Episode 104: Western Dressage Test Explained…and WDAA World Show Results!

Do you understand how western dressage is judged? In this podcast, I share the results of Presto’s test and explain the scoring system. Each number the judge gives represents a word, for example, 6 represents ‘Satisfactory’. In addition, the judges often give comments and remarks.
At the end of the podcast, I also share how my horses finished in the Western Dressage World Show, with three wins, and one reserve champion!

Full Transcript

Episode 104-Western Dressage Test Explained.mp3

Announcer: [00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill, this is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple: to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

Stacy Westfall: [00:00:23] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. In this podcast, I’m going to review the test results from Presto’s first ever horse show. His first horse show that I decided to show him in was the Western Dressage World Show that decided to become an online or virtual horse show. And I think it’s funny, they called it the pandemic pivot. And, you know, prior to this opportunity appearing because of the pandemic, I had not considered showing Presto at all this year. And when the World Show decided to become an online show, my husband mentioned that I should show Presto. And I was kind of shocked at first. And one of those reasons was because I’d never shown Presto or never thought about showing Presto this year because he’s just too green for me to want to spend my money going to a show. And I’d never done a virtual show, so I had not been looking at those. And so it was really interesting for me to walk through the process of deciding to show him and then the process of getting him ready in a relatively quick amount of time, considering that I hadn’t been considering it. So when I look back and I think why I didn’t consider doing it, it was mostly because it just wasn’t even something I was thinking about for this year. Live shows anyway. And with having never done a virtual show, it’s funny what’s not on your radar if you’re not really aware of it. That sounds very circular, but you don’t know what you don’t know. And I had never done a virtual show, so I didn’t even consider it. Looking back now, I’ll tell you this right off. I will be doing more virtual shows because of the different things that I learned. Number 1, I learned how much I love the process of tearing things apart and putting it together. So let me explain this a little bit more. When I look at showing a horse, when I look at showing a horse, the best analogy I have in mind right now is like if you’re selling a house and you’re showing the house right now–I have 3 different friends who are buying and selling houses right now. And when you have a house for sale and people are going to come look at it, you clean it up to the best of your ability. And depending on the amount of time that you’ve had and how much time you’ve been thinking about it, that might be a total renovation of a room or it might be, you know, picking up the kids’ toys. There’s different levels of prepping that house for the showing. But it’s basically getting everything put together and really presentable and in order. And I always think it’s really interesting when, because I’ve done that before, you know, I’ve sold the house before and I’ve seen people go through this, it’s always interesting to me, even when I do my spring or fall cleaning, that the part of cleaning is like taking everything apart and making a mess and then rebuilding and replacing and updating and putting it all back together again. That is very much what I think of when I think of showing the horses. Now, this is to me much more apparent the higher up the level I go. So showing a horse like Willow or Gabby, this is much more…I’m much more aware of this whole process because I can feel like when I’m working on lead changes, I can feel where I’m taking apart the different pieces of the transition and analyzing how quickly does she move forward when I ask her to? Does she move off my leg? Is she, you know, flexible? Can I bend her slightly left, slightly right? Can I do that relatively quickly? Because it all happens in one stride for a lead change. So I can really feel that broken down process even more in an advanced horse. But what was really interesting with getting Presto ready was I’ve never polished him up and put him together before. And that makes sense because I’ve never shown him before. So it is just like, you know, going in and cleaning out those corners in the house that you really only do when, I don’t know, something kind of forces you to. It’s kind of like that. So it wasn’t until I went to get him ready to show that I realized some of the other things I could be working on, which again, is one of the reasons that I love showing. So I really like showing because I eventually got to the point where it’s not as much about the outcome for me as it is about the experience.

