This week I thought I’d do a little blog on competing with E-Dressage as I’ve had a fair few questions about it recently. I’ve been competing in online dressage since May – once a month, I get my friend to video me riding a dressage test and send it off to be judged!
If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I don’t have my own transport. Occasionally a very kind friend takes me out but we don’t get to do this often, this year we went out a total of 3 times! But I am extremely competitive and find that having a dressage test to aim for gives me extra motivation, which will be really useful particularly over the winter. Online dressage is perfect for anyone without transport, or with a green/nervous horse, or a nervous rider! You can ride the test in your own school (or marked out field if you don’t have one) without having to worry about travelling, transport or nerves at a big competition! All you need is to make sure it’s measured out with all the dressage letters in place – no white boards required. My school is actually slightly smaller than standard so don’t worry too much if it’s not perfect. E-Dressage is also great for those who can get out and about, as it’s a great way to practice riding a test as well as receiving some really helpful feedback.
So now you’ve (hopefully!) decided to have a go, here’s what you need to do pretty much step by step. There are a few classes that you can enter (choose them here). Standard classes are under the British Dressage (BD) banner – you can enter Intro, Prelim, Novice or Elementary. If you have an ex-racer or a veteran, you can choose to enter in those classes – simply pick which level you’d like to do, and whoever gets the highest percentage wins. There’s also a new bitless class – great news for anyone who rides bitless but still wants to compete, since BD do not allow bitless bridles in competition. So once you’ve picked your test, you’ll need to learn and practice it! You can get the test sheets from either British Dressage or Dressage Diagrams. You are allowed a caller but it makes sense to ensure you also know the test, personally I find a caller a bit distracting but some people find it helps. You need to enter the class before the last day of the month so make sure you leave plenty of time to practice! You can enter the class whenever you like, but the video needs to be sent before the end of the month.
Next have a little read of the E-Dressage Rules – it mostly follows the BD rules but with some additional specific ones to videoing the test. The great thing for me is that your horse is allowed to wear boots – you aren’t allowed this at BD and my horse brushes quite badly! Unless you have a good camera/tripod, you’ll need to find someone to video your test. They needn’t be horsey (my poor husband has filmed a couple!) but you need to get them to stand behind C – it’s best to stand a couple of feet back to make sure they can fit you in the frame even when you’re riding past C. I use a digital camera to film mine but you could use your smartphone if it has a decent quality camera and plenty of memory. Initially we’ve found the memory to be the problem – more than once I’ve filmed my test for the phone/camera to run out of memory before I’ve finished! My advice would be to delete everything you can off the device first to avoid any problems. I tend not to zoom in or out during the test to enable the judge to see the whole picture, plus this keeps the camera a little steadier and means you don’t get a wobbly video! All the person filming needs to do is keep horse and rider in the centre of the frame. Start filming just before you go down the centre line and don’t finish until you’ve halted, saluted and begun walking out on a long rein. You can film as many times as you like (a definite advantage to online dressage!) but do make sure you’ve done the test properly… the first time I competed I missed out an entire circle! If you want to see examples of the tests have a look at my YouTube channel.
Now comes arguably the most tricky part – uploading your video to either E-Dressage or YouTube! I always upload mine to YouTube, that way if anything goes wrong with the uploader tool I already have a link to my video. I’ll go through the YouTube method (although if you want to use the E-Dressage upload tool, all you need to do is go here, find where you’ve saved the file and follow the instructions). Hopefully my explanation will be simple and make sense!
If you’ve used a device that has a memory card, you can usually insert this into your computer – probably the simplest way to do it. If it’s on your phone or camera without a memory card you’ll probably need to plug it in to the computer to link up. Some phones will allow you to send your video straight through to YouTube which is also fairly straightforward. I use a memory card, so I save the film to my laptop first of all and double check that everything is as it should be. I then open it using Microsoft Movie Maker (you can download this for free online here). This means I can save my video as a .MP4 file, which uploads to YouTube slightly quicker. Find your file, then right click on it and select ‘Open with – Movie Maker’. Movie Maker will then open the file. You need to select ‘Save Movie’ (this is in the top right hand corner, the second tab from the right) and then ‘For high definition display’. You can then save the film wherever you find easiest, but just make sure that the ‘Save as type’ box reads ‘MPEG-4’. The video will then process and does sometimes take a while.
You can miss out this step and just upload straight to YouTube, but I find this the most reliable and quickest way even if it is a little bit faffy!
Now uploading to YouTube. First of all open up YouTube. In the top right hand corner, you’ll see ‘Upload’. Either sign in with your Google account, or you’ll have to quickly sign up to be able to do so. Press ‘Upload’ and it will take you through to the uploading screen. Find your file and it will begin to upload (it usually gives you a time – mine always take hours so do leave yourself plenty of time and ideally leave your computer alone while it does it, I’ve even left mine overnight before). You’ll need a title – I normally just use my name, my horses name and the test – and then you need to choose whether to make it Public (anyone can search for it and find it), Private (only you can view it) or Unlisted (only people with the link can view it). Personally I make all of my videos public so that anyone reading my blog can find them easily! You do need to be make sure that you do not set the video to Private, as this way Roseanna (head of E-Dressage) and the judge won’t actually be able to view it! However, if you don’t want anyone else to see it you can set it to Unlisted (I did this at first until I got a bit more confident with my blogging). Then you just need to wait… YouTube will generate the link and you just need to email this with your name and class entry details to Roseanna (email@example.com).
So now you have entered your first E-Dressage class – congratulations! The tests are judged on the first day of every month (so September tests will be judged on 1st Oct). Then Roseanna works exceptionally hard to get them all on the website – usually sometime on the 2nd you’ll find out your score and placing! A few days later you’ll receive your test sheet and rosette through the post. If you’re fortunate enough to even win some prize money Roseanna will contact you to sort this out. There are also rider leagues that you automatically become part of when you enter a class, as well as team leagues if you get some friends together! These have some amazing prizes and you can see more about those here.
I’ll just mention one last thing about memberships – you can become an E-Dressage member which gives you access to training material on top of your class entry, and additional video feedback from the judges (see some of my previous blog posts if you want an example). I have the ‘Starter’ membership which gets me all of that, plus one class entry per month. Find out more about the membership packages here.
Hopefully that explains everything – this has turned into a very long post, but I hope it’s helpful for you! I’m loving my E-Dressage journey so far and I’d love you to join me. As ever, please do ask me any questions at all, either here, on my Facebook page or on Twitter (@nicolacranham).
Hope to see you soon!
Nic & Dan x