The concept of dressage dates back as far as 350 BC when the Athenian historian and soldier Xenophon completed his 'On Horsemanship' manual. However, it wasn't until the 16th and 17th centuries that dressage began to develop as an art form with the sporting side arriving in the 19th century.
The concept of dressage
The concept of producing obedient, supple and responsive mounts was essentially a military idea - the better schooled your horse, the better he would be in battle. However, this was also combined with a desire by the nobility to be seen 'about town' on magnificent steeds with exaggerated movement which clearly demonstrated their ability as horsemen. And so 'dressage' was born.
In Britain, the key advocate of early dressage was William Cavendish (pictured above), the first duke of Newcastle. His book of 1658, 'A general system of horsemanship' set the precedent and signified a new, sympathetic way of training horses.
The page outlining the Timeline highlights some key events in the development of dressage while Dressage through the ages clearly shows how the sport has evolved.
Dressage in the modern age is twofold; the training side which is part of equestrian fundamentals and the competition side which is the test of what we do in training.
The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) is the sole controlling authority for horse sport around the globe. British Dressage is affiliated to the FEI through membership of the British Equestrian Federation. Check out the FEI's amazing history hub with lots of pictures from over 100 years of horse sports in the Olympics.