What is dressage?
You may have seen dressage on the TV during the summer Olympic Games. Indeed, it saw a spike in popularity after the success of London 2012. Still, hardly anyone understands dressage or knows what it is. If you have a horse, you might be interested in learning more about this discipline. It could be something you look into doing with your horse, so here's a quick introduction to dressage:
Dressage is all about training your horse and learning how to do lots of different things with it. It is considered the highest form of training that a horse can undergo as it must perform countless skills from memory. By working together, you and your horse can navigate different obstacles and reach a unique connection.
People assume that dressage is easy because it looks simple on the TV. However, the top-level riders will undergo years of training to make it look that easy.
What are the benefits of dressage?
Dressage is technically a sport, so it benefits you by keeping you active. Indeed, you can tone up your leg and core muscles as you need firm control over your mount.
Moreover, dressage is beneficial as it helps you bond with your horse. There's such a huge sense of achievement at learning how to do a specific skill and executing it from memory. You'll be excited, and so will your horse. It creates a bond that most riders will never feel.
What does dressage consist of?
Dressage consists of a test that you have to take with your horse. You can think of a dressage test as almost like a performance. Both horse and rider are judged on how well you perform various tasks in a small arena. Most arenas are only 20m x 60m, though smaller ones are found at beginner events. There will be a series of things you have to do based on your level. The higher level you are, the more complicated the dressage test will be. Judges score you based on how well you perform each task, as well as your flow between the tasks. It's almost akin to the floor performance at a gymnastics event! You're marked out of 10, 10 being the best, and 0 being the worst.
What do you typically have to do during a dressage test?
As mentioned above, dressage tests differ depending on the difficulty level. However, we can identify a few common things you and your horse will be asked to do.
Firstly, there are gates in the arena that you have to move through as you make your way around the course. A common request is that you change your speed when moving through the gates. Judges will get you to slow your horse down to a standstill, then speed back up. It's a fantastic test of how well-trained your horse is.
Some movements also get your horse to weave in and out of obstacles or do a small jump. It's also popular to encourage lateral movement. What this means is you have to train your horse to move from side to side.
How do you get involved in dressage?
If you want to enjoy this casually, there are lots of riding clubs around the UK that provide trainers and lessons. You can attend these at your leisure and slowly train your horse to perform different tasks. Of course, you can take this knowledge to your own field and employ it there in your spare time.
For those of you that want to take things seriously, you need to find an affiliate club in the UK. Here, you should also be able to find a coach that can help you on your journey. When you're ready, your coach and club will help you sign up for your first dressage test.
We mentioned this earlier, but dressage tests are based on your level, which basically determines your ability. The levels are as follows:
- Advanced Medium
- Prix St George
- Intermediate I
- Intermediate II
- Grand Prix
As you move through the levels, different skills are introduced. For example, walk and trot are the only two skills tested at the Intro level. In Novice, canter gets added, and so on. Grand Prix is the highest level, and this is where the Olympic athletes compete throughout the year.
We hope this has given you a brief introduction to dressage and how you can get involved. If you like the sound of it, don't hesitate to get in touch with a local club to start your dressage journey.