Why is dressage so difficult?
This is very physically demanding for the horse and thus takes years of careful athletic training and systematic development. Secondly, the horse has to be taught to work within a specific set of boundaries. He has to learn to accept pressure and that is something that many horses find mentally challenging.
Horse dressage can cause long-term injuries that can harm your horses and leave them anxious and inefficient as well.
Derived from the French word 'piaffer', piaffe means to prance and it certainly is one of the most difficult movements in advanced dressage! To the eye the horse trots on one place and this requires collection.
Consider that most horses at the Olympics or World Equestrian Games are around 12-14 or so, and they probably started being ridden at around 3 under the world's best riders and trainers. That means it takes roughly ten years to school a dressage horse to the top levels, even for the most talented horses and riders.
Dressage is incredibly hard, and in the beginning, it's difficult to really understand what it is you're supposed to be doing in the first place. Beyond that, it's even harder to get your brain to make your body do what it is that you want, even once you know what that is.
The Olympic sport of dressage is derived from the French term meaning "training" and its purpose is to strengthen and supple the horse while maintaining a calm and attentive demeanor. The Pyramid of Training offers riders a progressive and interrelated system through which to develop the horse over time.
In extreme cases, trainers have been documented beating their horses into submission using whips and prods. Animal welfare officials appointed in 2002 by British Dressage witnessed riders punishing their horses in the arena by forcefully pulling on their bridles, without fear of reprimand.
The Object Of Dressage is the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education resulting in a horse that is calm, loose, supple and flexible, but also confident, attentive, and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding.
Most dressage horses are broken at three or four years of age and begin competing in young-horse classes as five-year-olds. Medium classes are reached by the age of seven and many future Grand Prix dressage horses do their "small tour" at the ages of eight and nine.
Introductory is the easiest level where you perform your test in walk and trot. Canter comes in at Prelim and at Novice, lengthened strides come. Elementary starts lateral work and the difficulty steps up for Medium. Flying changes come in for Advanced Medium before you hit the 'advanced' levels.
What is the highest level of dressage?
The highest level of modern competition is at the Grand Prix level. This is the level test ridden in the prestigious international competitions (CDIs), such as the Olympic games, Dressage World Cup, and World Equestrian Games.
National level dressage competition is governed by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). USEF/USDF creates the five levels of “national” tests: Training Level, First Level, Second Level, Third Level and Fourth Level.
A dressage rider has to be able to think creatively around problems they encounter in training. They have to be compassionate and kind to their horses so they can understand why they are struggling with flying changes or shoulder-in. A good dressage rider has to constantly look for learning and improvement.
If you carry a whip, you should always salute with your non-whip hand. You may prefer to salute with your dominant arm and hand, depending on whether you're right or left-handed. Riders with a disability who use looped reins may be unable to use their arm to salute.
The Dutch Warmblood is considered the world's best dressage horse and the most common breed used for professional dressage. It's the newest European warmblood breed; less than 70 years old, according to the official studbook.
According to Gorenstein, a dressage-trained horse can cost anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000, but that's just the beginning. The uniform can also cost upwards of $12,000.
Dressage and sport defined
Dressage was not always included in the Olympics, only appearing in the program in the Stockholm Games of 1912. The FEI describes dressage as: “… the highest expression of horse training” where “… horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements.
According to horseracingsense.com: "Many horses compete at the highest level of dressage and are not treated cruelly. However, some dressage competitions and training are cruel. Harmful conditions arise through forceful and rapid training methods.
"Dressage should be about lightness, freedom of movement and a partnership between horse and rider. Rollkur is so, so cruel. The horse can only see its own feet, so it is reliant on the rider for balance which is simply psychological torture." Loch believes the sport's good name is under threat.
Is it cruel to ride horses? Horses don't want to be ridden (at least before training), and research shows that riding causes lameness and discomfort. So on this basis, horseback riding is cruel.
Do horses remember dressage routines?
Practicing on your horse is also an option, but if you do it too many times, they'll remember the test. If only we all had the memory they do!
Despite its history, however, dressage is still viewed as a controversial sport to be featured in the Olympics due to rows over animal cruelty, and its classification as an actual 'sport'. The concept of dressage initially began as a military idea, to train horses for war.
The history of dressage begins in Ancient Greek times when it was used as a form of training to prepare a horse for the battle environment. The first recorded writings on classical dressage training were in a work named 'On Horsemanship' by a Greek Commander, Xenophon (c. 430-354 BC).
Ideally, when training dressage, the horse must have three free balanced, elastic and regular gaits which are: a four beat walk with no moment of suspension, a two-beat trot with a moment of suspension between each diagonal beat and a three beat canter with a moment of suspension following the 3 beats.
A great way to learn and understand dressage is by actually riding through dressage tests. You can find dressage tests online to take home and practice in your arena. Have your instructor pretend to be a judge as you ride through your dressage test.