Apparently I have been showing 4th level enough years that they re-wrote the tests for me!
In reality, the tests are re-written every 4 years and I rode Fourth Level, Test 1 for the first time in 2012 and I just rode the new test for the first time this 2015 show season. To learn more about the new tests, refer to Dressage Today.
Universo and I like the minor changes in Fourth level, Test 1; the flying changes from counter canter at M and H feel more fluid and easier to accomplish than riding through the corner to change at C, adding the 3 changes of lead across the diagonal increased the level of difficulty, and moving the walk pirouettes off the rail to the line between M and H actually made it easier for me and Universo to execute them correctly (you may remember my post last year about working on walk pirouettes in preparation for showing).
It seems like I have been riding 4th Level for a long time, but I only manage to compete once or twice a year, so my show experience at 4th Level is actually limited. Last summer was the first time I competed 4th Level, Test 2 and that was only the one class for NCDCTA 4th level championships. I had the scores from riding Test 1 to be eligible, but I had never ridden Test 2. When I told the secretary that I had never ridden the test, and questioned my ability to compete, she urged me to just “do it” and “have fun”. So I did and earned a fairly respectable score of 59.595% for what was literally my 3rd time riding the test (2 times under the instruction of my trainer) and at the competition.
Competition riding is different then training at home. I am actually finally schooling solid 4th Level work and above, which allows me to compete with a greater degree of skill and confidence than in previous years. My trainer, Kris Barrett, keeps Universo ahead of me, teaching him the movements while increasing his collection, gymnastic ability, and overall quality of gait. My goal is to gain more show experience becoming more relaxed in the show arena and to increase my acquisition of test-riding skills, so that Universo and I can slowly and steadily move up to Prix St. Georges!