Fourth Level Dressage Tests

Fourth Level Dressage Tests

Purpose: To confirm that the horse demonstrates correct basics, and has developed sufficient suppleness, impulsion and throughness to perform the Fourth Level tests which have a medium degree of difficulty. The horse remains reliably on the bit, showing a clear uphill balance and lightness as a result of improved engagement and collection. The movements are performed with greater straightness, energy and cadence than at Third Level

Fourth Level Dressage Tests 1, 2 and 3
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  • 10 Excellent
  • 9 Very Good
  • 8 Good
  • 7 Fairly Good
  • 6 Satisfactory
  • 5 Marginal
  • 4 Insufficient
  • 3 Fairly Bad
  • 2 Bad
  • 1 Very Bad
  • 0 Not executed

All half marks from 0.5-9.5 may also be used both for movements and collective marks, at the discretion of the judge, and scores given must be recorded with a decimal (i.e., as 6.0 instead of 6). “Not executed” means that practically nothing of the required movement has been performed. In FEI Level Freestyle tests, half marks may be used for all marks. In tests for Young Horses, decimals to .1 may be used.

Collective marks are awarded (from 0 to 10) after the competitor has finished his performance for:

Dressage Tests:

  • a. Gaits.
  • b. Impulsion.
  • c. Submission.
  • d. The rider’s position and seat; correctness and effect of the aids.

The collective marks as well as certain difficult and/or infrequently repeated movements can be given a co-efficient which is fixed by the USDF, the Federation (USEF) Dressage Committee or the Bureau of the FEI for their respective tests.

Rider Tests:

  • a. Riders position
  • b. Riders correct and effective use of aids
  • c. Horse’s response and performance
  • d. Accuracy of the exercises
  • e. Harmony between Rider and Horse
Unauthorized Assistance is forbidden under penalty of elimination. Any intervention by a third party, including members of the Jury, with the object of facilitating the task of the competitor, including voice, signals, remounting, catching a horse inside the ring, etc., is illegal assistance. Except in the case of an error, any outside assistance provided by or authorized by a member of the Jury will result in elimination. A member of the Jury may not discuss a ride with a competitor before the bell or after the final salute. Use of any kind of noise making devices or equipment including “clickers” is considered unauthorized assistance and shall be penalized by elimination. The execution of the tests is not timed, exc

t for the Freestyle Test. The time shown on the Judges’ sheet is for information only.

Scored Dressage Test Example
Sample Dressage Test Abbreviations

The Movements


Dressage Tests HaltAt the halt the horse should stand attentive, engaged, motionless, straight and square with the weight evenly distributed over all four legs. The neck should be raised with the poll as the highest point and the head slightly in front of the vertical. While remaining “on the bit” and maintaining a light and soft contact with the rider’s hand, the horse may quietly chew the bit and should be ready to move off at the slightest indication of the rider. The halt must be shown for at least 3 seconds. The halt should be shown throughout the salute. The halt is obtained by the displacement of the horse’s weight to the hindquarters by a properly increased action of the seat and legs of the rider, driving the horse towards a softly closed hand, causing an almost instantaneous but not abrupt halt at a previously fixed place. The halt is prepared by a series of half-halts (see transitions). The quality of the gaits before and after the halt is an integral part of the assessment.


Dressage Tests WalkThe walk is a marching gait in a regular and well-marked four time beat with equal intervals between each beat. This regularity combined with full relaxation must be maintained throughout all walk movements. When the foreleg and the hind leg on the same side swing forward almost synchronously, the walk has a lateral rhythm. This irregularity is a serious deterioration of the gait. The following walks are recognized: Medium walk, Collected walk, Extended walk and Free walk. There should always be a clear difference in the attitude and over-tracking in these variations.

