So what is Dressage?
While dressage literally means “training” in French, it is so much more than that. In Dressage, the horse and rider create a bond that enables them to communicate seamlessly through the rider’s aids (use of the rider’s hands, weight, legs and seat to influence the horse) thus creating a ballet-like dance. To the average person, these aids are nearly invisible, which makes it appear as though the horse is performing on his own and the rider is simply a passenger. At the upper levels, the horse and rider have all but mastered the art of non-verbal communication. In short, the smoother & easier the movements look to the eye, the more difficult it is and is the highest level of riding.
The original dressage, however, was used on the battlefield.
Cavalry horses had to be highly trained so as to be able to respond to the slightest movement or command by their riders. This was essential in keeping both horse and rider alive to fight another day.
So what does that mean for the average rider?
Well, dressage is just a series of training steps which are divided into levels. As you improve,
you can progress through the levels until finally you are happy with the level of education that
your horse has achieved. For some, that could mean just completing a nice Preliminary test, for others that may mean competing at Elementary level, and for yet others only the Olympic levels may be the ultimate training goal.
Dressage is the basis of all proper riding.
Founded on balance and relaxation dressage sets the tone not only for the horse and rider’s
training progress but for their mental development as well. Dressage teaches the rider to connect to their horse like no other discipline and once its concepts are understood can catapult a rider to newer awareness and proficiency no matter what discipline they choose whether it be jumping, endurance or barrel racing. Let me assure you, learning dressage will give you a better position and more security in any kind of saddle for any style of riding and better balance and cooperation from your horse in any endeavor. If you think you’re doing everything you can to be the best at what you’re learning with your horse and you’re not learning dressage then you’ve fallen short and will never be the best rider you can be. It is that important.
I can guarantee you will not regret the time, money and energy spent in the pursuit of better
riding skills and greater awareness of the magnificent creature underneath you! ~Paula