Dressage

What is Dressage?

The word dressage sounds like massage—and comes from the French word dresser, to train. It’s an Olympic equestrian sport, yet a basic training discipline for any horse.

Dressage principles are a logical, step-by-step progression from simple to increasingly complex movements. More and more is asked of the horse as it becomes mentally and physically ready to respond to these demands.

The graceful movements performed in competition may look effortless but are the result of years of training. The rider’s aids (weight, leg, and hand cues) should be imperceptible. A squeeze of the calf, a closing of the fingers, a shifting of the rider’s weight in the saddle should be all that is necessary to tell the horse what to do.

Dressage requires the horse and rider to combine the strength and agility of gymnastics with the elegance and beauty of ballet. The result is truly the best blend of sport and art.

Like any sport, watching dressage is more interesting the more you know about it.

USDF Spectator’s Guide to Dressage