What is Dressage?
Dressage was originally developed by the cavalry in the 17th century to help improve the obedience and responsiveness of the horses. The word “dressage” basically means training. It's all about creating the perfect partnership between horse and rider. The ultimate aim is that the partnership becomes so strong that onlookers would think the horse is performing on his own without visible cues from the rider. With dressage training the horse becomes a true athlete, improving his suppleness and flexibility whilst enhancing his natural movement.
In modern dressage competitions, horse and rider perform from memory a series of predetermined movements. These movements are performed in a completely flat rectangular arena, measuring 60m x 20m. 12 lettered markers are placed symmetrically around the arena and they indicate where movements start and finish. A panel of judges mark each movement out of 10, with 10 being the best score possible. Once all the marks are totalled, a percentage score is produced and the rider or team with the highest score is the winner.
At Olympic Games, FEI World Equestrian Games and The FEI European Championships there are three dressage tests. In the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special, the athletes follow a set programme. The Grand Prix Freestyle or Kür is ridden to music chosen by the rider. There are certain mandatory movements but the rider can choose their own programme and can tailor their test to suit their horse’s ability and their own personality.