A Test / A Test Syllabus

Recommended Minimum Age: Candidates must be 17 years or over. Recommended minimum age is 18.

Click here to download A Test Sheet 2016

STANDARDS OF EFFICIENCY TEST SHEET 2016

STANDARD REQUIRED

  • The A Test is the highest award of The Pony Club, and provides a comprehensive assessment of Horsemanship and Training of Young Horses. Passing the ‘A’ Test is a worthwhile achievement. It is accepted by the B.H.S. as an exemption from their Stages 3 and 4 Examination in Riding and Horse Care, (subject to recommendation by The Pony Club Training Committee and approval by the BHS Qualifications and Training Committee).
  • The ‘A’ Test is the highest award of The Pony Club, and provides a comprehensive assessment of Horsemanship and Training of Young Horses.

Candidates should have passed all previous Pony Club Tests, but must have passed B, Lungeing and AH. These Tests will have provided a staircase of knowledge and progression to underpin the work and riding that will be observed. This progression will have been supported by further training and practice with different coaches and with varied horses, as well as undertaking a wide range of reading, to give the breadth of knowledge required for this Test.

OBJECTIVE

The candidates should be able to:

  • Show a secure, correct, balanced seat on the flat and over fences.
  • Improve all horses they work, including young, awkward or refusing horses.
  • Be able to support the practical work shown with logical theory relevant to the individual horses.
  • Give the assessors confidence that a horse left with the candidate would improve in its way of going.

The assessors will be looking for the following criteria:

OUTSIDE RIDING

1. Show a correct, balanced, independent and secure position.
2. Choose a suitable length of stirrups for riding outdoors.
3. Show effective, co-ordinated aids, producing an appropriate response from the horse.
4. Show consistent and allowing rein aids.
5. Work a horse in showing a logical and progressive plan. Assess a horse specifically and accurately.
6. Offer individual and appropriate further work programmes for all types of horses and competitions.

OVER FENCES

7. Set stirrups at a suitable length for jumping.
8. Show a correct, balanced position over the horse’s centre of gravity, in approach, over a fence and on landing.
9. Show a secure lower leg position.
10. Show a hand/arm position which allows the horse natural stretch over the fence.
11. Adopt a forward rhythmical pace.
12. Maintain rhythm to and away from fences.
13. Present a horse to the fence in a way that allows him to jump easily.
14. Ride a smooth track between fences.
15. Ride with ease and competence allowing for bold riding around the course.
16. Use a whip proficiently if necessary.
17. Accurately assess the horse and its way of jumping.
18. Offer a specific training plan to improve the horse’s jumping.
19. Show a clear knowledge of distances between related fences, doubles and grids.  This should relate to the horse ridden, and be given in feet, yards or metres.
20. Comment on the value of grid work, both theoretically and in relation to the horses ridden. 
21. Demonstrate effective, logical use of fences in assessment of the horse and in developing work. 
22. Offer a plan to take the horse ridden forwards to jump a course of 1.10m.

CROSS COUNTRY

23. Adopt a correct, balanced position appropriate for undulating ground.
24. Maintain a secure lower leg position.
25. Demonstrate effective aids, coupled with a bold attitude.
26. Maintain a rhythmical balanced pace, both in between and on approach to fences.
27. Ride at a speed suitable for the ground and training of horse.
28. Approach fences so as to give the horse the best opportunity to jump well.
29. Use a whip effectively if required.
30. Give a clear assessment of the round ridden.
31. Understand how to ride a horse to specific types of fence e.g. rail & ditch combination, skinny, water, corner, bounce etc.
32. Outline a plan to improve the cross country performance of the horse in order to compete in Pony Club Open Eventing.

INDOOR RIDING

Correct classical position
33. Show a secure deep seat and leg position.
34. Demonstrate effective aids.
35. Maintain a consistent, correct contact.
36. Ride horses forward in balance.
37. Ride school figures accurately, appropriate to horses’ balance & level of work.
38. Show logical progressive work programmes based on the Scale of Training.
39. Accurately assess each horse’s way of going.
40. Present suitable specific programmes of improvement for the horses ridden.
41. Have a clear knowledge of the aids for all movements required in the Test (see below).
a) Direct transitions
b) Turn on the forehand
c) Leg yielding
d) Travers
e) Shoulder-in
f) Counter canter
g) Simple change
h) Rein back
i) Walk pirouette
j) Variations within the pace appropriate to horses’ level of training

42. Show a clear understanding of the preparation needed for all movements required in the Test (as in point 41)
43. Be able to ride all the movements required in the Test (as in point 41), and know when to use them.

