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The 3-4 Year Test

The Three and Four Year Test encourages earlier riding and training of more horses and builds a closer cooperation among breeders, trainers, and judges, which in turn results in more young horses partnered with the right rider. From a breeding standpoint, it should lead to a better identification of good mares for breeding as 3-year-olds. Horses of all sexes are eligible to participate in the test, therefore, progeny testing of parents (both stallions and mares) can be made more effectively than previously. Breeding for jumping and breeding for dressage become equally important goals in the 3-year test. Therefore, the test should be regarded an important service to horse owners both as regards breeding and riding.

Every horse is judged in the following two categories:

1. Gaits in freedom, free jumping and conformation.
Evaluation is best done indoors in a riding arena. It is recommended that the horse is shown for evaluation of canter at liberty first, then free jumping and finally shown in hand for evaluation of its conformation.

2. Voluntary riding test.
This riding test is mandatory for horses to be eligible to qualify for diploma. The riding test is done with groups of 1-4 horses, ridden in walk, trot and canter in both directions

The horse shall be equipped with snaffle bridle during all elements of the test. Protective boots are allowed at all times except during conformation judging. The rider shall always wear protective helmet.

Gaits at liberty, free jumping and judging of conformation is best done indoors on an arena measured 20x40 meters. If a larger arena is used, excessive area should be blocked off. Mirrors, if present, should be covered.

A program in which the participating horses are presented, first the stallions followed by horses for sale, is recommended. When many horses are entered, the organizers may also provide an announcer who over loudspeaker presents the result of judging, describes its purpose, presents the individual horses with pedigree, owner, breeder and informs whether a horse is for sale.

The horse is judged at three stations as follows:
1. Veterinary inspection, measurement of height, and check of identity. (When Veterinary inspection is included)
2. Gaits at liberty, free jumping and conformation.
3. Voluntary riding test. The riding test is obligatory if the horse is considered for diploma.

Time Schedule
Five minutes is calculated for item 1, and 15 minutes for item 2. It is recommended that the riding test be performed in the afternoon after the last morning horse completed the free jumping. The riding test for the horses judged in the afternoon is likewise done after the last horse in the afternoon group completed the free jumping. If a special riding test judge is provided, each horse may be ridden after its free jumping is completed. Exception is made for stallions which should be allowed to complete all the requirements before other horses are judged.

The judges are normally two ASVH approved judges who are authorized to judge the elements of the test, which conformation, jumping and rideability. When a special judge is used for the riding test, he/she must be a gait judge, approved beforehand by ASVH.

Doping (drugging)
Horses trained for or participating in the three-year-test must not be doped (drugged) with prohibited substances or other disallowed means that can affect its performance or temperament.

Pregnant mares
Mares that are pregnant beyond the 4th month or have a foal of less than 4 months of age at side, are prohibited from participating in the 3-yr-test. Foals are not permitted at the site of judging.

Abbreviations used:

  • HNB — head, neck, and body
  • FJA — free jumping, technique and ability
  • FJT — free jumping, temperament and general impression

Each element is judged from 1-10. Two different final scores are calculated:

Dressage talent
Type (1-10) + HNB (1-10) + legs (1-10) + walk (1-10) + trot (1-10) + canter (1-10) = Final score, maximum 60 points.
Justification: The elements used in calculation are principally the same as in the current system. The scores of the current system have proven to be well correlated with the results of quality testing for dressage talents.

Jumping talent
Type (1-10) + HNB (1-10) + legs (1-10) + canter (1-10) + FJA (1-10) + FJT (1-10) = Final score, maximum 60 points.
The Dressage Emphasis Test

The horse is scored in six areas on a scale of one to ten:

  1. Type
  2. Head/neck/body
  3. Legs
  4. Walk (in hand)
  5. Trot (in hand)
  6. Free Canter

The Jumping Emphasis Test
The horse is scored for conformation and jumping ability in six areas on a scale of one to ten:

  1. Type
  2. Head/neck/body
  3. Legs
  4. Free Canter
  5. Free jumping (technique)
  6. Free jumping (temperament and general impression)

The choice of elements is such that the jump and canter scores carry the most weight. For a good riding horse model the score for head neck and body is important, also (well set neck and withers well suited to carry the saddle) , as well as a reasonably correct legs. The scores for walk and trot are judged less important because jumping ability is generally considered mostly related to the canter.

Three-Year-Old Test Scoring
Each participating horse (stallion, gelding and mare) is classified (Diploma, I-IV) for jumping and for dressage ability as shown below:

Dressage Diploma: 47 points or more with no single mark lower than seven and gait scores over seven and acceptable riding test.

Jumping Diploma: 47 points or more with no single mark lower than seven and jumping scores of at least eight in both areas and acceptable riding test.

Other horses
Class I 45 points or more with no single mark lower than five
Class II 42-44 points with no single mark lower than five
Class III 40-41 points
Class IV < 40 points and when the horse received a partial score of <5 in any of the elements included in the final score

Diploma and Class I mares are highly recommended for breeding.