Stacy Westfall: [00:05:35] How many times have you heard different versions of that in life where it’s about the journey and it’s about the experience? It’s about this, and don’t get me wrong, like I still especially–you heard me already say once–I only want to spend my money if I feel like there’s enough of a return. And that’s where I think going forward for me, these virtual shows are going to be something that I continue to do because I could feel that desire to get it all put together in this one test. But I didn’t have all the expense of traveling to the full blown horse show. And so at the end of the day, they’re going to be two different things. But there’s so much to gain from the virtual show that this is going to be something I continue doing. So what I want to do is I want to go ahead and basically walk you down through the test results that I got from taking this test with Presto. If you want to see it visually, I’ll have it posted over on my website also. But what I want to make sure you know is that a lot of these concepts are easier to just follow along in your head. So if you have no idea about how Western Dressage is judged, it’s OK, because I’m going to give you the quick and easy breakdown on a few tips. So you’ve got–you’ll be totally set to hear these results. So before I actually start reading his test to you, I’m going to tell you those tips. So first of all, a 6 and above–so these are going to be numbers anywhere from a 0 to a 10 and a 6 and above is desirable. On each test that you could sign up for, there are different number of movements you do. On Presto’s test,for example, we had 14 movements that we were judged on, and then there were collective marks that I’ll talk about after I walk you through each of those 14 movements. And at the end, it was possible to earn 240 points if everything had been perfect. Spoiler alert, it was not all perfect, so. So when I’m reading down through this score sheet, another thing you should know is that first there’s going to be a score, which is going to be a number like the 6 I just told you, or a 5 or whatever the number is. And so the score represents something. For example, 6 means satisfactory. And I’m going to read you all those in just a minute. But each number actually represents a word like good or bad or fairly bad or very bad or very good. And so all the numbers actually have a word that go with them. And then in addition to that, there is a comment section that the judges often will write in. And sometimes that’s something that you need to improve on or sometimes it’s something that they liked.

Stacy Westfall: [00:08:49] So I really enjoy getting these Western dressage tests back because they’re so full of information. And I don’t know if you remember this, but I actually went to the judges school last year. In the beginning of 2019. I went to the judges school just to learn. And it is truly impressive how much training the judges have before they go out and start judging. So this is a very educated set of eyes that are looking at these tests and giving me feedback. That’s why I really appreciate it. Now, if you’re actually looking at the test and I’m going to tell you as we get down to some of the movements are called coefficients, and that basically means they have a number column beside them that says 2 and they’re worth double. And that’s important to know when you’re taking the test, because that would be an area you really want to make sure that you do well in. And it’s there because they when they were writing the test, they thought it was something that they really wanted to see done well. So even the tests themselves are educational, just if you print them out and ride them at home yourself. So let’s talk for just a minute about what the numbers represent. So as I’m reading you down this list, I’m just going to go down it kind of quickly and then you’ll hear it more in the actual tests that I’m reading of–of Presto’s. But a 10 represents excellent. Not perfect, excellent. Nine represents very good. Eight means good, seven means fairly good, six means satisfactory, five means marginal. Four means insufficient. Three means fairly bad, two means bad, one means very bad, and zero means not performed. And so can you hear how there’s kind of a break over between 5 and 6, so 6 is satisfactory. That’s why I said at the beginning of the quick tips that 6 and above is desirable. So 6 would be satisfactory, 5 would be marginal. So somewhere right in there is kind of that break over range. So interesting things to know.

Stacy Westfall: [00:11:20] Now, I’m actually going to read you down through, walk you down through Presto’s test. And again, this is a Western Dressage test. It’s actually Basic Level, Test 1. And it’s interesting right at the top of the test to read that the purpose of the test is stated right at the top. And it says this test confirms that the horse is supple and moves freely forward in a clear, steady rhythm accepting light contact with the bit. The horse demonstrates greater understanding of the aides and calm acceptance of the bridle. Greater emphasis is placed on relaxation, harmony, readability and pure gaits. The horse is beginning to develop more impulsion and balance. So there is a level before basic that would be interesting and you would only walk and trot there. And so this is a different–purpose of this test is different than those would have been. So it actually says, new requirements. So the new requirements for this level that would be higher than the previous level would be a 20 meter circle at the working lope and a 20 meter circle at the free jog. And I’ll talk about those when we get down to them on the test, but it’s kind of nice to know that when you’re looking at the test, there are actually–the purpose is clearly stated and the requirements that are new, if you’ve been working your way up through, are also clearly stated. I also really like this because when you read the purpose of this test, sometimes when I tell people that I quickly decided to enter Presto in the show, I remember when I posted on our Facebook, a few people were kind of surprised that I had done that kind of quickly. But as you listen to what he was required to do, you’ll see that it’s actually not super technical, meaning we’re basically jogging and we’re loping and we’re walking and we don’t do tight turns. We’re doing 20 meter circles. So even though I hadn’t been polishing up everything, my house was already framed up. My house was already built. I just needed to clean some things up. I wasn’t expecting perfect, but I entered him in a level that I thought he was already riding at. That’s what made kind of quickly deciding to enter him into something possible. Now, you’re also going to hear where when I wasn’t practicing for, you’ll hear where it hurt me the most when I get down to that movement.

