What Is Dressage?


The literal definition of Dressage is “the art of riding and training a horse in a manner
that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance.”  
In reality, Dressage is so much more! It is a wonderful journey between you and your equine partner. It is a life-long pursuit for Melissa and equine students alike.

The fundamental purpose of Dressage is to develop a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximizing its health and potential as a riding horse. Dressage is occasionally referred to as Horse Ballet, but what looks effortless to the untrained eye is achieved through perseverance and patience. The discipline has ancient roots in Europe, and eventually developed into a sequential training system still used today.

Competitions are held at all levels from amateur “schooling shows” to the Olympics. Success at the various levels is demonstrated through the performance of tests—horse and rider perform a complex series of predetermined movements from memory—ridden within a standard dressage arena. Judges evaluate each movement on the basis of an objective standard appropriate to the level of the test, and they assign each movement a score from zero to ten. A score of 9 is a rare mark, while a competitor achieving all 6s (or 60% overall) is good and should enable students to advance to the next level.

Every horse can benefit from exposure to dressage principles and training techniques. However, horse breeds most often seen at the Olympics and other international competitions are in the warmblood category. Many other breeds, such as Thoroughbreds, Arabians and QHs, adapt quite well to Dressage and are seen at various levels of competition as well.

Learn more about Dressage at the United States Dressage Foundation website.