.
And the other was when filling hay nets and bending down and having to regain my balance and use my muscles actively to right myself. This reminded me of how difficult it is for a horse to balance with us on board and how we need to work on exercises to help both of us develop correctly.

The trend these days in dressage is for riders to lean back particularly in the extended trot, this then causes their pelvis to tilt and the horse to hollow against the rider effectively disconnecting hind quarters from front. Not a pleasant sight in the dressage arena and one to be discouraged.

At the other end of the scale in those of us starting off on our journey it is more common for both horse and rider to be forward and on the ‘shoulders’. This isn’t an ideal situation and causes its own problems in particular with the horse’s balance and potential for the rider to fall off easily.

So what is the best option? A classical seat and an upright position in all paces except for when rising as a slight forward tendency over the knees is needed.

I am not a physiotherapist or specialist in biomechanics, I learn from my horses and the riders that I teach. My observations and reading over the years leads me to believe and teach that you need to ride ‘uphill’ before you can achieve and expect it from your horse.

Try this exercise out. Go for a trot (sitting) or canter and ride with your eyes looking at the wither, you will feel the chin drop, shoulders come forward and your seat start to come slightly out of the saddle. Now take the eyes up and forward above/between the ears. Your chin comes up, your shoulders now come back with the shoulder blades flat against your back and you start to engage your pelvis. Your horse will feel that straightening of your back and the engagement of your pelvis. You can actually use your body more effectively now to help your horse. This exercise can be quite transformational at canter.
If your position is good and you feel you are riding ‘uphill’ but are struggling with your horse here are some suggested exercises to try out.

Trot/walk/trot transitions – Transitions are the name of the game, they do not have to be on straight lines and in fact can work better when done through a corner or on a circle. Just make sure that there are no wobbles out through the shoulder. Make sure you are getting a good reaction off of your leg and you are keeping your body upright.

Walk to canter – again brilliant for engaging the hindquarters. Even better if you can get a bit of collected walk and manage a couple of strides of collected canter before coming back down to walk again. Best carried out on a circle. To help achieve a canter to walk transition use a 10m circle and as you come back towards the fence line ask for walk to back the horse off.

On and back in canter – this one is for all levels. At a basic level start with a little bit of difference. Don’t forget to ride uphill and not drop your contact or hand which would rather defeat the object of the exercise. At a more advanced level you can play with bringing the canter back to almost walk in preparation for canter pirouettes. And go forward into medium canter and back with a clear smooth transition. Watch the positioning of the shoulders ensure you are engaging the inside hindleg.

Shoulder fore – on straight or circle in trot and canter. Vital for straightness and engagement for that uphill tendency.

There are of course plenty of other exercises and everyone has their favourites! Next time you get on board think about your balance and uphill tendency first before encouraging your horse to match you.

Seeking Inspiration and Firm Ground

April 24th, 2020 Posted by Dressage TestPro, General News 0 thoughts on “Seeking Inspiration and Firm Ground”

Here we are in our horsey world with a calendar that has nothing in it apart from blank pages, which let’s be honest is highly unusual for us horsey folk. It leaves us feeling awkward, adrift on an uncertain sea, not ‘grounded’. So how do we get back to somewhere more normal?

I think it is each to his own in that respect. We all need to find our own ‘new’ normal, it will be different for you and different for me. Some of us love social interaction and chatting to people, others find that lockdown brings the  benefit that being alone is now ok and not considered a bit odd.

For myself I have found that whilst I prefer horses to people as lets face it a horse never lets you down, I am also finding that interaction when shopping or on our yard is becoming necessary to keep me ‘normal’ and grounded. That basic human need for some interaction with other people is something we are all missing these days. Even with
Skype and zoom there is still a need for a proper face to face immediate feedback, somehow a conversation over the internet doesn’t quite cut it.

Whilst I was pondering this we had someone help on the yard with mucking out and odd jobs (all social distancing applied!!) and out of the blue some interesting feedback came my way.

As a golf expert Elliot comes at things with a different slant, and was watching me ride Elena with interest. Asking questions during which an interesting ‘off horse’ discussion ensued about the differences between sports but also the similarities in terms of much needed mental strength and skill requirements.

