By Victoria Malcolm
Dressage showcases a horse’s natural movement, balance, suppleness, and obedience, as well as the accuracy and concentration of both horse and rider. For the rider, there’s the added challenge of ensuring the test is truly embedded in their mind. Taking a wrong turn is, at best, frustrating and, at worst, a heartbreaking end to months of hard work. Thankfully, there is a new tool that’s designed to help riders ace their test, every time.
Dressage TestPro is the brainchild of UK-based husband and wife partnership James and Tracy-Anne Ormrod. The TestPro series of apps enable riders to see the test being ‘drawn’ on the screen in front of them, then, when they are more familiar with the movements, draw it for themselves. The app offers prompts, when needed, and also can be set to ‘read’ the test out loud. The audio function is perfect for riders learning the test in the saddle, without the support of someone to call the next movement from the sidelines. This three-step learning process embeds the test in the rider’s mind and allows them to visualize the whole test being drawn for them. So, how did the TestPro series of apps come about?
Tracy is a keen dressage rider, coach, and breeder, and both she and James have successful careers in IT and software development, working for global brands and government organizations. Mobile software was an area of keen interest when, in 2017 and after several years thinking about ‘doing an app’ for the equestrian sector, the first ideas around Dressage TestPro came to fruition.
Tracy was busy learning a test for her next dressage competition when James, seeing her ‘drawing’ the test out with her finger on paper, remarked that “surely there was an app for that.” This was at a time when touchscreen technology was becoming more mature and widespread, and this was the ‘aha’ moment they had been looking for. Tracy and James researched the market and found an existing dressage test app, but it didn’t have the crucial interactive features needed to really help riders. A prototype app was being developed as James was asked if he wanted to take voluntary redundancy from his job. This meant he was able to devote all his time to the app as the end of 2017 arrived.
A critical element of the successful development of the TestPro apps was Tracy and James’ working relationship with British Dressage (BD), the UK’s governing body for dressage competitions and development. They approached the organization’s CEO Jason Brautigam with their prototype app, and kept in contact as they began to flesh it out. BD has committees managing judges and organizers, and Tracy was able to present the early versions of the app to them for their expert feedback. There were also several testers from within the BD ranks who helped bring the app to where it is today, many of whom remain great advocates for the brand.
Tracy and James had a vision that their app would be used by riders around the world, so the next step was to begin liaising with overseas dressage federations regarding their licensing requirements. It was essential that this was in place before they developed the country-specific app and meant liaison with federations when they were developing their next cycles of tests.
All new apps are developed in-house, before the federation starts testing it themselves. For this external testing, the app is handed over to Apple and Google for a testing review to ensure they are happy first. Once the federations have thoroughly user-tested their version of the app, the last stage is to pull together all the images and videos needed for all the tests. This is tested by brand ambassadors on a range of Apple and Android devices before being submitted to the app stores for approval. Tracy and James choose the ‘go-live’ date on the app store.
The team behind the TestPro apps are constantly innovating and working on new releases, as well as enhancing the usability of the existing apps. Some great news for both American and British freestyle fans – there will soon be a TestPro app with a free drawing area for riders to design and learn their own USDF and BD freestyle test. Tracy and James are also working on improving the speaking ‘voice’ that reads out the tests, so that it is really clear and easy to understand. With the holiday season not far away at all, the team is also working on a way for people to gift the app to others as a festive dressage-themed present!
If you’re interested in trying the revolutionary TestPro dressage test apps for yourself, you’ll find the United States Dressage Federation version, TestPro USDF, available to download from the Apple and Google App Stores now. You can also explore the website here: http://dressagetestpro.com.