What is Dressage?

I may help Heather with photography, social media, and her website, but I know nothing about riding. I couldn’t tell you the difference between dressage or western. I figure there must be others out there like me and some of them want to learn what dressage is or maybe why they should learn dressage. We get to learn about dressage, and you don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting because I did all the research! You get to sit back, sip your favorite beverage, and learn all about dressage!

Merriam Webster defines dressage as the following:

-the execution by a trained horse of precision movements in response to barely perceptible signals from its rider
-the word dressage is French and means to train or drill.

Think of dressage as a foundation. Any rider can benefit from starting with dressage. If you are unsure which direction your riding will take you, starting with dressage is beneficial for both horse and rider.

dressageThrough dressage, your horse can become more athletic and more disciplined, and you’ll become a better rider. It will help develop your horse’s gait and responsiveness. You will improve balance and create a unique connection to your horse.

Learning the Basics

The pyramid of training is a great framework to progress through dressage. The base of the pyramid is rhythm. You may or may not go sequentially through the pyramid, but it is more helpful to build your training and experience. The pyramid is as follows:

Rhythm – energy and tempo
Relaxation – elasticity and suppleness
Connection – acceptance of bit through acceptance of aids
Impulsion – increased power and thrust
Straightness – improved alignment and balance
Collection – increased engagement, lightness of the forehand, self-carriage

A handy brochure can be found here.

The Test

Dressage tests are a great way to check you and your horses progress. You will be competing against your self to get a better score each time. The tests are done in an arena that is 20×40 (or 60) meters with letter marks at certain spots in the arena. Riders do a formalized sequence and a panel of judges rate horse and rider on a 0-10 scale. To move to the next level, you will want to achieve at least 60% on your tests consistently.

There are several levels in dressage:

  • Training Level
  • First Level
  • Second Level
  • Third Level
  • Fourth Level
  • Prix St. Georges
  • Intermediare┬áLevels
  • Grand Prix

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to dressage! We hope to do more articles on the training pyramid, dressage levels, and various aspects of testing!

What level of dressage are you?

Interested in buying a horse to be able to advance in dressage? Check out our post on buying a horse and get your free worksheet for when you start looking!

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