Many aspiring riders assume that they cannot be called “dressage riders” until they have reached a good level of competition. However, that’s not the case!
Every rider has the potential to compete in dressage classes, provided that they adopt a systematic approach to training their horse along the correct lines.
So, what defines a “dressage rider?”
What is a dressage rider?
Dressage is not just for those who want to compete at the very highest levels. Dressage is for every rider and every horse, regardless of what discipline they want to take part in.
The word, “dressage” is taken from the French word, meaning “training.” Dressage forms the base from which you build, much like the foundations of a house.
The dressage horse is developed mentally and physically through methodical and gymnastic training so that he can perform any exercise to the best of his natural ability.
Not every combination will reach the dizzy heights of Grand Prix competition, but understanding the basis of dressage will create a happy, supple, balanced, and confident equine athlete that is a pleasure to ride.
Through using systematic, correct, and fair training, you will end up with a horse that is cooperative, willing.
A vital element of the successful dressage rider is the ability to ride in harmony with your horse.
You can only achieve harmony when you have a supple seat and can sit in perfect balance so that you appear to be an extension of your horse, not just someone who is sitting on top of him.
Your aids must be so quiet and subtle that they are invisible to onlookers. Your horse should move forward fluently and effortlessly into the contact, and the whole impression should be natural and calm.
Dressage is a form of equestrian art. Harmony cannot be achieved through the use of force. Instead, you must use subtle and refined aids to communicate with your horse, so as to present a harmonious picture.
To achieve true harmony with your horse, you need to build a partnership that’s based on mutual trust and respect. You must be able to read your horse’s mood, gauge his energy levels, and be in tune with him, both in and out of the saddle.
The Scales of Training
The key to becoming a successful dressage rider is to put the basic foundations of your training in place. Only when you have achieved that, can you accomplish advancement.
Dressage is judged along what is known as the “Scales of Training.” The Scales of Training are:
All of the Scales are intrinsically linked. For example:
- If your horse is not working in a correct rhythm, he cannot be supple through his back.
- If your horse is not working over his back, the contact will not be elastic.
- If your horse’s back is stiff and hollow, and he is not working into an elastic contact, he will not be able to develop true impulsion.
- If the horse is not working freely forward through a swinging back to an elastic contact, he cannot be straight.
- A crooked horse cannot be balanced or collected between the rider’s leg and hand.
The Scales of Training apply to all levels of work, from the most basic tests right through to Grand Prix.
What’s the point of dressage?
Dressage is not about merely teaching your horse to perform “tricks.”
The art of pure dressage is the development of the horse’s physique and thus improving his natural paces.
A correctly trained horse will be less likely to sustain injuries that could cut short his working life.
That said, too much schooling work can make a horse dull and stale. Good dressage riders include variation in their horse’s work regimen such as hacking, jumping, lunging, and long-reining. All of this helps to condition the horse’s body and mind.
The sport of dressage is all about correct, systematic training and attention to detail. However, amid all that dedication and hard work, you must keep the work fun for you and your horse.
So, in a nutshell, dressage is a discipline for every horse and rider. Your success in the arena is measured by the quality of your riding and the harmony you have with your horse, not the level at which you compete.
- What is “The Correct Way of Going” in Dressage?
- How is Dressage Scored?
- Why ALL Dressage Riders Need to Know The Scales of Training
- What Does the Term ‘Happy Athlete’ Mean in Dressage?