Everything Else More...

When to move up a level.

Screen shot 2013-07-05 at 22.31.40One of the most often asked questions is, “when are a horse and/or rider ready to move up to the next level?”
Obviously it is slightly different if the rider has ridden at higher levels before. They are unlikely to be worried about the step-up, since they are not entering uncharted territory.

For me, it’s when a horse has had enough runs at a given level to make it all feel very easy, without a single anxious moment, around the whole XC course in particular, for at least 2 consecutive runs. Even the slightest ‘eek’ moment or wobble would make me think we needed to do more at the level we were at.

Screen shot 2013-07-05 at 22.32.01I asked some top riders this question a while back, here are their answers:

Mary King: ” The horse is going consistently well at a level and feels totally confident at that level. It is not tied to the number of BE points (it has won).”

Owen Moore: “You should feel that the level has become easy. You should be getting clear after clear. You should feel that the horse is capable of winning consistently at that level.”

Piggy French: “The horse should be very very confident at that level. You should feel completely in control of the situation at that level. You should liaise with your trainer and helpers. It is better to wait a little and be sure rather than go up too soon.”

Lucinda Green: “It is when the horse gets bored at that level, what was a challenge last year is no longer a challenge. The horse will tell you when he is ready.”


Photos of the Grassroots Championships, by Katie Mortimore.



About the author



  • I think it was Sam Watson in his diary who quoted his father. Something along the lines of “Don’t move up a level when you can get it right once at the next level. Only move up when you never get anything wrong any more at your current level” Or as we say to our PC members, only move up when you are Queen (or King) of the level you are at!

  • Not sure that I agree with the ‘winning consistently at that level’ as many horses may not have good enough dressage to do this, but definitely consistent double clears and a feeling of ‘this is too easy for us’ should be needed.


    • Hi Fiona I would agree that winning at BE isn’t essential but I would expect a combination to be consistently placed. Some horses struggle with the dressage but the dressage is there for a reason to show the horse is obedient, supple and able to go on to safely perform the jumping tests.

  • There are a lot of 3 and 4* schoolmasters about who haven’t featured in the results lists in H&H v often over their lives, but do a fantastic job introducing new riders to the level.

    Some horses are simply too sharp or spooky to ride a winning or placed test.

    Others particularly at intro or PN level aren’t flashy enough to place above a WB, but can still carry out the Nov tests proficiently and if capable of the SJ/XC should be given a chance.