Riding and training with dressage technique is one thing. Showing dressage is quite another. You can spend half an hour in your backyard setting up your horse to negotiate a perfect shoulder-in. It’s much harder to achieve a good shoulder-in when you have just turned the corner after five other movements that come in quick succession.
”The Winning Edge” series of DVDs is a useful tool for anyone who wants to gain insight into showing dressage. The series was produced by USEF senior judge Betsy Berrey, and the tests are demonstrated by Christopher Hickey, last year’s Pan Am gold medalist and now director of training at Hilltop Farm in Colora, Md.
Hickey uses outstanding horses to demonstrate the tests, including Regent, his Pan Am mount, and Cabana Boy, Young Horse champion in the U.S. at both 5 and 6 years. These beautifully trained expressive horses give the viewer a clear picture of the ideal performance at each level. The tests are shot from the perspective of the judge at C, and Berrey gives the numbers as if it was an actual performance. Hickey adds his own insights as both rider and trainer.
The series includes four volumes, each priced separately: Volume 1, Training, First & Second Levels, $49.95 (two discs); Volume 2, Third and Fourth Levels, $49.95 (one disc); Volume 3, FEI 5- and 6-Year-Old tests, $49.95 (one disc); and Volume 4, FEI Young Rider Team, Prix St. Georges & Intermediaire I tests, $69.95 (two discs), from www.dressagedimensions.com, 561-784-0703.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation rewrites the dressage tests used in this country every four years. The last cycle began in 2007, so the U.S. tests shown in these videos will be good for another two years. The FEI changes the international tests at varied intervals. Even though the tests will eventually be outdated, the concepts discussed on maximizing performance will continue to be relevant.
The U.S. Dressage Federation has also produced a two-disc set on riding the current U.S. tests, from Intro through Fourth levels. The set, ”On the Levels,” costs $39.95, available through www.usdf.org, 859-971-2277. It shows a variety of riders and horses performing the tests, with commentary and scores given by FEI judge Janet Foy. If your DVD player has a toggle switch, the viewpoint can be shifted between both C and B to see the contrasting impressions that judges get from both the front and side.
While these two DVD sets basically serve the same purpose — to give riders insight into the judge’s point of view — they contain enough variety so that they are complementary rather than redundant and provide a lot of food for thought. The ”Winning Edge” goes beyond the judge’s viewpoint in regard to warm-up and additional insights to improve performance. If your budget is tight, for insight at one level, choose ”The Winning Edge”; if you want all the tests, we’d pick the ”On The Levels” DVDs.