What is dressage?
Something really worth seeing... horses as graceful as ballerinas perform controlled movements that you would not have thought possible for an animal that originally was used to work the fields! Horses have a natural freedom and grace but carrying a rider upsets this balance. With training, the aim of Dressage is to regain this natural movement so that horse and rider work together in harmony. Dressage is simply a more advanced form of classical riding, so anyone who has already had some classical training will already know some of the basics.
When horses move naturally, their steps have incredible lightness and grace. Carrying a rider upsets their natural rhythm and balance and the aim of dressage is to train the horse to regain these natural movements and achieve harmony with its rider. When a horse is unbalanced, he carries his weight over his forelegs. As his balance improves, he brings his hind legs under him, engaging his hocks. Riding up hills is a good way to work on this. When a horse is on the bit and engaging his hocks, his body looks compact and rounded. He is said to have a ’rounded outline’.
How do I learn the technique?Developing dressage skills requires specialised training and discipline. The horse needs to learn to respond to the slightest movement of the rider and the rider needs to learn to be very precise in any signals. There are 6 different levels – Preliminary, Novice, Elementary, Medium, Advanced Medium and Advanced. Each level entails learning more difficult movements and competitions are held for each of the different levels.
Working on transitions between the paces, for example from walk to trot, forms an important part of dressage training. A horse should be able to move from one pace to another smoothly, without losing his balance and impulsion. In competitions the way that the horse and the rider look is just as important as the moves they do. They should always look, and be in balance.
Lateral work is when a horse moves sideways as well as forwards. There are many different lateral movements, some easier than others.
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