Elementary-Medium is something of a transition grade; by now you’re probably comfortable in the competition arena, but it might still be daunting to make the leap to Medium, which is where the pressure really mounts. EM gives you a chance to find your feet before heading to the ‘big time’.
You’re going to become more aware of the finer details at this stage. The gaits are no longer simply walk, trot and canter; now you’ll ride collected, medium and extended versions of each. Simple changes are a precursor to the much-anticipated flying changes, which are introduced at this level. Your lateral work repertoire will also be increased – prepare to ride travers, shoulder in, pirouettes and the half-pass – potentially one of the most elegant of movements.
Learn to use your corners properly to help set up your angles for these movements. In some instances you may find yourself confused by the lateral moves, since many are very similar – give yourself some mental cues to remember what is required for each.
As in previous levels, there are seven Elementary-Medium tests – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 with a Freestyle and you’ll possibly find yourself leaning towards the double-bridle, although recent trends are seeing more riders keeping their snaffles into the higher levels. Also, whip and spurs may suit you for encouraging the increased amounts of engagement required.
Now you’ll appreciate the attention you gave to building your horse’s self-carriage and balance. Judges will be looking for telltale signs that he’s been correctly produced to this level. Often these will be evident in your transitions: a strong, balanced horse will maintain his frame and his rhythm both into and out of the gaits, whether it’s walk, trot or canter. This is important for you as a rider, because all it then takes is a simple aid to ask for the next movement – an obedient response means that you’ll be able to cope with the fast-flowing tests you’ll encounter now. Use your time in EM to fine-tune your use of the aids as well as your horse’s understanding of them, since many of the higher movements are simply more extreme versions of the basic work done in previous levels.
The flying change
Many riders battle with introducing the flying change, and it can be nerve-wracking with horses who do it with ‘vigour’; you may feel as if you’re being bucked out of the saddle! Experts advise that the trick is to ensure that the canter is absolutely established beforehand – which is where your simple changes come in handy. If you can walk to canter, canter to walk and strike off on the lead of your choice whenever you want, you should be ready to attempt the flying change. It’s also important that you are able to remain quiet and balanced in the canter – since the aid is initiated by the seat and leg, any imbalance from the rider will confuse the horse. A good introduction to the flying change will be tremendously valuable as you move up the grades and start having to string them together!