Stacy Westfall: [00:14:08] So I told you there were 14 different movements, so the very first one was, A enter working jog, X halt through the walk, salute, proceed, working jog. I don’t expect you to know where the number or where the letters are. That’s basically just coming straight down the center of the arena and stopping right in the center. But you’re going to halt through the walk, so you’re going to go jog to walk, walk a few steps, halt, salute and then jog on. And it’s super cool if you’re looking at the tests and I’m not going to read all of these to you as we go down through, but I’ll hit on different ones. But there’s actually like the directives. What they’re looking for is printed right on the test. So in that one movement, they’re looking for straightness, regularity and quality of the jog, willing, smooth transition in and out of a square, straight halt, immobility, willingness. So I love that these tests tell me exactly what I’m being judged on. So now for the first score, Presto earned a 7 on that. So the judge judged it at fairly good and the remark was, straight on center line, clear walk transition. So some compliments there. Then you’ll remember it told me to proceed at a working jog when I got to the end of the arena to C it says turn right, working jog. So I’m just going straight down the middle. When I get to the end, I’m going to turn right. And they’re judging the balance in the bend in the turn and the corner and the regularity and the quality of the jog. And I got a 6.5 on that, so that’s halfway between satisfactory and fairly good. And it said, wide near C but shows correct bend. And yep, if you watch the video, Presto, kind of as I start to get the bend to turn right, he kind of drifts slightly to the left and that’s why they marked it down a little bit lower. I’m still really, really happy with the scores and then had me come up to the middle of the arena and at the middle at B, turn right, working jog, go straight across that short middle of the arena and then E turn left. So we just basically, like, cut that arena in half right in the middle there. And they were judging the balance in the bend in the turns, the straightness, the regularity and the quality of the jog. And that one we marked a 7. And the comment was, correct bend and active. You see how much information is contained in the first three movements here? OK, let’s keep going. The next movement was A, which is the end of the arena that I entered in, circle left 20 meters, and that’s conveniently the width of my 70 foot wide arena–just a tiny smidge smaller than that. So A circle left, 20 meter working jog. And then before I get back to A–so I made the whole circle, and then just before I get to A I’m going to develop the working lope in the left lead. And that’s movement number 4, and what they’re judging me on is the balance in the bend, on the circle, the regularity and the quality of jog. Can you hear how that keeps coming up? They really want the regularity and the quality. Willing, smooth transition, regularity and quality of the lope. And we marked a 7 and the comment was, well bent, balanced transition. And remember, now I’m in movement 5 and I’ve already picked up the left lead lope, and now I was to circle a 20 meter circle to the left right there down at A at a working lope. And they’re judging the balance and bend on the circle and the regularity and the quality of the lope. So we’re really looking for just that rhythm. Again, this was a 7. And this has one of those little coefficients next to it, so it was actually worth double. So that one lope circle was worth double. And it said, correct bend steady tempo. Movement number 6 between A and F. So if I’m riding that, I’m coming along that end of the arena that I–that I came in from, that short end of the arena is right in the middle of that. They actually give me a a whole corner to do these transitions in. I had the–I had the corner to be able to pick up the lope. It didn’t have to be done at a had to be done somewhere in that corner. And now here in movement 6 between A and F, which is just around that corner, I’ve got to come down to a working jog. So it says, develop working jog. So I love the in these tests they give you time so that the timing doesn’t have to be perfect. They’re allowing you to work with that greener horse. And so develop the working jog and willing, smooth transition, balance and bend in the corner, regularity and quality of the jog. He marked another 7, and it just said, balanced.