So an example was me talking about changing the arena at home to more accurately reflect the competition arena. I set out plant pots, have people spectating and put music on to give a bit of atmosphere similar to a championship venue. I prepare the horse for the environment as much as possible and when I am at a show I religiously do the arena walks. Elliot talked about Earl Woods (Tiger Woods’ father) who prepared Tiger mentally by distracting him when he was taking shots. He would fiddle with coins in his pocket, cough, make comments whilst Tiger was busy trying to play. He tried to instill that mental toughness to completely ignore any surrounding chatter, heckling, music, and general hubbub.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of having a super quiet arena at home to school in. When I am at home I have the dogs running around the arena, liveries walking past with wheelbarrows and my dad or mum popping around to watch at a random moment. I have to admit that I often curse under my breath at this point! But it is important and useful for my mental toughness and future competitions to be able to cope with distractions and then re-focus on the job in hand.

I know some of you are unable to ride and most of us are unable to have lessons with our coaches so learning may be far from our minds. But try to continue learning whether it is online videos, some mental toughness training or goal setting, it really will help to keep you grounded and reset your internal compass. Think outside the box and find inspiration from different walks of life like I did and you might discover inspiration in the most unexpected place.

Up and down like a Yo Yo

April 16th, 2020 Posted by Dressage TestPro, General News 0 thoughts on “Up and down like a Yo Yo”

I was going to write a blog about feeling a bit down and trying to overcome those feelings. I had even done some voice memos on my phone whilst I was mucking out this morning to remind myself of what I wanted to write.

I was feeling a bit ‘blah’, not lacking motivation exactly, more just having a moment of it all being too much and too complicated and too stressful. You know a bit fragile, almost tearful? I think it stems from the fact that we have no control over our lives and we are at the whim of this virus. The government dictates, rightly or wrongly, what we can and can’t do. All of us have the shadow of finances and not knowing what the next month or more will hold for us.

But then I rode Elena and my mood did a 180 change for the better. Why? Simply because I had a great session with her, really relaxed and focused. I have been taking the time to do some exercises that are in the Tristan Tucker online videos. I am using the exercises to manage the spooking and help her relax. Today felt like a turning point.

The thing is, without the lockdown and the virus I probably wouldn’t have had the time to start exploring other ideas with Elena. I reflected on what is happening now in my little bubble in North Wales and realised I am achieving loads! We are three weeks in and little steps have been taken. The flying changes are much more consistent, the collected work is improving and all the horses look really well.

These steps would not have happened during the competition season. I would have put off doing certain work just in case it affected the tests I was doing, or caused too much tension.

Having no competitions to work towards is also helping me mentally. It has taken the pressure off of me to achieve scores for Pet Plan or regionals, made me think about what I want to do and also what I enjoy doing. This time of reflection then benefits the horses as I am not chasing any competitive goals.

However what I am slightly disappointed about though is the lack of online competitions. The FEI has banned FEI judges and FEI competitors from competing in online dressage competitions unless they are ‘sanctioned’ by the national federations and/or licensed by the FEI. This is because they say that they cannot check the welfare of the horses and ensure that arena footing is adequate, blah blah. Hhhhmmm sounds like a load of ‘whatsit’ to me. The FEI tests are free to download, widely available and used throughout the world, no doubt in plenty of ‘unsanctioned’ competitions. Why get uppity now?

Sounds like they are preparing the way to ask for money or ban judges from online competitions so that they can do their own FEI version in the future…..

So with all this running around rider’s heads no wonder we are all a bit up and down like a yo yo. Thank goodness for my four legged friends to keep me vaguely sane.

Goals and goal setting – is it worth it?

March 12th, 2020 Posted by Dressage TestPro, General News 0 thoughts on “Goals and goal setting – is it worth it?”

In the past I have looked at goal setting as something I do in my business life rather than personal life. With the advent of personal and life coaches it has become, dare I say it, a bit trendy to set goals for just about everything.

Towards the end of last year I was thinking back on my competition season and reflecting that perhaps I hadn’t achieved what I wanted to and why was that? I came up with lots of reasons; business took priority yet again, I had various bouts of illness/seemed to be knackered all of the time, when I did have some downtime then lying on a beach or spending time with family was more of a priority than a lesson or a competition.

But also when you have your horses at home and you are not on a ‘professional’ yard it can be easy to let things drift. Time goes by and we all get older at what seems a very rapid rate!!

Lets face it our horses are not sitting there thinking “Why haven’t I reached PSG yet” they are concentrating on where the next meal is coming from!! But as riders and owners we feel a certain pressure to do the best for our horses and see them achieve their potential. So how can we keep on track?

