The AHSA writes new dressage tests on a four-year cycle, and new tests for training through fourth levels are now in effect. Riders all over the country are memorizing new dressage tests and trying to remember to turn left at C where before they turned right, or to halt at G instead of X.
The 1999 tests can be found in the omnibuses for regional dressage groups and in the USDF Calendar of Competitions. When riders belong to several different organizations, the collections of tests can pile up. There’s only one problem with these abundant sources of free information — they’re printed on paper, and paper doesn’t hold up to the rigors of showing.
Now, at the beginning of the four-year cycle, is the time to invest in laminated test booklets sturdy enough to last until the next round of tests is published. You can purchase them by level, or buy booklets that contain the entire range of tests.
Unfortunately, the FEI dressage tests, USDF tests (introductory and freestyle tests), combined training tests and combined driving tests are not all revised on the same schedule as the AHSA tests.
The same companies that publish the AHSA tests often have the other types of dressage tests available, but you need to check each year that the tests they include are up-to-date. If you purchase a dressage test book of any type, you’ll want to look carefully that you’re getting the current tests and not old tests still languishing on the shelves.
While it’s handy to have one test book for a dressage level, we find it more practical to purchase a book that contains the full range of tests. Even if you’re working at training level, you should be looking ahead to see what is required at the upper levels in order to understand why the basics you’re learning are so important — to understand where you’re headed and how to get there. Hopefully, between now and 2002 you’ll have progressed several levels and be happy you purchased a full range of tests.
In addition to learning the tests, the laminated books are especially useful at shows for last-minute checks and for test calling. These conditions are as likely to include wind and rain as they are hot sunshine. You’ll want a test book that won’t melt in your hands or blow away in the middle of calling a test.
In addition to the test books, you may want to get fine-point wet-erase markers in different colors or china markers, also called grease pencils. You can use them to mark up the laminated tests with your own notes or symbols that will help you remember tests, and they can be erased if you want to change your marks — but don’t use dry-erase markers because they smudge too easily.
We looked at the laminated tests books with 1999 tests to compare their features:
Whinny Widgets offers the only laminated tests books that are truly pocket-sized, so for quick reference you can carry one while you ride. Each level is in its own book, 3 ??” by 5 ??” with a top spiral binding.
Training through second levels contain complete diagrams for the tests. The pages fold back so you can see the entire test by just flipping the book over without otherwise flipping the page, which is more awkward. Despite the small size of these books, the printing of the type and diagrams is clear enough to be easily studied while sitting on a horse.
Whinny Widgets also has a new Instructors’ Dressage Test Book this year that contains the two introductory USDF tests, all the new AHSA tests from training through fourth levels, plus the FEI tests. It’s 6” by 8 ??”. Diagrams are included for the lower levels through second level.
The book is well organized, with a complete test on one page and its corresponding diagram on the same or facing page. The upper-level tests have a ring diagram on each page to aid in learning the test. The pages in the instructors’ book are organized well enough for a test caller to use at a show, as are the smaller books.
The pocket-sized books cost $9.50 for Introductory Level; $11.50 each for the AHSA levels and for USDF freestyles (first through fourth); $13 for FEI, including freestyles; $13 for FEI Young Riders; $11.50 for novice/training combined training; $11.50 each for higher combined-training levels. The instructors’ book is $36.
These standard-sized booklets (8 ??” by 11”) contain the most information per test of any of the laminated test books. USDF intro and AHSA training levels are included in one booklet; first through fifth levels each have their own booklet. (Fifth level hasn’t been changed, but most shows don’t offer it.)
The tests include the directives for each movement that are included on the actual AHSA test sheets, and coefficient movements are printed in bold type. All the movements for each test have a diagram on the facing page with varying symbols for each pace and type of movement. The type is clear and easy to read. The booklets cost $14 each. New booklets with diagrams will soon be available for the FEI tests.
DC Equestrian Imports offers the most comprehensive test book. This book includes the USDF intro tests, the 1999 AHSA tests from training through fourth levels, FEI tests, FEI young riders tests, FEI junior riders tests (new in 1997), all freestyles and USDF pas de deux — all in one 5” by 8 ??” book with a spiral binding down the side. What it doesn’t have are diagrams of the movements.
With all these tests in one book, it might be difficult to tell them apart, so each level or type of test is color-coded. The printing is plain and clear. For test-calling purposes, movements that are scored but don’t need to be read (like some transitions) are printed in italics. The back of the book also includes equitation guidelines plus reference lists for emergencies and showing.
It would be nice if complete tests were on the same or facing pages, so you wouldn’t have to turn a page while reading a test at a show in wind and rain. However, with the whole test on one piece of laminated paper, tests can be easily replaced when they are changed.
This leads to a unique feature: For the first year new tests are issued, if any changes are made in those tests (see sidebar), you can get updated pages that can be easily inserted in the spiral binding. For example, you need to look for “4th edition” on the cover if you want the 1999 FEI Grand Prix Special Test; the earlier book has the 1999 AHSA tests but not the new Grand Prix Special, which you can get separately if you need it and then discard the old test. The book costs $29.95 (including a wet-erase marker that fits in the binding) as do separate test books that include combined training and driving tests.
These are all fine products, and the one you choose will depend on how you intend to use it. If the size of the book is an issue or you want to carry the booklet on the horse, then select Whinny Widgets. For calling tests at a show, we found Whinny Widgets are also the easiest to use. If you have difficulty learning the tests, Dressage Illustrated has excellent charts as a visual aid. If you want a complete package of tests and don’t need to have diagrams, go for the USDF/AHSA/FEI book, which packs together a lot of information for $29.95 and therefore is our best buy.
Contact Your Local Tack Store Or:
Escondido, CA 92046
R t. 4 Box 4848
Monticello, FL 32344
DC Equestrian Imports
6320 Saylor Dr.
Cleveland, OH 44142