  1. Medium walk. A clear, regular and unconstrained walk of moderate lengthening. The horse, remaining “on the bit”, walks energetically but relaxed with even and determined steps, the hind feet touching the ground in front of the hoof prints of the fore feet. The rider maintains a light, soft and steady contact with the mouth, allowing the natural movement of the head and neck.
  2. Collected walk. The horse, remains “on the bit”, moves resolutely forward, with its neck raised and arched and showing a clear self-carriage. The head approaches the vertical position and a light contact is maintained with the mouth. The hind legs are engaged with good hock action. The gait should remain marching and vigorous, the feet being placed in regular sequence. The steps cover less ground and are higher than at the medium walk, because all the joints bend more markedly. The collected walk is shorter than the medium walk, although showing greater activity.
  3. Extended walk. The horse covers as much ground as possible, without haste and without losing the regularity of the steps. The hind feet touch the ground clearly in front of the hoof prints of the fore feet. The rider allows the horse to stretch out the head and neck (forward and downwards) without losing contact with the mouth and control of the poll. The nose must be clearly in front of the vertical.
  4. Free Walk. The free walk is a pace of relaxation in which the horse is allowed complete freedom to lower and stretch out his head and neck. The degree of ground cover and length of strides, with hind feet stepping clearly in front of the footprints of the front feet, are essential to the quality of the free walk.
  5. Stretching on a long rein. This exercise gives a clear impression of the “throughness” of the horse and proves its balance, suppleness, obedience and relaxation. In order to execute the exercise “stretching on a long rein” correctly, the rider allows the horse to take the reins gradually and smoothly as he stretches his neck forward and downward. As the neck stretches forwards and downwards, the mouth should reach more or less to the horizontal line corresponding with the point of the shoulder. An elastic and consistent contact with the rider’s hands must be maintained. The gait must maintain its rhythm, and the horse should remain light in the shoulders with the hindlegs well engaged. During the retake of the reins the horse must accept the contact without resistance in the mouth or poll. The walk is a gait in four-beat rhythm with eight phases (numbers in circles indicate the beat).

Dressage Tests TrotThe trot is a two-beat gait of alternate diagonal legs (left fore and right hind leg and vice versa) separated by a moment of suspension. The trot should show free, active and regular steps. The quality of the trot is judged by general impression, i.e. the regularity and elasticity of the steps, the cadence and impulsion in both collection and extension. This quality originates from a supple back and well-engaged hindquarters, and by the ability to maintain the same rhythm and natural balance with all variations of the trot. The following trots are recognized: Working trot, Lengthening of Steps, Collected trot, Medium trot and Extended trot.

  1. Working trot. This is a pace between the collected and the medium trot, in which a horse’s training is not yet developed enough and ready for collected movements. The horse shows proper balance and, remaining “on the bit”, goes forward with even, elastic steps and good hock action. The expression “good hock action” underlines the importance of an impulsion originating from the activity of the hindquarters.
  2. Lengthening of stride. In some tests, “lengthening of stride” is required. This is a variation between the working and medium trot in which a horse’s training is not developed enough for medium trot.
  3. Collected trot. The horse, remaining “on the bit”, moves forward with the neck raised and arched. The hocks, being well-engaged and flexed, must maintain an energetic impulsion, enabling the shoulders to move with greater mobility, thus demonstrating complete self-carriage. Although the horse’s steps are shorter than in the other trots, elasticity and cadence are not lessened.
  4. Medium trot. This is a pace of moderate lengthening compared to the extended trot, but “rounder” than the latter. Without hurrying, the horse goes forward with clearly lengthened steps and with impulsion from the hindquarters. The rider allows the horse to carry the head a little more in front of the vertical than at the collected and the working trot, and to lower the head and neck slightly. The steps should be even, and the whole movement balanced and unconstrained.
  5. Extended trot. The horse covers as much ground as possible. Without hurrying, the steps are lengthened to the utmost as a result of great impulsion from the hindquarters. The rider allows the horse to lengthen the frame and to gain ground whilst controlling the poll, The fore feet should touch the ground on the spot towards which they are pointing. The movement of the fore and hind legs should reach equally forward in the moment of extension. The whole movement should be well-balanced and the transition to collected trot should be smoothly executed by taking more weight on the hindquarters.