By setting a few goals or maybe they are more written aspirations (?) I thought I could keep myself a bit more on track. I have used SMART goals, KPI’s, and developed sets of metrics to measure success (or not) in the business world. But what suits that environment might not be so applicable to me or you and the horsey journey.

So here are a few things that work for me and I hope will help you.

  • Write it down!!! Whatever it is that you want to do, the chances are if you write it down you have better odds of achieving it.
  • Use a traditional diary or calendar on your phone and put your goal and the steps you need to take into it.
  • Talk to friends and have a supportive group to help each other along the way to achieving your goals. Like writing something down, the more you articulate your goal the nearer you are to achieving it.
  • If you have a regular trainer/coach then involve them in helping you. If they are super helpful they might get involved in sending you some messages and keeping you on track.
  • Make sure that your main goal isn’t too big and you can break it down into smaller steps with dates.

What about actually managing and achieving the goals?

For me this is where SMART can be useful.  I have used SMART in the past and will do again. It suits a fairly formal approach to goal setting and can be a good tool if you like a bit of structure to your life.


  • Specific – what do you want to achieve? To ride a novice test, compete in a BE90, go for a hack, improve your half pass?
  • Measurable – how will you know when you meet your goal? When you have been to the competition? When you have achieved a certain percentage?
  • Attainable – Is it possible to meet this goal with effort by your timeline? So when will you ride your novice test or compete in a BE90? What are the steps you need to take to attain your goal? Is the goal too easy, too hard? You need to find a balance that is something that will stretch you a bit and give you a sense of achievement when you make it.
  • Relevant – is this goal worth working to accomplish? Is it something that really means a lot to me? Are you motivated by this goal?
  • Timely – what is the deadline you set to meet your goal?

An example of a big goal might be mine which is – to ride a PSG on Elena by the end of the year. I haven’t set a specific percentage to achieve as that can be a poor measure. Although saying I want a score over 60% is measurable it is very binary and also can be subject to problems with judges, weather, feeling nervous and a whole host of other problems. So mine is purely to get that tailcoat on and complete a PSG and have fun!

Within this big goal are some steps along the way. For Elena and I we are at Advanced Medium and some of our changes are distinctly dodgy so that is one of the areas I know I need to work on. So intermediary steps are exercises and lessons to improve the changes, some work on the pirouettes, going out and doing an Advanced class with some tempi changes in and also then doing Advanced 102 or 105. I have notes in my diary for each of these steps, I assess where we are at the end of each week and mull over whether I need to change anything. The end of the week is also a great time to pat yourself on the back that you have moved forward towards your end goal.

In summary

  • Write it down
  • Consider using a structure like SMART or similar
  • Get together with others and help each other
  • Break down big goals into smaller steps and goals
  • Enjoy your journey

Dressage TestPro Introduction

February 24th, 2020 Posted by Dressage TestPro, General News, Updates 0 thoughts on “Dressage TestPro Introduction”

Welcome to our website and a new blog. I suppose like any other blog it may be a collection of ramblings, some information that is useful, and some opinions that you may or may not agree with!

Disagreement can be healthy in the right context, and with the right words. So I won’t be deleting any comments unless they openly criticise someone that cannot answer back, are defamatory, abusive or rude. Right, glad that bit is out of the way!

I thought it might be useful to talk about where TestPro came from and a small bit about who we are. The idea for TestPro started a few years ago when my husband and TestPro co-founder James was watching me learn my dressage tests. When I learn I am a combination of a finger drawing in the air and visualisation, as a child I used to have an arena on the grass and practice the test on foot, but my extended trot isn’t what it used to be!

Anyway I digress, James had a lightbulb moment and said the famous words “isn’t there an app for that?” So we had a look at the market and checked out what was going on. As the dressage market is relatively small we soon realised that an app would be a niche product and require a lot of investment of time and money. A ‘lucky’ circumstance led to James taking redundancy with a handy pot of money to bankroll TestPro.

It’s never easy doing something like this, we have had doubts, anxiety about money, strong opinions about what to include and sheer hard work talking to the federations to secure the licenses for the dressage tests.

Hands up, we have never launched an app before, however we do have umpty billion years of experience working for large organisations in the development of software. So with the unique combination of both software development backgrounds and 40 years of dressage experience (gulp!) TestPro went from a glimmer in James’ eye to the app it is today.

What’s next I hear you ask? Well we have lots of other extra bits of functionality planned, some exciting partnerships and a couple of other ideas for apps in the early stages of thinking. It’s an exciting journey that is going to continue for a long time, are you ready for the ride?