All about dressage

If you aspire to riding and communicating with your horse better, dressage is for you. Whether you love jumping or cross-country, or just want to improve yourself and your horse a little, or have a burning desire to compete, dressage will have something to offer.

Young horse smiling Charlotte Dujardin

The images of top level dressage riders executing intricate movements in a tailcoat may seem out of reach to some, but dressage is about so much more. The word 'dressage' comes from the French term, 'dresseur' meaning 'training' and adding just a few minutes of it into your daily routine can help in many ways.

Dressage is all about learning to work with your horse and help him achieve greater suppleness, flexibility and obedience; enhance his natural movements and ability and improve his athleticism. 

It's for exactly these reasons that dressage was originally developed by the cavalry in the 17th century – after all, having an unresponsive or undisciplined horse on the battlefield could have meant the difference between life or death. Only later did it develop into some of the more flamboyant moves still seen today at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.  As with many equestrian sports, necessity on the battlefield, developed into the sporting spectacle we now enjoy.

As a sport, dressage is all about putting training into practice in front of a judge (or judges) to show how the horse's development is progressing against a set ideal.  From the lowest level to the pinnacle, horse and rider perform movements in a rectangular arena and are awarded marks for their efforts by a judge or panel of judges.  

Dressage is a sport for any rider – it is up to you how far you want to take it. But be warned, it can become addictive!

Dressage principles

The fundamentals behind the sport for riders, judges, officials and fans
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Dressage defined

What's involved in the sport: the arena, tests, horses, riders and more
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Paces and movements

A video guide to the dressage test, broken down bit by bit
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The history of dressage

From ancient Greece to Tokyo, learn how dressage has evolved
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