8. Give towards the ears when releasing the reins in canter
The release of reins on the 20-metre circle in canter is part of the B test, and the judges want to see the horse stay in exactly the same frame and balance.
“The horse shouldn’t get faster or slower or change its shape,” says Roger. “Make certain the horse is well away from the inside leg on the circle — almost a feeling of leg-yield so it stays easily in balance. Make certain the horse doesn’t go any more forward and stays in exactly the same frame.
“When you give the reins, I prefer to see the rein given towards the horse’s ears, rather than straight down towards the bit, as the contact becomes very insecure and jerky as you pick it up and release it. So it’s more like a softer giving towards the ears. It’s an exercise that needs plenty of practise as well.”
9. It’s all about clean flying changes
Medium level is where flying changes are introduced, and this is often a stumbling block for some horses when it comes to moving up the levels. “I’m sure horses are either born to do flying changes or not!” says Roger.
“The number one thing is to get a clean change from left to right and right to left. In other words, the hind legs change and then the front legs follow straight away. And it needs to be ridden as straight as you possibly can. In addition, the canter before the change and after the change should be the same speed; the horses shouldn’t take off after the flying change. That is a common fault.
“Of course, to get a good mark for a flying change you need to also have good balance, good straightness and the horse should not be croup high. To help achieve balance, always make certain that the horse has a balance towards the new direction before initiating the change. So when they land on the new leg, they are already balanced for that direction.”
When it comes to flying changes, Roger explains that it all comes down to practising. “It’s an exercise that needs to be very, very well prepared at home. Horses can become quite tense about flying changes. They can want to run away with flying changes. There are many, many different resistances that can occur and may need to be worked through.”
10. Rein-back to trot requires the horse to be sharp off the leg
As Roger explained in the September issue when discussing the Elementary tests, a good rein-back begins with establishing a square halt. “This requires a very good collected trot, and very short steps into a halt that stays immobile and up in the poll, not dropping the poll and getting low. The rein-back needs to be the right number of steps described in the test and each step is counted as a front leg hits the ground.
However, unlike the Elementary tests, the horse is required to transition straight to trot from the rein-back, rather than walk.
“Rein-back and trot, both being two-beat movements in diagonal pairs, is not such a hard transition for the horse to make. But it’s not well done because riders don’t make the horses sharp enough to the leg in the upward transition. So you must practise a lot, rein-back to trot. Everyone practises rein-back to walk, so when rein-back to trot comes into the equation it’s often not well understood by the horse.
“Don’t let the horse tip forward and get the poll down and low in the upward transition; it must initiate from the backend and they must be very sharp from your leg. It should be clear and crisp!”
As always, finish your tests with a positive attitude — no one has ever lost marks for a smile!
Equestrian Australia Medium tests:
Riding the Preliminary, Novice or Elementary tests? Roger has covered these in our previous issues:
10 Tips for Riding the Preliminary Tests
10 Tips for Riding the Novice Tests
10 Tips for Riding the Elementary Tests EQ
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Courageous Kiwi blazes her own trail (Part 3) (In this issue – Also by Roger Fitzhardinge)