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Dressage comes from the french word "training" and "deportment" and is both an art and sport combined. It describes the process of schooling a horse to respond obediently and effortlessly to it's rider's commands. I hope you enjoy this page and get a better understanding of dressage. One more thing- if you get only one thing out of this, let it be that dressage is not a snob squad!

Why do I enjoy dressage? I'd say because of it's beauty, how it combines both art and sport and how the rider is able to control an animal so much larger then themselves and put them through so many different movements. I love to watch a horse perform with such beauty, grace and finesse.

How Dressage Began

At the time of wars, soldiers were required to train their horses (called cavalry horses) to respond to leg and seat aids in order for them to carry weapons while riding. Many of the leading soldiers, or officers, knew how to train a horse extremely well. They became important instructors and handed down their knowledge of training. The French were especially good at this and named it "dressage". The word "dressage" is now used in all languages around the world.

What Dressage Is

Dressage is a system of training where the horse and rider work together as one. It is the systematic, gymnastic development of the horse and is a program of suppling, balancing and obedience work. Natural paces and abilities, which a horse will sometimes display at pasture, are developed and built on to create more difficult movements. These range from simple patterns and circles to extreme collection such as piaffe.

Purpose Of Dressage

The purpose of dressage is to get a horse moving freely and in natural balance. To create a more alert, supple and responsive animal.

Dressage Training

There are six goals when it comes to training a horse in dressage- rhythm, contact, suppleness, collection, straightness and impulsion. You must gradually enable the horse to carry more of his own and rider's weight over his hindquarters than over his forehand. When you get him coming from behind like this, it will create lighter forehand and a horse that is much easier to steer and stop.

Movements Of Dressage

There are three basic gaits in dressage: walk, trot and canter. Each one can be preformed in either extended, lengthened, working (regular), collected or medium. Circles include 10, 15 and 20 meters, where voltes are eight meters or less. Lateral movements include shoulder-in, travers, renvers, leg yields, and half-passes, all which test the horses ability to respond to the riders legs. Some other movements are diagonals, serpentines, center lines, flying changes- the horse changes the leg he is leading with in the canter, tempi changes- flying changes at certain intervals (for example every four strides), pirouettes-the horse will pivot around his hind legs, passage- an elevated trot which makes the horse appear to be floating, and piaffe-the most collected movement where the horse will trot on the spot.

Dressage Competitions

In competition, horses preform tests which reflect the movements used in schooling and determine the horse's correct progress toward goals such as suppleness, balance and obedience. Dressage tests are from the Basic levels, which are ridden in a twenty by forty meter ring, up to Grand Prix level tests, which are ridden in the larger twenty by sixty sized ring. Competitive dressage is much like figure skating in a way that it requires movements and gaits to be preformed in certain sequences. Judges will mark each movement on a scale from one to ten (one=not preformed ten=excellent) and give the test a total score.


Leonie Bramall and Gilbona

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