The term dressage is a French word that means training. Although this is an extremely demanding competition, the horse actually looks as though it is only going through the motions instead of actually participating in a competition. This is due to the fact that the training was quite extensive and the horse is fit and obedient.
The International Equestrian Federation defines it as “the highest expression of horse training where horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements”. It is a mix of the horse’s athletic ability, willingness to perform, and memorizing a form of choreography – this competition is even referred to as “horse ballet” at times. The rider barely has to help it anymore – the horse is capable of going through the entire set of requirements itself.
Its official recognition dates back to the Renaissance and has even deeper and farther roots in ancient Europe. Some say it has barely changed since its first recognition.
The marking is even similar to that of a dance competition. The dancers perform solo – although in dance they may be in groups, this is surely the only difference from the competition with horses. They hold a score sheet with comments and receive a score according to the standards expected from the dancer/horse, not by comparing it with others. The one with the highest score wins first place and the comment sheet is photocopied and the performer receives the copy.
In dance, the marks are awarded according to ability to perform well, lack of faults, level of technique used, and overall artistic impression. As for the horses, they watch for its gait, submission, and impulsion, and the rider receives a part of the grading as well.
This seems like an interesting form of competition that I didn’t know about.
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