Dressage Tests CanterThe canter is a three-beat gait where, in canter to the right, for example, the footfall is as follows: left hind, left diagonal (simultaneously left fore and right hind), right fore, followed by a moment of suspension with all four feet in the air before the next stride begins. The canter, always with light, cadenced and regular strides, should be moved into without hesitation. The quality of the canter is judged by the general impression, i.e. the regularity and lightness of the steps and the uphill tendency and cadence originating from the acceptance of the bridle with a supple poll and in the engagement of the hindquarters with an active hock action – and by the ability of maintaining the same rhythm and a natural balance, even after a transition from one canter to another. The horse should always remain straight on straight lines and correctly bent on curved lines. The following canters are recognized: Working canter, lengthening of strides, Collected Canter, Medium canter and Extended canter.

  1. Working canter. This is a pace between the collected and the medium canter, in which a horse’s training is not yet developed enough and ready for collected movements. The horse shows natural balance while remaining “on the bit”, and goes forward with even, light and active strides and good hock action. The expression “good hock action” underlines the importance of an impulsion originating from the activity of the hindquarters.
  2. Lengthening of strides. In some tests, “lengthening of strides” is required. This is a variation between the working and medium canter in which a horse’s training is not developed enough for medium canter.
  3. Collected canter. The horse, remaining “on the bit”, moves forward with the neck raised and arched. The hocks, being well-engaged, maintain an energetic impulsion, enabling the shoulders to move with greater mobility thus demonstrating self carriage and an uphill tendency. The horse’s strides are shorter than in the other canters, without losing elasticity and cadence.
  4. Medium canter. This is a pace between the working and the extended canter. Without hurrying, the horse goes forward with clearly lengthened strides and impulsion from the hindquarters. The rider allows the horse to carry the head a little more in front of the vertical than in the collected and working canter, and at the same time allows the horse, to lower the head and neck slightly. The strides should be balanced and unconstrained.
  5. Extended canter. The horse covers as much ground as possible. Without hurrying, the strides are lengthened to the utmost. The horse remains calm, light and straight as a result of great impulsion from the hindquarters. The rider allows the horse to lengthen the frame with a controlled poll and to gain ground. The whole movement should be well-balanced and the transition to collected canter should be smoothly executed by taking more weight on the hindquarters.
  6. Counter-canter. The counter canter is a balancing and straightening movement that must be executed in collection. The horse canters in correct sequence with the outside foreleg leading with positioning to the side of the leading leg. The foreleg should be aligned to the same track as the hind leg.
  7. Change of lead through the Trot. This is a change of lead where the horse is brought back into the trot and after a few trot strides, is restarted into a canter with the other leg leading.
  8. Simple change of lead at the canter. This is a movement in which, after a direct transition out of the canter into a walk, with three to five clearly defined steps, an immediate transition is made into the other canter lead.
  9. Flying change of lead. The flying change is performed in one stride with the front and hind legs changing at the same moment. The change of the leading front and hind leg takes place during the moment of suspension. The aids should be precise and unobtrusive. Flying changes of lead can also be executed in series at every 4th, 3rd, 2nd or at every stride. The horse, even in the series, remains light, calm and straight with lively impulsion, maintaining the same rhythm and balance throughout the series concerned. In order not to restrict or restrain the lightness, fluency and ground cover of the flying changes in series, enough impulsion must be maintained.
  10. Aims of flying changes: To show the reaction, sensitivity and obedience of the horse to the aids for the change of lead The canter is a gait in three-beat rhythm with six phases.

The changes of gait and pace should be clearly shown at the prescribed marker; they should be quickly made yet must be smooth and not abrupt. The cadence of a gait or pace should be maintained up to the moment when the gait or pace is changed or the horse halts. The horse should remain light in hand, calm and maintain a correct position.

The same applies to transitions from one movement to another for instance from the passage to the piaffe and vice versa.

