Dressage – The Ultimate in Horse and Rider Training and Competition?

Dressage is considered by most trainers of competition horses to be one of the best methods of training a horse for a number of pursuits and especially for flexibility.

Dressage pure and simple is used in the most basic exercises and competitions or tests right up to Prix St Georges – Olympic Standard.

Dressage may be equally used as a means of training to achieve flexibility and response for show jumpers as well as for three-day eventing.

Dressage is also a favoured method of training riders in the necessary ‘seat’ they should adopt in various modes of riding and for ‘bonding’ between rider and horse.

The term Dressage is actually a French term meaning ‘training’ which of course it is, from the most basic levels of walk and trot in straight lines and circles to Olympic level with its hugely complex path from start to finish of walks, trots, extended trots, canters and a number of much more complex and demanding manoeuvres such as the shoulder in, flying changes and the spectacular Capriole where the horse actually jumps vertically upwards, kicking out with its back legs and landing back on the ground with all four feet simultaneously.

Probably the most famous Dressage horses known to most through the medium of television are the Austrian ‘Lipizzaner’ stallions from the Spanish riding school in Vienna, they will often perform Dressage ‘tours’ to a fascinated public, often around Christmas or other holiday time when hundreds or even thousands of children the world over are suitably impressed, and their parents are subsequently badgered to buy them a horse!!

Although the term Dressage is French, there are records of Dressage type training as early as 400BC with a Greek master by the name of Xenophon, he was a Greek General who wrote a tome ‘The Art of Horsemanship’ advocating sympathetic training of the horse, and his methods and ideas are still widely praised and used.

Subsequent masters in the art of Dressage have included Antoine de Pluvinel tutor to King Louis XIII of France and William Cavendish, Master of Horse to King Charles II., and more recently Brazilian Nuno Oliveira and the German Olympic master – Reiner Klimke

The equipment or ‘Tack’ required for Dressage is subtly different in design to that used for show-jumping for example or for simply hacking out from your local riding school – the Dressage saddle is essentially straight-down with no kind of ‘forward support you would encounter for example with a ShowJumping saddle which can have built-up ‘rolls’ forward of the knees to provide extra support at the moment of jumping. A Dressage saddle could be used for Show jumping albeit a little uncomfortable, but not the other way round.

The ‘turnout’ or presentation of a Dressage horse should always be to the highest standard as originally competition Dressage had its origins in Royal presentation, the most common facet being the braiding of the mane, larger braiding in Europe, smaller more numerous braids in the United States, there is no specific ruling in this respect – the tail is usually left unbraided.

The ‘turnout’ of the Dressage rider is also to the highest standard possible – in competition normally white breeches, black ‘dress’ jacket and tall dress boots, interestingly with spurs obligatory at higher levels of competition. Ladies with long hair will normally wear it in a net matching the colour of their hair!

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