Examples of Arena Fence & Footing

Basic equipment/Attire

Each group of levels requires that certain equipment (tack) & attire/dress (rider clothes) be used. New or different requirements of equipment occur as the pair rise through the levels. Within this guide book in each section “Lower, Medium & Upper levels”, you will find any changes in optional or required equipment and attire noted at the specific level in which they occur. At the level where any new “requirement” is noted, all levels above it will require the use of any newly noted equipment/attire. For complete rules regarding dress/attire and equipment/tack has been laid out by the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) rule book, pages DR17 through DR27 and can be seen there in it’s entirety at: “

Saddlery and Equipment (Tack)

Saddle w/Stirrups & Girth: For dressage an English saddle with stirrups without attachments, or safety stirrups are required at all levels. The saddle may be constructed with or without a tree but cannot have a horn, swell, gallerie, or open gullet. Australian, Baroque, Endurance, McClellan, Spanish, Stock, or Western saddles are not permitted nor are modified versions of these saddles. Any type of acceptable English saddle will be sufficient through First Level, though use of a dressage saddle at any level will help the rider to hold a more correct balanced position and improve the ability of the rider with proper application of the aids. A Dressage saddle which must be close to the horse and have long, near-vertical flaps and stirrups is compulsory for Prix St. Georges level and above. The girth may be of any type, as long as it is not deemed harmful to the horse through tack check points. Girth covers or pads/padded girths are also permitted.

Introductory through Second Level Acceptable English Saddle Examples

Third through Grand Prix Acceptable Dressage Saddle Examples

Acceptable saddle pad, stirrups/leathers and girth variations shown as well

Saddle pads/cloths: Saddle pads/cloths are optional, but should be white or of a conservative color. Commonly, a dressage square is used as a pad for under the saddle. A saddle pad of any shape can be used. Any variation pad that (fits under the saddle only), such as quarter pads, pommel pads, seat risers, gel filled pads, heavy denier thickness rubber pads are also are acceptable for comfort of the horse and proper fit of his saddle. Please note that while present in the competition area and during prize-giving ceremonies, breed logos (for horses registered with that breed), national flags (for citizens of that country), riding club/business/farm names or logos (used with permission of riding club/farm/ business owner) and USEF or USDF names or logos (used with permission of USEF or USDF, respectively) are also permitted and must have the same specifications as sponsor logos may appear on a surface area not exceeding 200 cm on each side of the saddle cloth. No other advertisement or publicity is permitted on saddle cloths or horses.

Bridles: For levels through Second, a plain snaffle bridle is required with a regular cavesson, a dropped noseband, a flash noseband (a combination of a cavesson noseband and a dropped noseband attachment) or a crossed noseband. A crescent noseband is also permitted at these levels. Except for the crescent noseband, buckles and a small disk of sheepskin, which may be used in the intersection of the two leather straps of a crossed noseband, the headstall and cavesson/noseband of the bridle must be made entirely of leather or leather-like material. A padded cavesson/noseband and crown piece are allowed. For Federation Third Level and Fourth level tests a rider may also chose to use a simple double bridle (bridoon [snaffle] and bit curb bit having a curb chain using a cavesson noseband only. A lip strap and rubber or leather cover for curb chain as optional). Above Fourth level the double bridle is mandatory.

Pictured above are several models with appropriately fit snaffle bridles.

Figure A: Acceptable Cavesson/Nosebands for the Snaffle Bridle used in Introductory through 4th Levels.

Figure A: Flash Noseband Snaffle Dressage Bridle

Below: Left and Center; A Double bridle with cavesson noseband, bridoon bit and curb with curb chain. Right; Micklem Bridle. Permitted for use at any level where snaffles are permitted. Not permitted for use as a double bridle. Bit clips may not be used with this bridle.

Below: A Combined noseband (no throatlatch) bridle which is permitted for use in at any level as either a snaffle or double bridle, as appropriate for the level. When used as a double bridle, the lower strap of the noseband (flash attachment pictured with the snaffle), is not permitted.

6. Micklem Bridle snaffle 7. Combined noseband (no 8. Combined noseband (no throatlatch)

throatlatch) Bridle used as a snaffle. Bridle used as a double bridle.

Two final notes on cavessons/nosebands; The following nosebands cannot be used with a double bridle: Pictured above, #1, #3, #4, #6 & #7. Cavesson nosebands may be used with a chin pad.

Bits Permitted in Dressage.

