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7 Ways to top up your marks.


'Topping up your marks' is a a term I like to use to describe topping up the marks on your dressage sheet to produce a consistent sheet.

We look through your test sheet and look at your highest mark and your lowest mark.


We then look at what are the easiest movements to correct which are not necessarily the ones with the lowest mark, these movements are things that if you rode the test again straight away you could make better e.g accuracy or an obvious mistake like a wrong strike off.


We can't top up the marks with longer term, way of going issues, as this often will need more work overtime. However topping up your marks is about making sure you leave no stone unturned so make a list of things you need to practice, obviously take in to account the environment and scenario as there will of course be days that will have an effect on your marks e.g bad weather.



We can't look to top up our marks without knowing what the judges job actually is! The Judge is there to:

  • Ensure welfare of the Horse at all times.

  • Judge every movement of every combination.

  • Reward Correct training in accordance with the scales of training.

  • To be honest and respectful.

  • Judge what is presented on the day.



With that in mind lets talk about the things that will help you get more marks:


  1. There are 2 main things you will be judged on - The Quality of the way of going (Scales of Training) so know that for every movement the judge will always look at the Rhythm, Suppleness, Contact, Impulsion, straightness and collection (relevant to the level) for every movement. Knowing that Rhythm is one of the first thing they look at can be huge advantage , and concentrating on maintaining throughout will make for a flowing test.

  2. The actual performance of the movement – positioning/size/shape etc. - Accuracy is mega important and is a big chunk of your marks, no matter how nicely the horse goes they still have to take marks off you if you are not accurate, so see this as an opportunity to gain a few extra marks by knowing exactly where the movements go!

  3. Go through your test and highlight words that come up regularly - or are underlined more than once. Take note of how many accuracy issues you have, vs way of going issues. Sometimes if something is underlined regularly but not commented on we can over look it!

  4. Get an 8 for your centre lines - Everyone can!! The centre line is one of the most important movements in a test as its not only your first and last impression its also in every single test! Get a good supple turn, maintain your rhythm through the turn and straight, all the way down until you have to turn where you will need to show the suppleness again.

  5. Never underestimate your corners! - Another thing that is every test and really can give you more room, time and preparation for the movements you get marked on. Give your corners as much attention as your movements.

  6. Know your test - Ride your test at home – Preparation is key!! Even if you don't get chance to ride it, you can visualise it whilst plaiting up. When you know a test well you allocate more brain power to how your ride it rather than just riding the route.

  7. Know what are your high mark gainers - These will often be easy to get more marks than the ones that need time. You may find that you can add half a mark to them easily with better preparation and set up. Half a mark for every movement could be an extra 5% you didn't know was in your reach!


If you have found these useful don't forget we have several online courses available to members that may help with this such as 'How to break down your Dressage Sheet' and 'Knowing where Marks Come from'.




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