There are three Equestrian Australia (EA) Novice level tests — Novice 2A, 2B and 2C. The purpose of this level is to confirm that the horse demonstrates correct basics, and in addition to the requirements of Preliminary level, has developed the thrust to achieve improved balance and “throughness” — all while maintaining a more consistent contact with the bit.
Roger explains that to win a Novice test, all movements must be good. “If you make a low mark in one movement, it’s very difficult… there aren’t enough movements to regain marks. So you need to make certain that everything is done calmly and easily.”
We catch up with Roger to see what other tips he has for riding a great Novice level test…
1. DEVELOP A GOOD NOVICE FRAME
The horse’s frame affects the overall outline and picture, and influences the entire test — in particular the Impulsion and Submission collective marks.
Roger explains that the topline and neck should be plump, with the horse starting to show flexion through the poll. “The poll needs to be the highest point… provided the horse is over the back and working from behind. A high poll combined with a hollow back is not conducive to good work.”
2. SHOW STRAIGHTNESS
Straightness is important — and becomes even more important as your horse progresses up the grades. While having a truly straight horse in the lower levels can be tricky, it’s something you should pay attention to from the beginning. Straightness can be thought of as alignment; the forefeet must be aligned with the hind feet on straight and curved lines, and the horse should have equal bend (and hence, alignment) on both reins.
“Straightness with the Novice horse is seriously important,” says Roger. “It will be noted, especially on the long sides, and more so in any lengthening on the long side. So ride slight, slight shoulder-fore, especially in the collecting transitions.”
3. RIDE THE TEST IN RISING TROT
As Roger recommended in his tips for riding the Preliminary test, it’s best in most cases to execute the Novice test in rising trot rather than sitting trot. “You’ve got from Elementary through to Grand Prix to do sitting trot, and rising trot for me with the Novice horse is more effortless and less constrained,” he says.
4. IMPRESS THE JUDGE BEFORE YOU ENTER THE ARENA
While there are no marks given for how you present to the judge and ride around the arena before entering for the test, it’s important to use this time to make a good impression.
“Impress the judge when you go around the arena by being really well presented,” says Roger. If you need presentation tips, check out Roger’s Making the Most of Good Presentation article in last month’s issue!
Roger also recommends making sure you’re in a good frame as you ride around the arena, and show some adjustability in a pace, whether it be trot or canter. Transitions within the pace are an important part of the Novice tests, and it’s important to be able to show a clear difference from lengthening to shortening and vice versa.
5. CONTINUE THAT GOOD IMPRESSION UPON ENTRY!
“Your entry sets the tone for your test, so make certain it’s positive,” says Roger. A square halt is important at all levels, so make sure you’re doing the work at home to achieve it in the ring. Finally, part of an impressive entry is ensuring that first corner is well ridden: “Make certain that the balance and the flexion in the first corner is good.”
6. ACCURACY IS KEY
Accuracy is an essential part of all dressage tests, and the Novice tests are no exception. “Accuracy of circle size is really important,” says Roger. There are 20m, 15m and 10m circles across the three tests, so make sure you practice how to ride the correct size and shape for each. “In addition, all transitions should be made as your body passes the marker.”