Dressage is a French term meaning “training” and its purpose is to develop the horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work making him calm, supple and attentive to his rider.
If you are a history buff, you might be interested in reading more about the beginnings of dressage that date back to Xenophon in Greece and include a long line of riding masters, both from the military and the famous riding schools which developed during the Baroque era.
Currently, competitive dressage involves nine progressive levels incorporating multiple tests within each level. Special tests are also written for musical freestyle, sport horse breeding and performances incorporating multiple horses and riders. Tests are revised every four years by the United States Dressage Federation, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).
Competition occurs in a regulation size arena with specific apparel and equipment all regulated by USEF. Judges are licensed by the USEF and the FEI and are assisted by scribes who write down the judge’s scores and comments during the test.
Success in dressage is dependent on the rider’s position and ability but because of the goal of the training, many horse breeds can be quite successful.
Watching dressage can be very exciting, especially the musical freestyle rides or tests at the FEI (highest) levels.
If you would like to continue learning about dressage, visit the bookstore or join USDF to obtain special member rates to the annual convention and other educational opportunities throughout the year.