In the dressage arena, style, presence and grace matter. While the horse's movements and the rider's abilities weigh heavily, how you salute the judge before starting your test is very important. As soon as you enter the ring, you and your horse are being judged. The salute is not only a sign of respect for the judge, but it signals that you are ready to begin your test.
Halt your horse. Enter the dressage ring and walk straight ahead, towards the judge's stand. Keeping your horse straight, halt. Because you are being judged, straightness and your horse's ability to stand still is very important.
Make eye contact. Hopefully you have been looking at the judge the entire time you came up the center line, but if you were not, now is the time to make full eye contact. Doing so gives the impression of confidence.
Put the reins in one hand. Hold the reins with the hand you will not use for the salute.
If you are a male rider, remove your hat with your free hand. While not traditional, it is permitted to touch the hat's brim only.
Drop your free hand to your side, behind the thigh. Make sure your fingers are pointing downwards and that your hand is relaxed, not clenched. Hold your arm straight but do not make it stiff. This is a fluid, graceful movement.
While still making eye contact, nod your head at the judge. A good way to do this is to let your chin almost touch the chest as your head bows. Look at the judge again when you raise your head.
Wait for the judge. Now that you've acknowledged the judge, she will do the same for you. If she was standing as you entered the arena, she will sit down. This is your cue that it is time to begin the test.
If you are a male rider, put on your hat.
Organize. As with any transition, organization helps you and your horse to move smoothly into the next activity. Make sure the reins are even and that your hands are holding the reins correctly. Ask the horse to move forward with subtle cues.