All dressage tests finish with a salute on the centre line, and from Elementary level and above there’s a salute at the beginning too.
From a judge’s perspective, a nice salute and a smile leaves a positive, lasting impression on them. So if you finish with a smile and a smart salute the judge will appreciate it, and possibly write more positive comments and be more generous with the collective marks. Their final impression of you is a good one.
Someone told me years ago that you should always smile at the end of a dressage test because if it’s gone well you should show that you’re satisfied with your performance, and if it’s gone wrong then you aren’t berating yourself too much – I guess the phrase “smiling ruefully” springs to mind.
I also like to see horses and ponies getting a pat and neck scratch as a competitor leaves the arena on a long rein. Certainly it’s something I do each time I leave.
Anyway, I thought I’d share with you the tried and tested salute that I learnt as a child. It’s not flashy, being a workmanlike movement, but it means it is as at home in the show ring, dressage arena, or jumping ring.
Emphasis was put, when teaching us the salute, on not rushing it. So we had to count each step to slow us down.
Firstly, ride forwards to halt, as square as possible, but ensure you establish the halt before saluting. There’s nothing worse than a rider saluting as their horse stops. It looks impatient, suggesting you are an impatient rider.
On the count of one, place your whip and reins into one hand. In the show ring you salute with the hand nearest the judge, but in dressage most riders use their dominant hand, or the one without the whip in.
On two, drop your saluting hand down so that it is vertical, just behind your knee.
On three, give a clear nod down of the head. On four, raise the head again, smiling to the judge. Dividing the nod into two counts ensures it’s not a quick bob of the head, that could be missed by a judge blinking.
And on five, bring your hand back up and retake the reins. Then proceed in walk (or trot, or canter if your salute is not the final movement).
I’ve seen a lot of emphatic salutes recently, with great flourishes of the hand, or even naval style salutes. Neither of which appeal to me. But then again I’m a person who likes plain browbands, no frills or ruffles.
I would encourage anyone unsure of how to salute correctly to watch Charlotte Dujardin and other famous dressage riders to see the succinct, crisp, clear way that they salute the judge.