Dressage as a sport is as old as horseback riding. Regarded as a highly skilled form of horseback riding, dressage is also an art, mainly performed for purposes of mastery. The International Equestrian Federation defines dressage as the highest horse training expression in which both the rider and the horse execute a series of predetermined movements from memory. Each dressage competition consists of a series of tests, with each test having a different difficulty level.
The Goal of Dressage
Dressage training aims to develop a horse’s balance, flexibility, and responsiveness to aids, making it stronger and even more enjoyable to ride. In dressage competitions, riders compete against themselves, as well as other riders participating in the test. Each rider aims to improve their own score. If you participate in dressage tests, you will find that winning a rosette is not the greatest challenge. Rather, improving your score will prove to be the biggest thing.
What to Expect in a Test
Riders in a dressage test are evaluated by more than one judge. The participant is awarded a score on every aspect of the test. Things like attitude, accuracy, suppleness, and obedience are all evaluated.
A dressage test takes place in a ring, marked with letters at its perimeter. Before entering the ring, a bell is rung or a whistle blown to let the participants know that they need to get in the ring within a specified period of time to avoid any penalties. In the ring, participants are required to ride in circles and straight lines as guided by the letters.
Basic level riders don’t need to memorise the test as it may be called out from the sidelines. A rider may also decide to post the trot or just sit. Once the test is completed, riders halt and salute the judges before getting out of the ring. Each participant receives a scorecard with a final score after the competition.
How to Preparing for a Dressage Test
Be in a comfortable outfit depending on the weather condition. You will need to memorise the letter placements before the test begins to make your riding experience easier. If you don’t have a coach, finding one with dressage experience could improve your final score. It is also not wise to try working on several different dressage test elements at a time as you may end up perfecting in none. Focus on a single element at a given time.
You will also need to prepare your horse for the test. Work on improving the responsiveness and flexibility of your horse. Avoid forcing the horse into a ‘frame’ as this could result in sore muscles, leading to a reluctant attitude from the animal. For the dressage test, your horse will need to be spotless groomed. Its tack should be clean, and the mane should be neatly braided.