All bits (in diagrams A and B below) must be smooth and with a solid surface. Twisted, wire and roller bits are prohibited. A bushing or coupling is permitted as the center link in a double jointed snaffle, however, the surface of the center piece must be solid with no moveable parts. The mouthpiece of a snaffle may be shaped in a slight curve, but ported snaffles are prohibited. A bridoon is defined as a snaffle bit used together with a curb bit to form a double bridle. Bits (including curb and/or bridoon bits of a double bridle) must be made of metal or rigid plastic and may be covered with rubber, plastic or leather (in manufactured state, and may not be modified by adding latex or other material.); Flexible rubber or synthetic mouthpieces are permitted as noted below. Bits with mouthpieces made of synthetic material are permitted, provided that the contours of the bit conform to the contours of one of the bits pictured above.

1. Ordinary snaffle with single-jointed mouthpiece.
2. Ordinary snaffle with double-jointed mouthpiece.
3. Racing snaffle (D-ring)
4. Snaffle. A) w/cheeks, w/ or w/o keepers. B) without cheeks (Egg-butt).
5. Snaffle with upper or lower cheeks.
6. Unjointed snaffle (Mullen-mouth)
7. Snaffle with cheeks. (Hanging or drop cheek; Baucher). This may be a D-ring or other ordinary snaffle as pictured in No. 1
8. Dr. Bristol.
9. Fulmer.
10. French snaffle.
11. Snaffle with rotating mouthpiece

Figure A PERMITTED SNAFFLES Proper placement of Dressage Tack on the Model Horse

*(Must be used in Training-Second Level Tests.

Optional in Third and Fourth Level Tests.)

Full Bridles: A bridoon is defined as a snaffle bit used together with a curb bit to form a double bridle. Bits (including curb and/or bridoon bits of a double bridle) must be made of metal or rigid plastic and may be covered with rubber (in manufactured state); flexible rubber bits are not permitted. The diameter of the snaffle or bridoon mouthpiece must be minimum 10 mm diameter at rings or cheeks of the mouthpiece (exception: for ponies, the diameter may be less than 10 mm). The diameter of the curb mouthpiece must be minimum 12 mm at the cheeks of the mouthpiece. Type of bit should not vary from those pictured below except where specified, and bits should be attached only as pictured in diagram.

Bits pictured in Figure 1 below, arare acceptable for use as a double bridle for levels third and above:

Bridoons & Curb Bits

1. Loose ring bridoon bit.
2. a.b.c. Bridoon bit with jointed mouthpiece
where the middle piece should be rounded.
(Note: A Dr. Bristol bit is not permitted.)
Eggbutt sides are also allowed.
3. Egg-butt bridoon bit.
4. Bridoon bit with hanging cheeks.
5. Half-moon curb bit.
6. & 7. Curb bit with straight cheeks & port.
8. Curb bit with port & sliding mouthpiece (Weymouth) A curb bit with rotating lever arm is also allowed.
9. Variation of bits Nos. 6, 7 & 8.
10. Curb bit with S-curved cheeks.
11. Curb chain (metal or leather or a combination).
12. Lip strap.
13. Leather cover for curb chain.
14. Rubber cover for curb chain.

Figure Above: Full Bridle, Padded Headstall, Browband and Padded Cavisson/Nose Band

Figure A. Proper Shank Length         Proper Shank angle placement, notice curb chain & lip strap

Pictured above in Figure A is the correct curb bit measurement. The lever arm of the curb bit must not exceed 10 cm. (length below the mouthpiece). If the curb has a sliding mouthpiece, the lever arm of the curb bit below the mouthpiece must not measure more than 10 cm. when the mouthpiece is at the uppermost position. This would need to be to scale for model horses.

Other Equipment Rules:

Variations in equipment are allowed to under some circumstances. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts regarding “other equipment”. The following notations regarding “Other Equipment” are made within the USEF rules section of the USEF web site or are general knowledge:


  • All bridles should have a browband, further; at any level of competition, a browband may be multicolored and may be decorated with metal, beads, gemstones and crystals. It should also have a cavisson and reins that are joined with a buckle in the center. The reins can be plain/flat, braided or rubber coated as the rider desires. Thickness of the rein is not critical. A rein is a continuous, uninterrupted strap or line from the bridle bit to the hand. Each bit must be attached to a separate rein and reins may only be attached to bits. The crown piece as well as the noseband and brow band may be the padded type. Rein additions or attachments are not permitted. Pelham, elevator, gag bits & hackamores are not allowed, twisted mouth pieces of any kind are forbidden for bits. Please note that; Namhsa interprets correctly that a Pelham bit, one which the snaffle (bridoon) and curb are one piece and attach to one headstall. Having individual headstalls for the snaffle bit and separate curb bit are the identifying markers for a “Full bridle” versus a “Pelham bridle”.

  • Side saddles entries are acceptable, please refer to the USEF rules regarding showing of this type in dressage and the equipment acceptable at each level. Enter your side saddle entries in the IMEHA “Side Saddle” show, not here in the dressage section.

