Equestrian Dressage is one of the two most popular equestrian events on the world stage along with jumping. Dressage is a test of a horse and rider training to create the most fluid run of movements and skills possible. Degree of difficulty and execution of each movement create a score assigned to each horse and rider for the dressage test they just performed. Scores for each movement range from zero to ten with ten being excellent, five being sufficient, and zero meaning it was not performed correctly. Some of the skills that are each dressage tests include working trot, working canter, free walk, and circling the arena precisely. There are many levels to dressage tests as well that suit all horses and riders and each skill level that they are currently at.
Dressage is rooted far back in history originating back in ancient times with the earliest modern roots being in the sixteenth century. It was first introduced into the global stage as an Olympic sport in the 1912 games however it was only for military officers to compete in until 1952. Dressage is the fastest growing equestrian event in the Olympics and one of the best to watch each time the games come. The combination of excellence shown by the horses in the event of dressage plus the music incorporated into tests creates great popularity. The most technically sound and fluid horses achieve the greatest honors in the sport and excite fans around the world.
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.
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.
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.