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The art of dressage

Dressage HorseDressage is a French word that means "training". It refers to the gymnastic training of a horse based on the harmonious development of the physique and ability of the horse. Dressage originated in ancient Greece in about 500 B.C. with Xenophon and was developed throughout the world primarily in the cavalries, which needed horses able to carry weight in an effective and relaxed manner and, at the same time, be willing and able mounts in times of war. The results of dressage training are reflected when horses become calm, supple, loose and flexible and also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with the rider.

When a horse reaches this level, the horse gives the impression of doing of his/her own accord what is required by the rider.

Because dressage is a progressive method of training, in competition it is divided into levels. Therefore younger horses with less training as well as older, more advanced horses, compete between themselves.

Like figure skating competition, dressage horses perform prescribed tests, similar to compulsory movements done in figure skating. They may also perform "free style" which is set to music and which allows artistic interpretation together with certain required movements appropriate to the level of competition.

Dressage achieves balance, suppleness, and obedience with the purpose of improving and facilitating the horse's performance of normal tasks. This discipline is elegance in motion, where every movement made by horse and rider is choreographed to perfection. Speed is not important, but total control of the dressage horse is.

This requires the horse and rider to combine the strength and agility of gymnastics with the elegance and beauty of ballet. Sometimes the horses are said to be 'dancing' but this is not really the case.

In dressage competition, riders perform individually and they ride in a pattern which includes several changes in pace and direction. In its most basic stages, dressage helps the horse and rider communicate with each other and develop balance, strength, flexibility and accuracy. The dressage tests are a prescribed series of movements that each horse must perform. Riders use the natural movements of dressage horses to create a dance, signaling the horse to walk, trot, or canter.

It takes years to teach a top dressage horse to compete at high levels. At the most advanced level of dressage, the horse will still require years of training to reach Grand Prix level. Strong dressage riders have learned how to effectively communicate with the horse through proper position and movement. Overall, a good dressage horse must show lightness, cadence, beautiful soft rounded collection and outstanding elasticity of all movements.

The object of dressage is the harmonious development of the physique and ability of the horse. Both horsemanship and equestrianism must be mastered before attempting a dressage competition. All work in dressage should be free, light, aesthetically beautiful to the observer, and the horse should remain on the bit. With almost invisible aids, the dressage rider brings the horse to the highest degree of collection. Dressage has an undeniable athletic component for both horse and rider.

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Dressage training, this requires the horse and rider to combine the strength and agility of gymnastics with the elegance and beauty of ballet. Sometimes the horses are said to be 'dancing' but this is not really the case.
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