I went to a clinic about the new USDF dressage tests and what judges are looking for. As I said before - there are only 3 tests at each level, all are under 6 minutes and they all focus on harmony.
The Oregon Dressage Society has a very thorough omnibus you should consider buying if you will be showing. You can get them at ORdressagesociety.org. The directives (which we should all read and take note of and many riders don't according to the judges) are listed in the OR omnibus and they are not in the CO omnibus. Directives are NOT listed in order of importance when printed in a test.
There is much more emphasis on transitions with the new tests - can you say coefficient? (meaning if you do a nice transition where it's called for in a test, it's like a Scrabble double word score and you can take it times 2)
Anything I cap locked meant I underlined it in my notes so there must've been special emphasis around those words or ideas. Hope this is helpful to someone!
The test changes focus on:
Forward and steady tempo - elastic contact - proper geometry of figures - correct bend, circles and corners. No more slice of bread or egg shaped circles. Riders will be judged on independent steady hands and a correctly balanced seat. The only coefficient in this test is for submission.
Supple is key in this test. Horses should be freely forward - steady rhythm - accept contact with the bit. Willingness is huge - it's mentioned 9 times in the test directives along with calm. The canter transition has a coefficient. The judges say the USDF is emphasizing correctness vs. flashy. Will there be a change? Guess we'll wait and find out eh?
In addition to the Training Level goals, there is a call for more push or thrust forward with improved balance and thoroughness. Horses should be more consistent in contact with the bit. Supple and consistency in tempo are used a lot in the directives for this test. There is a new movement of lengthening the canter now. Changes in collective marks are for gaits x 1, impulsion x 2, submission x 2.
Rider collectives are going in this direction but the judges said they are not in stone at this time: Rider position - correct placement of weight, able to follow horse's mechanics (elasticity)
Use of aids - effective without obvious aids, geometry of figures
Harmony of horse and rider - attentive, relaxed, fluid, trust in rider
The forward thrust from First Level is required with more weight in hind quarters - more uphill - especially in medium gaits - horse should be reliably on the bit - STRAIGHT and with more bend, suppleness, thoroughness, balance and self carriage. Clarity of transitions - the judges talked here how many rider/horse teams sort of simply peter out after the medium gaits and there isn't a clear transition between medium trot and collected trot. Harmony is emphasized with words like calm and effortless in the directives. There is more counter canter and the size of the turn on the haunches is defined to 1 meter.
More uphill than Second Level and now increased engagement and EXTENDED gaits are introduced. Again , well defined transitions are emphasized and the need for engagement with increased flexion in the lumbar-sacral joint and hocks. The forehand should be lighter. Regularity, uphill and fluency are the words used most in the directives. Flying change on the center line is new. Test 3 has 2 changes, test 2 has 4 changes. There is no coefficient or special attention paid to flying changes - there was talk about how "we" make the flying changes a big deal and they should not be and the new tests reflect this.
This was the level with the most changes. The directives talk about sufficient suppleness, impulsion, LIGHTNESS, engagement of hindquarters, CADENCE and EXPRESSION. There are 4 tempi changes which is new, a working canter pirouette, collected walk pirouette, a focus on permeability - meaning no blockage of energy, lateral reach and SELF CARRIAGE, elasticity and suspension, self - carriage in the flying change, size of the half-pirouette is not AS important. Test 3 isn't as hard as it previously was - many didn't show Fourth Test 3 and moved right into Saint Georges level because it was just as hard - they are trying to use Fourth Level to prepare the riders well without frustrating them. Straightness under submission is a change in the collective marks.