Stacy Westfall: [00:19:41] Movement number 7, before B–B is right in the center of the arena–before there, so again, they’re giving me a lot of leeway. I get to do it somewhere before B, working walk. And they’re judging a willing, smooth transition, regularity and quality of the walk, 6.5. And the comment was, smooth. Next movement was B to H change rein, free walk, and that’s just from the center of one side angling over to the corner on the opposite side, I’m going to change rein, and free walk. I’m going to read you the description in just a second. And then when I get over to H on the other side, working walk again. So on the working walk, I’m going to have a little bit of contact on him and I’m going to be allowing him to do like a medium size walk. I’m going to call it like that. But when I do the free walk, it’s supposed to be a horse willing–horse willing to freely stretch the neck forward and down. Relaxation, swing through the back, ground cover. So we want a nice, big active walk. Willing, smooth transition, balance and bend in the corner, regularity and quality of the walks. Now, this was a coefficient and we marked a 5.5, not ideal. So it was worth double and I knew it going in. And I also knew going in it was going to be our weakest link because we haven’t really practiced much of the free walk. Now we have actually, ironically, out on the trails. We’ve done a lot of free walk, but when I was getting Presto ready to show, that also meant that I needed to put up co–excuse me, I needed to put up cones and I needed to put up markers and the arena had to be shorter than normal. So I put logs across the end and that also meant my husband was sitting there in a chair, running a video camera. And you know what that meant for Presto? That meant he was uptight. And you’ve heard me talk on the podcast about him spooking or being kind of jumpy. He felt like that. So, you know what I don’t want to do to a horse that feels like that? I don’t want to give them a loose rein, and have them drop their head. Because if I do, then there’s going to be more of a chance of him maybe jumping. And he was really feeling kind of jumpy. So I was happy to do a little bit towards that but not…it really–that’s why they–they marked me somewhere between marginal and satisfactory, and that’s about what I aimed for. So the comment was, behind vertical for a moment. Shows little stretch or down and forward. So he’s supposed to stretch down and forward and it said that I basically showed little of that and there was a moment when he was behind vertical because I was trying to angle his head and move him, and he just gave his chin instead of stretching down because like I said, we were having our own issues. But the good thing is when I got the test results back, I knew I hadn’t been really trying to get that one excellent for what they were going to be looking for. So it wasn’t a shock. That’s also just an interesting side note. So now here at movement 9, before C–so again, they’re giving me this whole corner–before C develop the working jog. Again, willing, smooth transition, regularity and quality of the jog, he got a 7 again. So we recovered nicely from our little tenseness in the walk. There is said, well prepared.