The half-halt is a hardly visible, almost simultaneous, coordinated action of the seat, the legs and the hand of the rider, with the object of increasing the attention and balance of the horse before the execution of several movements or transitions between gaits or paces. In shifting slightly more weight onto the horse’s quarters, the engagement of the hind legs and the balance on the haunches are facilitated for the benefit of the lightness of the forehand and the horse’s balance as a whole.

  1. At changes of direction, the horse should adjust the bend of his body to the curvature of the line it follows, remaining supple and following the indications of the rider, without any resistance or change of gait, rhythm or speed. Corners should be ridden as one-quarter of a volte appropriate to the level of the test (10 meters at Training-First Levels, 8 meters at Second-Fourth Levels and 6 meters above Fourth Level).
  2. Changes of directions can be executed in the following ways:a. Right-angled turn including riding through the corner (one quarter of a volte of approximately 6 meters).b. Short and long diagonal.c. Half voltes and half circles with change of rein.d. Half pirouettes and turn on the haunches.e. Serpentine loops.f. Counter-changes of hand (in zig-zag).* The horse should be straight for a moment before changing direction.* Zig-zag: A movement containing more than two half-passes with changes of direction.

The figures asked in dressage tests are the voltes, the serpentines and the figures of eight.

Volte. The volte is a circle of 6, 8 or 10 meters in diameter. If larger than 10 meters, it is a circle.

Serpentine. The serpentine with several loops touching the long side of the arena consists of half circles connected by a straight line. When crossing the center-line, the horse should be parallel to the short side

  • Depending on the size of thehalf circles, the straight connection varies in length. Serpentines with one loop onthe long side of the arena are executed with 5-meter or 10-meter distance from thetrack
  • Serpentines around the center-line are executed between the quarter lines
  • Figure of eight. This figure consists of two voltes or circles of equal size as prescribedin the test, joined at the center of the eight. The rider should make his horsestraight an instant before changing direction at the center of the figure.

The exercises.

a. Stretching the Frame. This exercise gives a clear impression of the “throughness” of the horse and proves its balance, suppleness, obedience and relaxation. In order to execute the exercise “stretching on a long rein” correctly, the athlete must lengthen the reins as the horse stretches gradually forward and downward. As the neck stretches forward and downward, the mouth should reach more or less to the horizontal line corresponding with the point of the shoulder or lower. An elastic and consistent contact with the athlete’s hands must be maintained. The gait must maintain its rhythm and tempo, and the horse should remain light in the shoulders with a swinging back and with the hindlegs well- engaged. During the retake of the reins the horse must accept the contact without resistance in the mouth or poll.

b. Uberstreichen. A clear release of contact where the horse maintains self-carriage,

rhythm, tempo, straightness, and quality of gait.

The lateral movements

1. A distinction must be made between the following movements: Leg yielding, Shoulder

in, Travers, Renvers, Half pass.

2. Work on two tracks.

a. The aim of movements on two tracks is:

1. To improve the obedience of the horse to the cooperative aids of the rider;

2. To supple all parts of the horse thereby increasing the freedom of his shoulders and the suppleness of his quarters as well as the elasticity of the bond connecting the mouth, the poll, the neck, the back and the haunches;

3. To improve the cadence and bring the balance and gaits into harmony;

b. Leg-yielding. The horse is almost straight, except for a slight flexion at the poll away from the direction in which he moves, so that the rider is just able to see the eyebrow and nostril on the inside. The inside legs pass and cross in front of the outside legs. Leg-yielding should be included in the training of the horse before he is ready for collected work. Later on, together with the more advanced movement shoulder-in, it is the best means of making a horse supple, loose and unconstrained for the benefit of the freedom, elasticity and regularity of his gaits and the harmony, lightness and ease of his movements. Leg-yielding can be performed on the diagonal in which case the horse should be as close as possible parallel to the long sides of the arena although the forehand should be slightly in advance of the quarters. It can also be performed along the wall in which case the horse should be atan angle of about 35 degrees to the direction in which the horse is moving

c. Turn on the Forehand. The purpose of this exercise is to supple the horse and teach him obedience to the aids. In this exercise, the inside of the horse is the side from which the horse yields, i.e. the horse is flexed at the poll to the right, which is the inside, when the haunches move to the left. The horse moves around the inside front leg. The outside front foot steps forward and around the inside forefoot, which remains active in the sequence of footfalls. The hind feet move on a curved line, with the inside hind foot striking the ground in front of the outside hind foot.

