Tips from a Scribe: FEI 1* Test A & B

I had the honour of scribing at Tatts for one of the CCI1* classes this week – sitting at E, watching top international riders such as Oliver Townend, William Fox Pitt and Mary King with their up-and-coming young horses, as well as our top future stars in the junior class. Having always scribed at C, it was interesting to see tests from a different angle, and the commentary certainly reflected what was being picked up from this angle versus what you might see at C.

Given my ultimate aim is to compete in a CCI1* at some point in my riding career, it was nice to see what would be expected of me if I ever managed to reach this level! I made a mental note of some of the top errors made in each test, as well as what gained top marks – some were general observations across both tests, while some were movement-specific.

Hopefully these will be useful for anyone looking to polish up their test-riding at this level, or those competing in their first International 1*! Note that these observations were made from E, so those made by judges at C or M/H may be different.

General Observations

Positioning of Judges

  • At C or M/H, the judges are looking at straightness, and can clearly see the correctness of the leg yield.
  • At B/E, judges are looking mainly at the maintenance of outline and rhythm, tempo, and can really see if a halt is square or not!

Top Marks

  • A good rider can produce a high-scoring test just by being extremely accurate. There were horses with ‘average’ paces that scored higher than those with ‘flashy’ paces.
  • However, the difference between a 7 and an 8, or a 7.5 and an 8.5 for example, was a combination of the two – an accurate test with good rhythm AND good paces. The paces are very important in the test – but again, a rider can improve the paces of a horse with good riding.

Mediums (Trot & Canter)

  • Top marks went to those who showed clear transitions on both ends, and a clear difference between working & medium.
  • Many riders were able to show a clear transition at the start, but lost balance at the end trying to get their horse back – comments made were related to loss of rhythm or unsteady contact.
  • Marks were lost by riders who didn’t maintain the contact throughout the medium – it resulted in an unsteady head and then the horse either running onto its forehand, or the rider being unable to bring the horse back at the end.


There are two halts in Test A, and one halt in Test B.

  • Top marks were given to those who had a smooth and engaged transition into halt, maintained and square.
  • Marks were lost for horses resting a leg, being too abrupt into the halt, and also not being direct enough to the halt.
  • Some riders lost a whole mark for not maintaining the halt for long enough – if you think you’ve maintained the halt, hold out 1-2 seconds longer to be sure!

Walk (Medium & Extended)

  • Marks were lost for inconsistent contact, many riders rode the extended close to a free walk, contact is important.
  • Most horses showed a clear overtrack, but some lost marks for lack of ‘reach’ – reaching forwards into the contact. Again this is where the length of rein comes in.
  • A separate mark is given for both mediums vs the extended – often marks were lost due to tension in the second medium walk, coming back from the extended.

Leg Yield

  • Top marks were awarded to movements that ‘flowed’ – no loss of rhythm from start to finish and correct bend.
  • Marks were lost for too much neck bend, loading the shoulder/shoulders leading, and loss of rhythm in the leg yield.
  • Contact was another reason for lost marks – horses that resisted the leg yield and braced against the contact, then lost rhythm.

Counter Canter

  • Some horses had trouble in the counter canter and changed or swapped leads behind – often this was not corrected. There was a whole mark in the difference for those who did not correct, even towards the end of the movement, so it’s worth making the attempt to correct if possible.

Half Circles and Serpentines in Counter Canter

  • Combinations were awarded for maintaining the ‘jump’ in the canter – staying uphill and consistent in the contact.
  • Marks were lost where horses became slightly on the forehand, downhill, or long in the frame.


  • Marks were often lost for ‘jumping’ into canter or being too abrupt in the downward transitions.
  • Resistance in the downward transitions or becoming hollow in the upward transitions lost many combinations marks.


  • I wrote a few comments about about unsteady contact or inconsistent contact – in some cases horses were tense or fresh, and the riders were having to work really hard to keep them together, in other cases the horses were not ‘through’ and needed more riding from the seat.
  • Inconsistencies in the contact came through in changes of pace, for example in the mediums or change from medium to extended walk.

FEI One Star Test A

  • The judge commented that the Leg Yield to the centre line in this particular test is challenging for riders, as it comes straight out of a corner – so you are immediately having to switch bend. Many combinations lost marks here as they didn’t use their corners to set themselves up before the leg yield and lost rhythm.
  • In movement 4, Walk 4-5 Steps Over A, riders were rewarded for showing clear walk steps, and a smooth up and down transition. Combinations lost marks for not showing enough walk steps, or being too abrupt in the transitions.
  • In movement 6 (Halt/Immobility) & 7 (Rein Back 4-5 Steps), combinations were rewarded for a well maintained halt, and clear diagonal steps with a clearly maintained outline. Combinations lost marks for abrupt transitions, resistance in the rein back, or non-diagonal steps.

FEI One Star Test B

  • The judge commented that the Leg Yield in test B was potentially a smoother ride as riders executed it off the centre line, and therefore didn’t have to change bend.
  • The medium trot caused problems for some riders who either went from the wrong marker (M instead of R) or didn’t set themselves up correctly out of the corner for the diagonal.
  • In movement 5, the Serpentine, the top marks went to combinations who showed good stretch, an accurate and even two-loop serpentine, and clear changes of bend.
  • In the Half-Circles, riders were rewarded for accurate half circles, maintaining rhythm and remaining uphill with jump in the canter. Marks were lost for horses getting too deep in the canter.

Natalie xo


  1. I’ve often wanted to be a dressage writer – there’s clearly a lot to be learnt from watching others and hearing the judges comments! My worry is that I don’t keep up or, if I do, my handwriting will be illegible!!! 🙂

    • I’d really recommend it! You can start by volunteering at the lower levels, e.g. Prelim or Intro Eventing where the movements don’t come up as fast. I was writing quite a bit for the 1* test, and those doing the 2 and 3* tests saw very little of the tests! I will write up a blog post on tips for being a scribe as soon as I can! You learn shorthand quickly too!

    • You’re welcome Emma – it was such a great learning experience, and this post has had a really good response so I will try to do more similiar posts as I scribe quite a bit!

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