Stacy Westfall: [00:23:24] Movement 10 out of 14 is like, at C we’re going to do that 20 meter working jog and then before we develop the working lope right lead, can you hear how this is a mirror image from the other end? So it’s going to be 20 meter working jog and then 20 meter working lope. They want it exactly the same thing. They’re still looking for that balance in the bend, the regularity, the quality, the willingness. And again, a 7. I like the comment here it said, consistent connection, prompt transition. And the other thing that was nice about this was that C happened to be closer to the video camera, so I think it’s a little bit easier for them to see also. So that was kind of an interesting thing to learn, doing a video show. C circle right, 20 meter working lope, same thing. They want the balance, the bend, the quality. A 6.5, that was worth double. It said need–needs consistent inside bend. Now, what was interesting about that one is I actually remember that I did not ride that one very well. I remember personally making a mistake on my, kind of like, how I was laying it out. And so I wasn’t going to make Presto keep doing it over and over again. So I also knew that I didn’t ride that very well. So that’s an interesting thing to know as the rider. Movement number 12, between C and M developed working jog. I love again that they give me this leeway. Still looking for that smooth transition. This work of showing up for this test and signing up and taking this test with him at the show was so good for me to realize that I haven’t been practicing this many transitions this quickly. Because all of this time, just it only took like a few minutes to run like this whole test at the top. It actually tells you the average ride time in the small arena, which is what I was, was 3 and a half minutes. So this is a lot of transitions happening in 3 and a half minutes. And I realized after I started practicing it, that’s something I need to do more of. So again, needs more inside bend. I didn’t ride that great. And then we go into the between C and M, develop the working jog. Willing, smooth transition, and I got the 7, it said balanced. And then B, which is right in the center of the arena, it says circle right 20 meters free jog. Now the free jog is a lot like the free walk so they want the horse to stretch forward and downward over the top line with relaxation, maintaining balance, tempo, regularity of jog, bend on the circle, smooth willing retake of the reins and transition to the working–back to the working jog. And again, remember, we’re still inside the same 3 minutes. I’m still not trusting him. Neither one of us is fully relaxed at this moment while my husband is sitting at the end and my horses trying to figure out why we’re riding at this time and why Jesse’s sitting in the middle with a video camera. So, again, a 5.5. It was a double. It was worth twice. It was a coefficient and the comment was, minimal opening of the frame, need to allow stretch. Totally fair. Again, I was kind of like, I’m not letting him drop his head here. Even if I could get him to go a little bit further down, I don’t think I would allow it. So, you know, we did a compromise and then the final movement was a down center line X halt through the walk salute. And again, very similar to the beginning, balance and bend in the turn, which we didn’t have in the beginning because that was straight in, straightness, regularity, quality of the jog, and quality of the transition. Square, straight, immobile, halt, 7.5. You go, Presto! Clear walk transition to a square halt.

Stacy Westfall: [00:27:33] And so, I was really happy. I totally understood those marks that were below 6 because if anything I was super aware that I was not asking the most for them. And so there are 4 more areas to get feedback down here, actually 5 where they judge them on the gaits, which should have freedom and regularity. And they gave a 7 on that. And the remark was, lovely forward energy, but can get quick-strided. Well, I definitely agree with that because remember, that’s what the tension was, was making it be a little bit quick at times, a little lack of balance, because he was a little doubtful and, you know, we could have practiced longer. Plus, he’s a baby. He just doesn’t have that much balance yet. They gave a score for impulsion, or the desire to move forward, and the suppleness in the back, and that was a 6.5. Overall, the rider–rider’s position, the seat and the hands, they gave me a 7 on that. The riders correct and effective use of aides, and they gave me a 6.5 on that. It said, needs to prep for transitions and halts. And what I love about this is that it’s true, because he needs more preparation for the transition to halt. But at the same time as the rider, I also know that that’s all we got. That’s everything we have today. And so I know that I did my best and that it wasn’t enough, exactly. I’m–not if I’m, not if I’m going to judge enough as like a an 8 or a 9 or a 10. The need for the preparation and transitions, that to me is also going to go back and be that–just that training that we need to still put in. So I love the inside of this. It actually gives you feedback that you can then consider the view of your horse and the ride that you were having–they were having of you. It kind of gives you an outside look at what you were doing. And then we have harmony. So the horse accepts the aides and influence of the rider. They have their attention, the relaxation, the confidence demonstrates a willing partnership between the horse and results in a free flowing performance. And they gave us a 7 and that is a coefficient. And so that’s all the different score things, and then at the very end, they leave space for the judge to give you some more feedback remarks. It says, some lovely movements in this test. Need to develop a clear downward and forward stretch in the free walk and free jog, allow stretch over the back, improving swing and throughness. Totally agree with all of that. I totally agree with all that feedback. And so then out of all those movements, remember, I said there was a possible 240 points. So then what they do is they add up all of those and they divide it out. And so Presto ended up with a score of a 66.458. And my impression when I first started seeing scores from dressage was, wow, they must never have ties since you actually get a score like a 66.458 percent. But I have actually seen a tie so it can happen. Mathematically that’s still amazing to me. So I was super happy overall to receive the 7’s. I totally understood the places where we marked lower. I also know that choosing the right class for his training level was really appropriate. And again, I love the fact that I got an early start on remembering how important it is to get the horse ready for the show, to put it all together. Like when you’re having guests over and you really clean up the house or if you’re selling your house, you really, really clean up the house and you get it ready and on the market so you can have that showing. And that’s what excites me, is learning that these virtual shows can be this beneficial at home because that amount of tension and stuff by me acting weird, riding in a slightly different way because I was asking for a lot more transitions. I was sitting up straighter. Jesse was acting funny by being out there. I was acting funny by wearing all the sparkly clothes and the the chaps and all that stuff. And it was enough to throw Presto off, which also means, I’m at home, I can totally practice for this. And if I can close this gap here, then I will be so much better off when I start hauling him again and we go, when we actually go to our first live show.

