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The Amazing New Dressage Test

For Horses Unsuitable to Become Anything

By Joanna MacDonald et al

1053 409446 n

The Test

1 A.   Enter at ordinary serpentine.
X.   Sprawl.   Salute.

2 C.   Stop dead.   Stare in horror at judge and shy to left.
Continue at ordinary working gallop.

3 E.   Stagger left 20 or 15 or 22 meters in diameter circle or pear shape or five pointed star.
Avoid excessive crossing of legs.

4 K.   Begin to halt.
Z.   Keep trying.
F.   You can do it.
B.   Pull on rein. Give up. Continue at out of hand gallop.

5 H.   Regain right stirrup. Continue at ordinary trot, bouncing.

6 MKT Change rein. Free Walk loose reins. Remove horse from judge's luncheon table.
Ask judge for leg up. Jump back into ring.

7 Z.   Turn down centre Line.
Halt. Grin. Scratch. Burst into tears. Leave area at free walk on long reins, loose language.

Comment: When I first saw this test I thought it was the funniest thing I'd seen in a long time… what I didn't realise at the time was how long it had been around. If we're at all honest with ourselves, we've all had tests that have ended up in much the same way. Apart from all the tests that I have botched myself, I remember one where the arena was set up next to a circus and the elephants and lions were housed about 100m away. Needless to say, my horse wouldn't go anywhere near that side of the arena… so the test was executed in a 10m x 60m format… interesting. Hope you had a laugh and Joanna's background into its development (below) is well worth the read.

Original story submitted to the OADG Newsletter, July-August 1995, by Joanna MacDonald. Karyn Curtis, Ed.

1995 marks the 21st birthday of The Amazing New Dressage Test (For Horses Unsuitable to Become Anything). (There used to be dressage classes "For Horses Suitable to Become a Dressage Horse" - Ed.) Almost every dressage person in the English-speaking world has giggled over this test; it has become an anonymous classic. Hardly anybody knows where it came from. Karyn Curtis and I know. We wrote it. Here's the story:

In May 1974, some Spiritwood riders went to the OADG Spring Dressage Show at Copanspin Farm (then Marchcroft, now Riverside) in Dunrobin. There was Lorraine MacDonald, with her TBX mare Baska; my employee, Big Sue MacMillan, with her 3-year-old Quarter Horse, Flyer; and me with my 5-year-old grey mare, Azteca, known to her friends as Tattie. It was our first dressage show ever in our lives -- except for Lorraine, who had been in just one. A bunch of little kids came to help; Karyn was one of them. It turned out to be The Dressage Show From Hell. The rain came down in buckets all day without stopping. The show was held in the indoor arena with no place to warm up. We were up to our knees in mud outside. The ramp of the truck got slippery. The horses went crazy and we didn't get any ribbons.

We finally got home, soaking, shivering, miserable and disgusted. The word dressage was enough to make us throw up. We all sat around the kitchen table: Lorraine, her husband Angus, Sue, me and a lot of little kids. There was also, I remember, a bottle of wine. And we got silly and we wrote The Amazing New Dressage Test to express what we had just been through.

It went, anonymously, into the OADG Newsletter; then it went into the OVH Pony Club Newsletter; then the Corinthian (now Horse Sport) picked it up; then the Chronicle printed it; then , over the next ten years, it went into many regional U.S. dressage newsletters, to England, to California, back to Canada via Vancouver, and it's still travelling. Horse and Country printed it last year and, I ask you to believe, a friend sent it to me from Yellowknife, NWT, saying "Isn't this the funniest thing you ever read, who do you think wrote it?"

Do you want to know what happened to the cast of characters? Flyer was sold as a hunter/eventer and was re-named "Cashel" and, when I last heard, was still in retirement in Oxford Mills. Tattie achieved a respectable Medium 2/3 and ended her days as a school horse here at Spiritwood, teaching about a million people how to do shoulder-in. I don't know what became of Baska -- I last saw her picture in a tack ad for a Toronto store, modelling a blanket. Big Sue MacMillan went back to Edmonton and married a dairy farmer and has two children. The little kids all grew up; ponies were replaced by horses, horses by university, careers, husbands. Karyn came back to Spiritwood. I never left. Lorraine MacDonald is an FEI Dressage Judge for Canada!

So now you all know the true history of The Amazing New Dressage Test...