a. The additional aim of lateral movements is to develop and increase the engagement of the quarters and thereby also the collection.

b. In all lateral movements – shoulder-in, travers, renvers, half-pass—the horse is slightly bent and moves with the forehand and the quarters on two different tracks (see Fig 1-4).

c. The bend or flexion must never be exaggerated so that it impairs the balance and fluency of the movement concerned.

d. At the lateral movements the gait should remain free and regular, maintained by a constant impulsion, yet it must be supple, cadenced and balanced. The impulsion is often lost, because of the rider’s preoccupation mainly in bending the horse and pushing him sideways.

e. The opposite side is the outside.

f. Shoulder-in. This exercise is performed in collected trot. The horse is ridden with a slight but uniform bend around the inside leg of the rider maintaining cadence at a constant angle of approx. 30 degrees. The horse’s inside foreleg passes and crosses in front of the outside foreleg; the inside hind leg steps forward under the horse’s body weight following the same track of the outside foreleg, with the lowering of the inside hip. The horse is bent away from the direction in which it is

moving. (see Fig. 1). If the shoulder-in is performed on the long side or on the center line, the horse should be straightened after the shoulder-in, before going into the corner. If the movement that follows the shoulder-in is a circle at any point, or a turn left or right at any point other than the four corners, the horse should not be straightened.

g. Travers. This exercise can be performed in collected trot or collected canter. The horse is slightly bent round the inside leg of the rider but with a greater degree of bend than in shoulder-in. A constant angle of approximately 35 degrees should be shown, from the front and from behind one sees four tracks. The forehand remains on the track and the quarters are moved inwards. The horse’s outside legs pass and cross in front of the inside legs. The horse is bent in the direction in which it is moving. To start the travers, the quarters must leave the track or, after a corner or circle, are not brought back onto the track. At the end of the travers, the quarters are brought back on the track without any counter-flexion of the poll/neck as one would finish a circle. (see Fig. 2).

h. Renvers. This is the inverse movement in relation to travers. The hindquarters remain on the track while the forehand is moved inward. To finish the renvers the forehand is aligned with the quarters on the track. Otherwise, the same principles and conditions that apply to the travers are applicable to the renvers. The horse is slightly bent around the inside leg of the rider. The horse’s outside legs pass and cross in front of the inside legs. The horse is bent in the direction in which it is moving. Aims of renvers: To show a fluent collected trot movement on a straight line with a greater degree of bend than in shoulder-in. Fore and hind legs cross, balance and cadence are maintained.

i. Half-pass.This movement is a variation of travers, executed on a diagonal line instead of along the wall. It can be performed in collected trot (and in passage in a freestyle) or collected canter. The horse should be slightly bent around the inside leg of the rider and in the direction in which it is moving. The horse should maintain the same cadence and balance throughout the whole movement. In order to give more freedom and mobility to the shoulders, it is of great importance that the impulsion be maintained, especially the engagement of the inside hind leg. The horse’s body is nearly parallel to the long side of the arena with the forehand slightly in advance of the hindquarters. The bend in the half-pass should increase with the steepness of the diagonal. In the trot, the outside legs pass and cross in front of the inside legs. In the canter, the movement is performed in a series of forward/ sideways strides. Aims of half-pass in trot: To show a fluent collected trot movement on a diagonal line with a greater degree of bend than in shoulder-in. Fore and hind legs cross, balance and cadence are maintained. Aims of the half-pass in canter: To both demonstrate and develop the collection and suppleness of the canter by moving fluently forwards and sideways without any loss of rhythm, balance or softness and submission to the bend.