R is the new M

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If you want to improve your score at your next show, for the USEF tests above Training Level, you should scan your tests for movements that involve the letters RSVP. The accuracy involving those letters often can be muddled, and I saw a lot of this at the show I judged last weekend.

This rider is correctly headed for M rather than R

This rider is correctly headed for M rather than R

The latest round of USEF tests, introduced last year, had nothing radically new but did have seemingly subtle changes. Many of those involved starting or ending more movements at RSVP, rather than the usual MHKF, both across the diagonal and down the long side. A lot of riders still haven’t caught on to the difference.

This can turn out to be a problem for the judge. If a rider ends up at M rather than R, for example, was it an error (did the rider aim at the wrong place) or a problem with the horse’s performance (drifting)? If the judge can’t tell he will give the rider the benefit of the doubt and score down the movement rather than charge an error, but either way the lack of precision is going to affect the score.

I often suspect some riders are splitting the difference. They can’t remember which letter they should head for and thus aim for a spot in between. Again, that is going to affect the score. Unless someone is practicing tests at home, and double checking for accuracy, they are usually just riding across the diagonal or down the long side and not really thinking about the specific letter where they should make a transition or turn.

In First Level Test 3, for example, the canter lengthenings end at P and R, but much of the time I don’t see any difference there, with the riders waiting for the corner to help them with the transition. Another trouble spot is with the flying change lines in Third Level Test 1 (V/R and P/S) and Test 3 (S/F and R/K) that often end a good 12 meters from where the test specifies.

This isn’t something you will catch yourself fixing when training at home, unless you are practicing your tests in front of someone who is also paying attention to the correct lines. You may not even catch it when you get your test sheet back at a show, where the lack of accuracy can become secondary to other issues with specific movements. However, there are now so many movements that start and end at RSVP that not paying attention to them can make a difference of several points on a test.

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