Equo's essential guide to dressage is here to help you understand more about the discipline.

The word dressage derives from the French term for training.

Put simply, dressage is the art of harmonious communication between horse and rider. This performance is only possible when the rider has a correct, well-balanced position, times their aids (commands) correctly and moves with the horse’s motion. This emphasises correct training methods.

Dressage may look easy, but is in fact rather complex, especially at the higher levels. It takes years of dedication and training to reach Grand Prix level, as seen at the Olympics. A close relationship between horse and rider is crucial; this bond must be firmly established in order to compete at top level.

In competition riders perform a series of choreographed movements that make up the dressage test. The horse and rider are given a mark out of ten for each movement, plus additional marks for the horse’s paces (the way it moves), impulsion (its desire to work actively), submission (evidence of willingness), and the rider’s position.

The average of these scores gives a percentage, which is the final mark. It is very rare to be awarded with a 10. The current world record score for a Grand Prix freestyle test (where all elements of the normal Grand Prix must be performed to individually choreographed music) is 94.3%, achieved by the British dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin in 2014 with her ride Valegro.

Anyone can participate in dressage. Thousands of competitors enjoy the multitude of dressage competitions on offer throughout the country each year, all of which are scored in the same way as the top level of competition. Dressage competitions can be held both indoors and outdoors, on a surface or on grass. Entries for classes are taken prior to the date of competition as riders compete in a drawn order at a set time.

Unaffiliated competitions tend to be more informal, but often run to British Dressage (BD) rules. Affiliated BD competitions can offer the chance to qualify for regional championships, that in turn qualify for the bi-annual BD National Championships. Most tests are held in a long arena, measuring 20x60m, however some lower level tests use a short arena measuring 20x40m.

The competition levels are as follows:

Advanced Medium
Prix St.Georges
Intermediare I
Intermediare II
Grand Prix

If you are looking to enter some dressage events in your area then enter online with Equo.