What is dressage? Somehow this word has developed an aura of
mystery among youth and adults in the 4-H Horse Program. In
simple terms, dressage is not unlike the basic training given to
armed-forces recruits. Dressage is a French word that means “training”
or “schooling.” All the aids (hands, seat or weight, and legs) are used in
varying degrees to guide the horse through a set of maneuvers that are
natural to the horse. Dressage teaches a horse to be obedient, willing,
supple, and highly responsive to the wishes of the rider.
Not every horse schooled in dressage will become a Grand Prix horse
destined for Olympic competition, but every horse, regardless of its size,
disposition, or ultimate use, can benefit from dressage. Keep in mind the
first horse you worked with in the 4-H program. You started training that
horse with some basics you learned from your 4-H leader or your parents.
As you and your horse learned from each other, you advanced in your skills
and abilities one step at a time. Dressage competition is a similar process.
Dressage is a combination of equitation and horsemanship; knowing how to
produce each movement until you and your horse move as one.
The object of dressage is the harmonious development of the physique
and ability of the horse. A dressage rider becomes precisely tuned to the
movements of the horse’s body. Through progressive exercises of both
horse and rider, the horse becomes calm, supple, obedient, and highly
skilled, achieving a perfect understanding with its rider.
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