  • A crupper as well as a breast collar or breast plate can be used (if necessary), but are not commonly used in competition.

  • Not acceptable at any of the “common” levels are; martingale’s any kind of gadgets (such as bearing, side, sliding, draw, running or balancing reins, nasal strips, tie downs, tongue tied down, etc.), any kind of boots (including “easy-boots”) or bandages (including tail bandages) and any form of blinkers, earmuffs or plugs, nose covers, saddle seat covers, hoods are, under penalty of elimination, strictly forbidden. Fly hoods (ear covers) will only be permitted in order to protect horses from insects. The fly hoods should be discreet and should not cover the horse’s eyes, and will only be permitted in extreme cases at the discretion of the presiding judge(s).

  • Leg bandages are acceptable only in the Quadrille and Pas de Deux tests and are otherwise forbidden as are the use of any type of protective boots on the horse.

  • Braiding of the horse’s mane and tail, however, is permitted. Any decoration of the horse with extravagant items, such as ribbons or flowers, etc. in the mane, tail, etc., is strictly forbidden. False tails are permitted and if used may not contain any metal parts.

Allowed only in warm up areas:

1. Running martingales (only with snaffle rein of plain snaffle bridle), A running martingale consists of a divided strap attached to the girth or breastplate (at the front of the horse’s chest); the extension of each strap must be connected from the point of division only to the rein on the same side and must be free to slide. The rings through which the reins slide may not be connected to a neck strap.

2. Boots, bandages (without magnets) and ear muffs are permitted in warm up areas.

3. Single direct side reins or double sliding side reins (triangle reins) are permitted only when lungeing (mounted or unmounted). A single direct side rein is defined as an auxiliary rein affixed to the bit and to the girth, saddle or surcingle on the side of the horse (not between the legs) as pictured below:

4. Only one lunge line is permitted only while lungeing. A lunge line must attach only to the snaffle bit of the bridle, halter or cavesson and go directly to the hand of the longeur. Driving or long lining is prohibited.

5. Horses competing at Third Level and above may be warmed up in a either snaffle or a double bridle.

6. The following whips are permitted for schooling only: One whip no longer than 47.2 inches (120 cm), including lash, may be carried by the rider when mounted. One lungeing whip is permitted only when lungeing. There is no restriction on the length of whip permitted for working a horse in hand.

The most important thing to remember about tack is proper adjustment and fit. This is critical for safety of the horse and rider. Proper examples of tack fit are given within this guide or please refer to those provided in the “Dressage, the Value of Knowledge” within the library of the Dressage Guide.


Attire of the rider is listed below: (this list was compiled in whole or in part from the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) rule book, pages DR17 through DR27 as seen at: USEF Attire Rules)

Jacket: Below Fourth level a hunt jacket of dark or conservative color, such as black (being most common) dark blue or dark green should be worn. Fourth level and above; a dark tailcoat used with a top hat, or a dark jacket used with a bowler hat or hunt cap is acceptable.

Shirt/Neck Wear: A riding shirt with or without sleeves of any color are acceptable, though light or white is most common. The shirt should be worn with tie, choker or stock tie. Fourth level and above; white shirt & stock or tie are acceptable.

Pants: The most common color breaches/jodhpurs (pants) are white, but tan or beige are also acceptable. Fourth level and above; white or light colored breeches.

Boots: Hunt, field boots or paddock shoes with the appropriate jodhpurs & straps would be considered appropriate footwear. Half chaps, gaiters and/or leggings are not allowed. Exception: Riders through First Level may wear half-chaps, gaiters or leggings in solid black or brown, without fringe, matching the color of their boots, and made of smooth leather or leather-like material. Fourth level and above; black riding boots are acceptable.

Head Wear: A hunt cap is appropriate at training and first levels, though it is required for all individuals under age 18 to use a hard hat with a harness and is never penalized by a judge if used at the upper levels as it is considered optional safety equipment at all levels. Also acceptable is a bowler or derby hat of a conservative color used with a short jacket or modified short tail coat. At Fourth level and above; a dark tailcoat with top hat, or a dark jacket with a bowler hat or hunt cap are acceptable. Competitors are allowed to wear a hat cover and a transparent or conservative color rain coat in inclement weather.

Gloves: Gloves of conservative color are recommended, Fourth level and above; white gloves are acceptable.

Military uniforms are allowed for a qualifying rider at any level though the appropriate head attire must be used for the particular branch of service.

