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  • Writer's pictureCrystal Forsell

Dressage Levels Explained: Second Level


second level dressage

Ah, second level, the reason why many sit in first level purgatory!


Second level is one of the bigger jumps we make between the levels.  I am glad that the test writers did actually try to ease the transition by taking the canter/walk transition out of the first test and make the medium trot not a full diagonal until test 3.


That full diagonal is along diagonal of sitting a medium trot!


Here is the purpose of the test from USDF:

“To confirm that the horse demonstrates correct basics, and now begins to accept more weight on the hindquarters as the collected and medium gaits develop. A greater degree of straightness, suppleness, throughness, and balance are required to perform the movements with ease and self-carriage. All trot work must be done sitting.”


Let’s dive into what that means!


Collection comes and goes at second level, we need to see that it is in development.


The medium gaits should show ground cover, increased suspension, and uphill balance.  The transition scores are now their own separate score and not a part of the medium, as in the lengthenings at first level.


We see the increased collection and suppleness through lateral movements, shoulder in, and travers (haunches in). (side note, I am sad they took at renvers 😢)


Where we really see collection is the canter walk transition (without trot steps!).  I feel this is the hardest movement in second level.


The full loops of counter canter also show the balance and suppleness.  A great counter canter should look and feel just as balanced and straight as the horse would on the true lead.


If you have a horse with more average gaits, there are several movements in second level that are your friend and I encourage you to squeeze as many points as you can out of them!


We call them the non-brilliance movements.  They have nothing to do with the gaits.


They are, turn on the haunches, rein back, and the centerline/halt is debatable, you do show trot, but with the essence being a straight centerline, square halt, and prompt move off, you can also get some points here.


I hope you are finding this series helpful, you can put your coach in your pocket with Dressage To Go and empower yourself to make your own progress!


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