(“Don’t program yourself for failure.”)

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. At each level you have to do the movements that are required, but that’s not the essence of what we need to see. What makes me most unhappy as a judge is a rider who goes through all the patterns but without displaying any of the qualities that the test is designed to bring out. A Second Level test in a Training Level frame and balance is disheartening to watch. I can be patient with mistakes -– they happen. But I hate writing “This picture does not fulfill the requirements demanded at this level.”

There are several obvious remedies. First of all, read the Purpose for the level. Beyond that, YouTube can be a great help. Find some good tests at the level you’re trying to do. Look at the outline of the horse—his frame: How long is it? How high? How gathered is he? How much energy does he display? How does he direct it—how forward versus how up? How much ground is he expected to cover in each pace—working versus collected versus medium?

Please remember that moving up to the next level because you’re bored with the last one is no reason at all. In our country there are no mandated requirements to be passed before you are allowed to move up. You are entirely responsible for self policing. But don’t program yourself for failure. It’s OK to dabble in something on the border of your horse’s skill set at a schooling show, but generally speaking, you should be fairly sure things will work before you take them to the show arena for real.