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The Grand Prix Dressage Test ~ All Chopped Up With No Place To Show

The new shortened version of the Grand Prix dressage test will be showcased at Olympia, London, UK, this December. The new test has not been well received in the dressage community and there are many good reasons why.
Are You All In With The New Test?
( Photo: Brittany Fraser and All In)

The FEI seems to have gone for a shorter test, thinking this means more spectator interest which is ridiculous as the reduction of the test by 2 minutes per test will not mean more viewers. What it will do is to reward the horses at the very top of the sport already, that have crowned their talents with excellent 3 'p's movements. 

The new test offers lots of activity early in on the test which means no time to allow the horse and rider to settle into the test. While much of it feels more like an Intermediate test than a Grand Prix, the missing elements such as the zig zags would have Wolfgang Niggli turning in his grave. The rein back also missing will have many classical dressage trainers also frustrated. I am sure from my personal training experiences with the late Herbert Rehbein he would certainly have something to say about that!

The test is choppy and has such little flow that all aspects of harmony will be muddled at best. 

The most serious result however, is that the top riders will mark better than ever with their excellence at the 3 'p's, the rest of the pack who might have been able to make up a few marks on the zig-zag, flying change in medium canter etc. in the full Grand Prix, will fall lower, and the training pyramid may be forever changed.

In my opinion the shortened version test may benefit the Iberian breeds and training methods. The traditional training pyramid of the USDF will be less relevant or may not be used by some trainers, who will seek to take a more circus direction in their training perhaps to train their horses to perform in a rather 'halting' manner. 

I also feel bad for the judges. Some of the walk movements and other pieces of the test take place where none of the judges can properly evaluate the quality of execution. Is this on purpose? Us classicists believe the walk demonstrates the correctness of training. A free fluid walk, a collected walk without tension or tightness is a super indicator of proper training.

Social media outcry aside, the FEI has made a blunder here of which they must already be aware. They tried two Grand Prix tests back a decade or so ago and that did not go well. Now they are messing with the intent of the test altogether.

For myself, I am glad that I am now more clinician than competitor. When the USDF updated their tests and Fourth Level Test 3 was changed to include that zigzag from some difficult set ups, I was actually a bit pleased. It really tested the training. I am not saying I loved riding it, but it was there to persuade folks not to hop to PSG without doing their homework which I believe benefited the horse, or at least if they were going for their USDF silver medal they had to complete it successfully.

For my students, hold onto your hats. We'll work with the new test a bit and see how you find it. I gave it a quick go and can tell you it was very disjointed and neither my horse nor myself enjoyed doing it much, even though he does have an excellent piaffe and passage and finds transitions in general fairly easy.

Nikki & Paul Alvin Smith British Grand Prix Dressage Duo

We will be playing with it at our Fall/Winter clinic series in Portugal/Spain and the FEI4ontheFloor with Greta Kemmer, Tina Hammond, Paul and myself this November.

You can bet it'll be a hot topic at this weekend's NEDA symposium with Charlotte Dujardin. She will be one of the first riders to try it at Olympia.


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