What is dressage?

From the United States Dressage Federation:

“The Olympic sport of dressage is derived from the French term meaning "training" and its purpose is to strengthen and supple the horse while maintaining a calm and attentive demeanor. The Pyramid of Training offers riders a progressive and interrelated system through which to develop the horse over time. 

Currently, competitive dressage involves progressively difficult levels incorporating multiple tests within each level. Each test is a series of movements that must be performed by the horse and rider. Each movement is scored by a judge on a scale of 0-10. Special tests are also written for musical freestyle, sport horse breeding and performances incorporating multiple horses and riders.”

The History of Dressage

Dressage dates back to classical Greek horsemanship. The earliest work on training horses was written by Xenophon, a Greek Military Commander born around 400BC. Dressage continued to be developed by the military and during the Renaissance. The Imperial Spanish Riding School of Vienna was established in 1572 and dressage training today is based around many of the principles from this era.

Dressage became an Olympic Sport in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm with only military officers eligible to compete until 1953 when the rules evolved to allow both civilian men and women to compete.

The growing enthusiasm for the sport, supported by increased access to knowledgeable military and foreign trainers, finally brought together 81 pioneers of dressage in 1973 to found the United States Dressage Federation.