What is dressage?

Dressage is a sport on horseback that is meant to show flexibility, strength, and control in both horse and rider. The sport originated from the military training of horses, as riders wanted them to be as prepared as possible for battle. The training has since turned into an Olympic level sport, with several international competitions as well.


In dressage, there are several levels of competition. Riders and horses are tested on levels of rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness, and collection. Rhythm refers to the tempo at which horse and rider are moving. Suppleness is the freedom of movement by the horse along with how calm it appears. Contact refers to the connection between the rider and the horse and well and smoothly the horse responds to commands and movements. Impulsion is how easy it is for the rider to move the horse through the routine. Straightness refers to the posture of the horse and how well it maintains a consistent alignment facing forward. Finally, collection in dressage is when a horse carries most of its weight on his back legs, allowing for lighter steps on the front feet.

Judges and Scoring

All of these levels are watched for in competition and are scored by a panel of judges. Judges score each level from zero to ten, with a zero being the horse and rider did not perform that level, and a ten being they had no faults in the performance of the level. Difficulties of competition range from amateur or training to professional or fourth level. Fourth level competition is what is seen at the Olympics or other professional competitions.

Kur Competitions

In some competitions, riders can choose to perform to certain music, timing their motions along with the rhythm of the music. This type of performance is called a kur. As in all dressage competitions, they are expected to follow a pattern of letters around the ring. The outside of the ring will have labels with letters, and out of memory the horse and rider must follow the pattern given to them before competition. The better they follow the pattern, and the better they meet all of the expected levels, the better they will score.

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