Stacy Westfall: [00:32:30] So that is what I wanted to share with you in a nutshell. So I’m super excited, no matter how Presto places, I know that it was a win because of the experience. But what I’m going to do right now is I’m going to hit pause and I’m going to go find out the results of where Presto placed, because they just made them live and I haven’t seen yet. Ok, I’ll be right back.

Stacy Westfall: [00:33:08] So, OK, I am back and I did not look to see how many were in Presto’s class, but the 66.485 placed us 37th out of I’m going to guess a big class. But, hey, you know, again, like I said, the placing wasn’t as important to me as the fact that we did it. And we got really great marks because you got to remember that when you show there’s all kinds of different ways to measure it. Now, while it was gone, I also looked up the placing of my other two horses that I have been working more on, and that would be Willow and Gabby. And Little Willow, I’m so proud, she showed in all 4 of the Level 4 Western Dressage tests, which is the highest level they offer. And we were 11th place in one of them, 8th place in another, 6th place in another. And Willow actually won the level the–the Level 4 Test 3 Open. I’m still in shock. This hasn’t actually fully set in to me yet, so, but you’re hearing it here first. And so now over here on Gabby. Gabby, Gabby, Gabby. Gabby entered all of the Level 2 tests and she managed to place in the top 10 in all of them. She was 9th in one, she was 2nd in one, and she won 2 of them. She won the Level 2 Test 2 and the Level 2 Test 3. So. And she was a reserve in the Level 2 Test 4, so. Wow, this is not fully processed yet. This will take a day or 2 to sink in, because what’s interesting about it is that it’s exciting to kind of see where they’re at. But I’ll tell you this, as well as they did, the first thing I did after the showing was complete was I started taking things apart and polishing the pieces so that I can get more stuff ready so that the next time we go to another show and so that I’m even more ready. Like that renovation, that project you’ve been wanting to do, I just keep taking these things apart and putting them back together again. And that’s the fun part to me about the training of the horses. And don’t get me wrong, I mean, the winning is awesome. And I’m so excited for the horses. Like, I am so excited. Gorgeous Gabby, she won a class last year and little Willow’s been working so hard. So I’m so happy for little Willow. I call her “Wittle Wiwwow” behind the–behind the scenes. Don’t tell her but she’s so little and she tries so hard. And then there’s gorgeous Gabs who just flicks her head and everything looks gorgeous. And so I’m super happy for my horses because what it means for me when they have great training is it means that they have great lives and opportunity ahead of them. So thank you for listening. I’m going to go jump on the internet and celebrate, and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [00:36:33] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos, and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

Images of Presto’s tests

Video of Presto’s test

1 Comment

  1. Jan McDougald on November 11, 2020 at 8:24 am

    Thank you for sharing Presto’s scores and comments. I love that the scores and comments let you know where improvements and successes are to help in the growth of the horse’s training.

    Congratulation on Gabby and Willows great successes. As you said the payoff is knowing that these horses have great lives and opportunity ahead. So many horses don’t get this due to holes in their training. Your training will insure that they become paired with someone much more apt to give them a good future life and be treated with kindness, dignity and respect. Great job Stacy!

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