(In those instances veterinary inspection is part of the 3-yr- test)

Veterinary examination is done at a quiet site with level and hard surface. There should be space to show the horse at the walk and the trot.

A veterinarian with equine experience. The site should be adjacent to the place for identity control and measurement.

The horse should be shown in snaffle bridle but otherwise no equipment. The shoes must have cocks removed. .

The horse should be well prepared since the horse will be examined by a for the horse new person at an unknown place.

Veterinary examination is done as a routine health examination. No score is given but if the horse has a condition that the veterinarian judges incompatible with participation, it will be disqualified.

Measurements and identity control are done at a quiet site with level and hard surface. The height at the withers is given in whole centimeters with 0.5-1 cm deducted for shoes.

The site management is responsible that trained personnel with equipment is available at the site. Original registration certificate has to be presented. Color and markings are checked against papers, corrections are made for discrepancies.

The horse should be shown in snaffle bridle but otherwise no equipment. If the shoes have cocks, they must be removed.

The horse should be well prepared since the horse will meet and measured by a person that the horse is unfamiliar with.

Gaits at liberty, with emphasis on canter, are shown indoors on an arena measuring 20x40 meters. Fences are disassembled and rails moved so that the “square track” becomes free. The arena is limited to the desired size with rails or similar, for example plastic tape like that used by police. Rope should not be used. Rails may be used to cut the corners.

Judge and personnel
Judge – see general rules and directions. The owner/rider and their groom will handle the showing of canter at liberty as directed by the judge. The management shall, however, assign two persons familiar with showing horses at liberty to assist if necessary. The horse is judged as shown.

The horse shall be equipped with snaffle bridle but without reins. Boots for leg protection are permitted. Bucket for grain (oats) may be used. The personnel shall be neatly and suitably dressed and wear helmet.

Gaits in hand and at liberty are judged as follows:

The walk: Purity of the gait, length of step, cadence, agility (mobility), energy, elasticity, relaxation, push and other considerations.

The trot: Purity of the gait, , length of step, cadence, agility (mobility), energy, suspension, elasticity, balance, relaxation, back action, hind leg activity, freedom of the shoulder and front leg activity, and other considerations.

The canter: Length of stride, cadence , balance, energy, buoyancy/roundness, elasticity, relaxation and other considerations.


(click to see a larger version of this diagram)

In 2013 SWB changed the free jumping for the 3-year old test and the quality test for 4- year olds. Free jumping is now performed over three fences. The judging and the height of the jumps have not changed and follow earlier years judging. Free canter is still shown on the rail. The three fence system has a main jump of an oxer type and two help fences. The jumps are placed with one stride in between.

Free jumping should take place in arena the size of 20x40 m (65x131 feet). If a bigger arena is used it should be made smaller with help of plastic bands or poles on stands. The use of rope is not allowed. Poles or plastic bands should be used to cut off the corners. Please see the arena layout below. The footing should be as sure footed as possible. If there are mirrors, they should be covered. A space for the judges with table and chairs should be available in the middle of the long side opposite the fences at a minimum of 2 m (6 feet 6 inches) from the rail. Several rakes should be available to be used when necessary. Three lunge whips and a measuring tape/stick should also be available. The host should have two people assigned to the jumps and two people who can assist upon the request of the judge.

The fences contain only poles of good standard such as competition poles. For the jumps, the following is desired: nine round poles which should have a length of 3, 5 m (11 feet 5 inches). Also eight stands are required, could be four regular stands and four wall attached stands, cups which two has to be safety cups., 2-3 ground poles preferably cut in half length wise not to roll preferably painted white. Hollow plastic poles are not allowed. If cups are made of plastic and not used they can stay on the stands.

After about three rounds the main fence should be at 39.3 inches (100 cm) in height and the length 100 cm (39.3 inches). If this size of fence is jumped ok according to the judge the score 5 (sufficient) is given. A horse is not guaranteed a score of 5 just because the fence is cleared. The owner of the horse can before the judging starts let the judge know that, if horse jumps sufficient, that will be plenty. Increasing the height of the fence can be done to a maximum of 130 cm (51.2 inches) for horses that are capable but the length of the fence can only be 120 cm ( 47.2 inches) and has to be a normal oxer with the front pole 5 cm (2 inches) lower than the back pole. Judging should be done when about six jumps over the main jump is completed.

The distances 6.8, 7.0, and 7.5 meters, shall be marked on the wall.

The fence shall be of type oxer without fill and with the rear rail 10 centimeter (4”) higher than the front one. A ground rail shall be placed 30 centimeters (1’) in front of the obstacle. The rear rail shall rest on so called safety rail supports. Empty steel rail supports must never be left on the standards. The heights 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 meters (43”, 47”, and 51”) shall be visibly marked on the inner standard and the length of 1.2 meters (47”) on the wall.