LUNGEING

44. Handle the lunge line and whip safely and effectively.
45. Show suitable use of side reins.
46. Work the horse forward and in balance.
47. Show logical progressive work based on the Scale of Training.
48. Work in all paces as appropriate.
49. Work the horse on suitably sized circles.
50. Use poles appropriately.
51. Work the horse to show improvement.
52. Accurately assess the horse’s way of going.
53. Discuss the work carried out competently and confidently.
54. Discuss training aids which may be useful for the horse worked.
55. Suggest appropriate ongoing training.

TRAINING THE YOUNG HORSE

56. Show a sensible knowledge of handling young stock.
57. Present a safe and logical approach to lungeing and long reining.
58. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of long reining.
59. Discuss the appropriate tack for the purpose for which it is going to be used.
60. Suggest a safe and practical backing routine.
61. Suggest a safe and suitable initial riding plan.
62. Give appropriate ideas for widening the young horse’s education.
63. Outline a plan to introduce a horse to jumping.
64. Outline possible problems when introducing horses to jumping.
65. Give a logical programme to introduce horses to cross country fences.
66. Ensure the working area and equipment is safe and used appropriately.
67. Understand the safety implications related to helpers and other horses.
68. Discuss practical time scales for the various stages of training young horses.
69. Show awareness for the safety of helpers.

RECOMMENDED READING

The list below is by no means comprehensive. At this level candidates are encouraged to read many publications, articles and attend conventions with a wide variety of speakers.

Pony Club Publications:

  • The Manual of Horsemanship.
  • A Young Persons Guide to Eventing - Gill Watson.
  • To Be A Dressage Rider - Jane Kidd.
  • A Young Persons Guide to Show Jumping - Tim Stockdale.
  • Look…  No Hands! Straightforward Cross Country - Eric Smiley
  • The Pony Club Guide To Endurance Riding – Nicola Parsler
  • Vital Statistics: A Guide to Conformation – Maggie Raynor
  • Body Basics: A Guide to the Anatomy of the Horse – Maggie Raynor
  • Fit for the Bit: A Guide to Care of the Horse’s Mouth – Maggie Raynor and
  • All Systems Go! A Guide to Equine Fitness -  David Marlin and Maggie Raynor
  • The Pony Club Guide to Bits and Bitting – Carolyn Henderson

Suggested further reading:

  • British Dressage Rules (FEI Definitions of Paces and movements)
  • The Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principles of Classical Horsemanship - Alois Podhajsky
  • Complete Horse Riding Manual - William Micklem.
  • Training Show Jumpers - Anthony Paalman
  • Kottas on Dressage - Arthur Kottas
  • 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse & Rider – Jec Aristotle Ballou
  • The Basic Training of the Young Horse - Ingrid and Reiner Klimke
  • Cavaletti for Dressage and Jumping – Ingrid and Reiner Klimke
  • 101 Jumping Exercises: For Horse and Rider – Linda Allen

Internet Resources

HINTS ABOUT TAKING THE TEST

  • Dress tidily and cleanly, wear gloves and carry a stick or whip, bring your spurs.
  • Arrive at the Test centre in plenty of time to walk the Cross Country and Show Jumping Courses before the briefing.
  • Keep your stirrups to a practical workmanlike length.
  • Don’t fiddle with spurs, taking them off and putting them on again. If you are confident that you can use them correctly, it is acceptable for you to wear them. However, their misuse can be dangerous.
  • Look at the horse before you get on him; check the tack, look at the teeth; conformation and outlook may tell you something about the horse before you ride him.
  • When you first get on a strange horse and start riding, look about you and ‘feel’ how the horse is going. This is more relaxing and more reliable than looking at its head.
  • If you don’t know something, say so.
  • If you make a mistake, admit it.
  • If you get in a muddle when explaining something, say so, stop, and start again.
  • Learn suitable distances for ground poles and related distances, which can then be adapted to suit individual horses.
  • Avoid the ‘pat’ or ‘book’ answer. Don’t try to display all your knowledge. Instead, think seriously about the horse and then in the simplest terms possible, explain what faults there are and how you would go about overcoming them.

For example:

Q. What do you think about the way the horse is going?
A. He is on his forehand and lazy.
Q. How would you go about improving him?
A. The real problem is laziness; he doesn’t respond to my leg aids. This is the first thing I would correct. I would reinforce my leg aids with my stick until he became obedient. When he learns to go with more energy, I can expect more activity from his hind legs and hindquarters; he should then become a more balanced ride. It should then be possible to work to improve him.
The ‘pat’ reply might have been:
A. He needs more schooling. I would do a lot of turns, circles and transitions. Riding over undulating country might help.
This reply is not incorrect, but it does not show real knowledge.

In the indoor riding, don’t be afraid of riding the trained horse in a positive way. The trained horse is often a clever horse and knows better than most how to assess the rider’s ability.

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