Is it fashion?

(“… a degree of horse trading …”)     

Some things change. But why? In the case of a Biden-esque kiss on the head, it’s obvious. The #KeepYourLipsOffMyPate Movement made that old time politicians’ move no longer socially acceptable. More perplexing to me is the comings and goings of how exercises are arranged through different incarnations of the dressage tests over the years.

One of my favorites is the simple change of lead in Second Level. As you probably know, this is a collected canter directly to walk, between three and five walk steps, and a transition directly back to canter on the other lead. The horse should be straight and balanced, stay engaged, and be pliably connected over his top line throughout.

The question is where in the arena are these called for and does the degree of difficulty increase from the first through the third test based on their placement? The writers of the 2019 tests punted when they took the movement out of test one all together. Now in test two they come on the centerline during a 3 loops serpentine and in test three on a straight line in the middle of a short diagonal. There was a time when that placement was in the first test, where for a first timer it was particularly difficult to maintain the required collection on that straight line out in the open.

The three loops with the changes has been all over the map from one revision to another. For a long time the serpentine was ridden with no changes of lead in test one and with simple changes in test three. Then the requirements were (inexplicably) swapped. Now they have been moved to tests two and three.

One of the most rider-friendly patterns was in an old test three (Yes, supposedly the hardest test of the level). The simple change was called for right at the end of a 10 m circle in the corner. The circle allowed the best preparation to supple and collect the horse before making the transitions. I wish that evolution had not been discarded!

A persistent underlying question is whether the tests are created to lead the riders through progressive schooling exercises or just to test their proficiency. In any case they are always the product of a committee’s deliberations. Just like Uncle Joe (Biden, not Stalin), there’s always a degree of horse trading among the members to be sure their favorite patterns are included and their most hated ones tossed out. In the long run on a well school horse we should be able to ride any pattern they give us, but some just seem to make more sense than others.