Spurs: Spurs must be made of metal. The shank must be either curved or straight pointing directly back from the center of the spur when on the rider’s boot. If the shank is curved, the spurs must be worn only with the shank directed downwards. However, swan necked spurs are allowed. The inside arm of the spur must be smooth and one or both arms may have rubber covers. If rowels are used, they must be blunt/smooth and free to rotate.. Metal spurs with round hard plastic knobs on the shank are allowed (“Impuls” spur). “Dummy” spurs with no shank are also allowed. Offset spurs are not allowed unless rider holds a disability certificate to allow them.

Whips: One whip no longer than 47.2 inches (120 cm), including lash may be carried in all classes unless such use is otherwise prohibited by FEI or Federation rules or selection procedures for the classes. An adjustable-length whip may not be carried by a mounted rider.

Position of the Rider:

All the movements of the rider should be minimal and without apparent effort of the rider. The rider should be well-balanced (not leaning left/right forward or back), elastic. The rider should sit deep in the center of the saddle ready and able to smoothly absorb the movement of the horse with the loins and hips. The rider should have supple thighs with the legs steady and stretched well down. The heels should be the lowest point. The upper part of the body should be tall straight and supple. The contact of the reins should be able to move independent from the rider’s seat so that the rider is not leaning on or pulling with their body on the reins. The hands should be fairly still, held close together, with the thumb as the highest point of the hand and the pinky finger being the lowest. The hand and wrist should complete the straight line which begins from the elbow through the rein to the horse’s bit. The position of the reins in the riders hands are noted in an article provided within the IMEHA Dressage Library. The bight of the reins can be placed on the left or right side but must hang down under the or to the inside of the reins. The elbows should be close to the body not sticking out. This correct balanced position will show harmonious co-operation between horse and rider. Riding with both hands is required except as noted within the regulations of either the USDF or the FEI. When leaving the arena at a walk on long rein, after having finished the test the rider may, at his own discretion, ride with only one hand.

                                                                   Correct rider position shown in each photo

Movements, Paces and Gaits of the Horse:

Movements are that which is designated to be completed at or in between letters of the dressage arena. For instance if a test states that the horse should halt at “C”, the movement is halt. Other components of the movement are judged separately, such as the transition from the previous gait to halt and the transition from halt to the next gait. They are counted together for judging purposes generally called “transitions”, though sometimes this can also be one general score. Each movement is judged for it’s quality, regularity, rhythm, balance, smoothness, strength, collection etc… All movements performed once the horse enters at the letter “A” and exits at same.

Gaits and Paces are interchangeable terms to describe when a horse is “Trotting”, “Walking” or “Cantering”. For the purposes of dressage terminology, a gait of walk has many levels of collection, beginning with the working walk then medium walk, collected walk and the extended walk. Each is performed at specific levels. For instance a working walk would not be seen at the Grand Prix level, the same could be said for the collected walk which is not yet developed at Training level. Each level introduces the horse and rider pairing to more and more difficult movements/gaits/paces. Each level builds from one to the next. This is why it is not allowed for a horse to show more than one level above the lowest level shown. For instance a horse shown at First level may show at Second Level but may not show at Third level at the same show. To learn more regarding gait/paces and movements as described by the FEI (Federation Equestrian International’) (see pages 12 through 26) at:

FEI Rules

Chose a level that the pace/gait or movement your horse is performing as a model horse based on the information provided about the correctness of that movement of a real horse within the IMEHA Library “Dressage, the Value of Knowledge” article. All competition level movements are shown in detailed pictures using model horses and real horses within this document. Below we have provided a brief description of each level and a link to the appropriate USDF/FEI site where every test for each level can be found and several photo’s of models performing movements at each level. Not every movement has been depicted using model horses.

Other Specifications and Notations:

Table of cross reference for “other tests, levels” other than FEI and USDF/USEF USEF web site rules

All FEI Pony Rider and FEI Childrens Tests are equivalent to Second Level.
All FEI Junior Rider Tests are equivalent to Third Level.
All FEI Young Rider Tests are equivalent to PSG.
The USEF Four-Year-Old Test is equivalent to First Level.
The FEI Four-Year-Old Test is equivalent to First Level.
The FEI Five-Year-Old Tests are equivalent to First Level.
The FEI Six-Year-Old Tests are equivalent to Third Level.

Cross entry in Para Equestrian tests and other Dressage tests is permitted as listed below:
FEI PE Grade 1a & 1b are equivalent to Introductory Level.
FEI PE Grade II is equivalent to Training Level.
FEI PE Grade III is equivalent to First Level.
FEI PE Grade IV is equivalent to Third Level.

Cross entry in Eventing tests and other Dressage tests is permitted as listed below:
Eventing Beginner Novice and Novice tests are equivalent to Training Level.
Eventing Training tests are equivalent to First Level.
Eventing Preliminary tests are equivalent to Second Level.
Eventing Intermediate tests are equivalent to Third Level.
Eventing Advanced tests are equivalent to Third Level