The horse should be allowed to jump 2 – 3 times without the rear rail on the oxer. Thereafter the “help fence” and the full oxer are jumped. The initial height shall be 80 centimeter (31.5”) and is gradually increased so that after approximately 6 attempts, a height of 1.1 meters and the maximal length of 1.2 meters is reached. This obstacle size is required for the horse to achieve 5 points for the free jumping. Further increase to maximally 1.3 meters may be done for horses that show capacity. The length of the obstacle shall remain at 1.2 meters and the type of the fence a normal oxer.

The horse is preferably run indoors along the long side of the arena. The footing should be as firm as possible, rather hard than soft. The site to stand the horse is marked with rails, chalk or similar. A judge’s table with chair is placed in the middle of the arena.

As at regular shows, a warm-up site where the horse can be prepared is desirable. The judging is not interrupted until the horse has been presented at liberty.

The handler should be dressed in neatly and suitably and preferably wear athletic type shoes. The handler shall wear helmet but must not have spurs. When showing a stallion, the handler shall carry a whip. See also General Rules for Showing In Hand.

The horses shall wear a snaffle bridle. A longer lead is recommended for stallions. No leg wraps, boots or similar is allowed.

The judges will score:

  1. Type
  2. Head, neck and body
  3. The walk (Mechanics of movements at the walk)
  4. The trot (Mechanics of the movements at the trot)
  5. The canter (Mechanics of the movements at the canter)

Verbal critique and score is given after the conformation judging is finished.
See also directions for showing in-hand.

The handler walks the horse towards the judging place at a brisk walk of good pace. The handler is placed at the level of the left shoulder and holds the reins crossed or separated in the right hand and the whip, if used, in the left hand.

Standing the horse up
The horse is put up at the assigned place and the halt is timely prepared. After the halt, the handler moves in front of the horse with one rein in each hand. The rein is held approximately 8 inches below the bit rings and the end of the reins well collected.

The horse is stood up with the “open” side towards the conformation judge, that is the near fore foot somewhat in front of the other one, and the near hind foot somewhat behind the other hind foot. The body weight shall regardless be equally distributed among the four feet. The horse shall not stand “in front, under, or behind” itself. The head of the horse is held naturally and the handler’s attention is primarily on the horse. When the judge wants to see the horse from the front, the handler steps to the side. When the judge changes side, the handler will with small aids make the horse change over its “open side”.

Showing at the walk
When the conformation judging in place is done, the handler will regain his/her position at the left shoulder and walk the horse, following the judge’s directions.

Showing at the trot
When the judge asks for trot, the handler will collect the reins in the right hand to enable the handler to follow the horse without pulling on the reins and thereby bending the horse’s neck, spoiling its action. The handler should keep the position at the shoulder and run lively with maintained pace.

The speed is slowed before turning which is always done to the right with the horse moving “away” from the handler.

Dress and a Recommendation
The handler shall wear helmet, and be nicely and suitably dressed so the horse can be followed in a brisk trot with “schwung”. (Note: conventional riding apparel is rarely useful for running!) The horse’s possibility to obtain a good score must not be spoiled by a handler’s inability to keep up with the horse at the trot.

The purpose with the riding test is to make the breeder/owner start the young horse early (but to use judgment and take it easy) so that its rideability and temperament can be evaluated.

The riding test is preferably done after the free jumping is completed, except that stallions should be finished before other horses begin to be judged. The horses are ridden at the walk, trot and canter in both directions in front of the judge(s).

It is preferred that the horses are shown outdoors on a 30x60-meter arena or indoors on an arena of at least 20x40-meter size. Outdoors the arena must be clearly limited by a fence, rails or similar. Dressage fence is not recommended. The footing shall be level and not too heavy or hard. The judge(s) should be positioned at the middle point of the long or short side of the arena and 5 meters (20feet) inside or outside the limits of the arena. It is ideal if a horse trailer or similar is placed 5 meters outside the arena and containing a table and a chair.

A place for warm-up shall be provided where the footing is as close to that of the arena as possible.

See General Rules and Directions, Judges.

The horse shall be equipped with saddle, snaffle bridle with a one or two-jointed snaffle bit, caveson and reins of the rider’s choice. The headstall and bridle shall be made of leather. Boots are permitted. Other equipment such as martingale, side reins, rubber bit guards etc. are not permitted.

The rider’s dress shall consist of riding coat, breeches, riding boots and white polo shirt or shirt with tie or stock tie. Approved helmet must be worn. Whip is allowed, however, riders of stallions must carry a whip. Spurs are not allowed.

The horse shall be shown in both directions in all gaits. The horses are first shown at the trot (rider posting), thereafter at the canter, and finally at free walk with the reins hanging, according to the judge’s instructions. The gaits under rider are not scored, just the general impression which includes forwards desire (impulsion) and cooperation. Pass is given for a well-done riding test and Fail for a less well-done riding test.

Last updated on: 6/6/2005