The Lower Levels:
Introductory I & II Walk Trot, Training, and First

Introductory Level

The Introductory Level” tests, I and II are meant by the very nature of their name to “introduce” the pair to dressage. Movements and requirements are basic and are only performed at the halt, working walk and working trot rising. The judge will look for; quality of the horse’s paces (freedom and regularity), his impulsion (desire to move forward, elasticity of the steps, suppleness of his back and engagement of his hind quarters). Also in this section of scoring the test triple points are awarded for; correct rider position, seat and correctness of and effectiveness of the aids, which is considered to be of utmost importance at this early stage of development. Double points (coefficient or multiplier of 2) are awarded for submission; (attention, confidence, harmony, lightness, ease of movements, acceptance of the bridle (on the bit), and lightness on the forehand). The frame of the horse is considered long and low as pictured and is incorrect if shown with a higher level frame.


Working Trot Introductory Level                     Working Walk                                 Nice Square Halt

Link to USDF competition dressage “Introductory Level” test:

Training Level

At Training level the horse and rider are introduced to the working gaits/paces. Working gaits prove that a horse is not lazily plodding along, or pulling himself forward with his front legs, but actively engaged in his work and pushing himself forward with his hind legs. He is paying attention to his rider and obeying his/her commands. He is also not rushing around like a race horse in the arena and demonstrates a good ability to obey commands and prompts in a fairly balanced and timely way. He shows minimal resistance to the aids (rein, leg and seat) and to the bit. A horse that is “on the bit” does not toss his head in the air or pull the reins from the rider’s hands, but shows a fairly low but rounded frame. The horse is willing to move forward with out pulling himself along with his front legs and begins to learn to push himself forward with his hind legs. In creating this low rounded “frame” he provides a comfortable “bridge” for his rider to sit. A horse with his nose out beyond the vertical (where the front of the horses face makes a straight up and down line perpendicular to the ground) inevitably has a hollow or swale to his back making him very uncomfortable to ride and impossible to comfortably sit the trot. The horse whom tucks his head in toward his chest behind the vertical is avoiding the aids and thereby avoiding the work he is presented with, which is of course to no one’s benefit. The working trot shows that the horse is stepping into his own tracks or “tracking up”. His left hind will be placed nearly exactly in the same spot on the ground that his left front has just vacated. He is learning to travel with straightness and without leaning to the inside or outside. He also learns to halt, standing more or less squarely while remaining “on the bit” (vertical). He learns several reaching and stretching down movements, reaching for the bit exercises at this level as well. His paces should be regular and rhythmic.


                  Nice Working Trot                                                   Nice working trot coming around

                                                                                              the end of arena or starting a circle


Left: Long and Low Release
Exercise at Working Trot
Photo by: Adrenna Lynn

Right: Working Canter

Link to the USDF dressage tests, Training level 4, the fourth of four tests for this level.

First Level

At First level the horse uses the strength he has gained from his training level work to push himself forward with his hind legs rather than pulling himself along with his front legs, with better balance and control. The new gaits/movements mastered at this level include; lengthening of the stride in trot & canter, medium walk (a walk where the horse “over-tracks” reaching beyond his front footfall with his hind hoof placement), completing a shallow serpentine that does not encompass the entire width of the arena at working canter without a change of lead. This shows improved balance, flexibility and obedience as well as a certain degree of relaxation. Leg yielding is introduced at this level as a way to teach the horse to move away from his rider’s leg when asked to do so without tilting his entire body. Additional work on the ability of the horse to relax and stretch is shown at the free walk.


Lengthen Stride in Trot                                                               Lengthen Stride in Canter


Collected Trot                                                                                                     Medium Walk

Lower Levels, Introductory, Training, 1st Level Entry Requirements:

Required Tack:
An English (Huntseat) saddle or a Dressage saddle is required. A Snaffle Bridle with cavesson noseband, dropped noseband, flash noseband, or combination of flash and dropped nosebands is required.

Optional Equipment:
White or conservative-color Saddle pads
Breastplate or crupper
Spurs without rowels

Prohibited Equipment:
Double bridles, martingales, bit guards, boots or bandages, blinkers, or other gadgets are strictly forbidden, under penalty of elimination.

Rider Attire:
The dress code is a short (huntseat) riding coat of dark color with tie, choker or stock tie, white or light-colored breeches or jodhpurs, boots or jodhpur boots, a hunt cap or riding hat with a hard shell. Gloves of conservative color are recommended. A whip, no longer than 47.2 inches, may be carried.

Entry Requirements:
A dressage arena (indoor or outdoor) and visible letter.
A description of the test and movement.

The above list of Tack and Attire requirements is merely a simplified version.
FOR COMPLETE RULES, DETAILS AND SPECIFICS please see Dressage Main Page,   Dressage Overview, 
Dressage - the Value of Knowledge,
  the USEF Dressage Rulebook, FEI Rulebook and the USDF Rulebook listed above in the top menu.

Are to be shown ONLY in Dressage All Others, Awards, Horse Entering, Horse Exiting Arena, etc.

This is the link to the USDF First Level Test 4.