It’s one of the most difficult, yet undervalued and thankless roles in equestrian sport…. calling the Dressage test!

To the non-horsey family members who get coerced into reading, the innocent by-stander who is in the wrong place at the wrong time (ie conveniently located alongside said dressage arena in time for your test) and the frustrated coaches who read through gritted teeth as the flying change you did so perfectly in the lesson two days prior resembles a scene from an amateur rodeo… we see you – and we appreciate you!

Some useful advice for calling a dressage test:

Familiarise yourself with the test beforehand – basically just get the feel of holding the paper in your hands as any preparation and logical thought disappears the moment the bell rings. “Strengthened lides” and other tongue twisters become new-found dressage movements as you don’t have time to correct yourself so you’re forced to #OwnIt.

Plan Ahead – Find out which arena the rider is participating in beforehand – nothing makes a judge (or rider) doubt themselves more than when you call the incorrect test with absolute confidence and gusto.

Don’t Peak too Soon – there’s a fine line between calling at the “perfect time” and being either premature or delayed.

Practice Voice Control –  Here’s to the dads who read the test so loud that the Aztec tribe in South America know to halt through the walk at X. When there are 3 arenas alongside one another, out of courtesy one should practise the proverbial “inside voice” and try keep your instructions audible only to the arena immediately in-front of you.

Ignore self control – If neighbouring test caller exceeds acceptable sound level, ignore suggestion above and provide decibel competition

Stand at E or B – Apart from the logistical benefit of being at the centre of the arena for optimal sound distribution, it also helps the rider locate X…. #YoureWelcome

Use Protection – Whilst riders are protected by their show jackets and helmet visors, it is the humble test caller who is left exposed to the elements as horse and rider present to judges and do last minute warm ups. Dont forget to apply sunblock to the critical areas that often get forgotten such as the ears and back of the neck.

Appreciate Fellow Test Callers – Let’s be honest, it’s a skill! There should be a secret society just for dressage test callers, complete with secret handshake and team apparel for show days (with the word CREW on the back just to emphasize the importance the role in the success of the team).

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