Dressage events are managed primarily by the US Dressage Federation: Contact the USDF (United States Dressage Federation). Arabian owners also compete in Dressage at the US National Arabian Championship at various levels of competition.
The word “dressage” comes from a French term meaning training. It is not only a method of training, but also a competitive equestrian sport.
“Dressage develops the horse’s physique and suppleness and improves the horse’s three natural gaits, making it a pleasure to ride. Dressage is considered ‘classical training’ because it uses gymnastic exercises-a series of movements and figures-which have been studied and developed for centuries. When done systematically and correctly, the exercises will cause the horse to be supple on both sides and to respond willingly and obediently, moving freely forward with pure gaits and an even tempo.” – USDF
Sometimes Dressage is called basic training for horses because it incorporates a variety of exercises that develop both the horse’s athletic ability and obedience. No matter if it’s Western or English, most disciplines from racing, to reining, to jumping all benefit from Dressage training. Even so, many riders find great pleasure and a passion for Dressage even at very modest levels of competition.
Examples of basic-level exercises include figures such as serpentines and circles, movements such as lateral movements (sideways), and transitions such as trot to halt, or walk to canter. These exercises can be used to start a young horse or to retrain an older one, and can be used by riders primarily interested in other equestrian sports, such as western riding.
Dressage has been described as a combination of sport and art. Whereas more aggressive sports tend to be intuitive and instinctive to the horse and rider, Dressage perfects the rider’s analytical skills and creates a more artistic fluid motion for the horse. This training tends to create a stronger bonding between the horse and rider.
Riders of all ages, from kids to seniors, are taking up Dressage. Improving the skill level of the horse and rider is the goal and ultimate outcome of this sport. Both the rider and the horse learn and improve together. It’s not a sport where you can buy a winning super star horse and expect to win, you have to develop the skills yourself and that is the appeal to those with improved horsemanship in mind.
Arabian Dressage – This year, the US National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show will offer competitive dressage classes. Recognized dressage competitions use tests issued by the American Horse Shows Association. These tests are designed to confirm the horse’s ability to perform at a specific level according to the objectives and standards of the AHSA. As the horse and rider progress, more difficult gymnastic exercises are introduced. As a result, the advanced horse becomes an athlete, developing strength, flexibility, and the ability to perform collected and extended gaits with lightness and brilliance. When the horse and rider work in harmony, this performance of grace and athleticism is beautiful to watch.