Dressage is a bit like ballet. The goal is to look effortless, and horse and rider should move with a natural grace and substantial presence. Despite looking so easy, there’s a lot of skill involved, and Olympic competitors undergo years of strict training.
Still, there are several ways for novice riders to get involved in the sport. Below are a few tips for getting started in dressage:
A bit about dressage
According to the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), dressage originated as a way to train military horses. The discipline aims to synch horse and rider, shaping an obedient equine that combines natural movement with purpose.
“As far as horses go, there’s no limit in terms of size or breed.”
As far as horses go, the United States Dressage Federation notes that there’s no limit in terms of size or breed. The focus of the sport is the equine’s behavior and athleticism, so what’s most important is choosing a horse that is well suited to you and is willing to learn.
Dressage competitions consist of a series of tests that judge the horse’s basic technique, tempo and willingness to accept instructions from the rider. The USEF, the governing body of equestrian sports in America, has a list of dressage test guidelines and the objectives judges look for. It’s a great resource for competitors of all levels.
Training your horse
Both you and your horse must train to improve your dressage technique. You need proper posture and balance as well as strength and control in your legs, hips and shoulders. It’s a good idea to have separate trainers observe you and your horse from a distance. They can point out issues with your posture or technique that you might not notice and can offer feedback similar to a judge’s.
Dressage Today provided some beneficial training tips. According to the publication, horses have incredibly short memories and must be rewarded immediately. Otherwise, they won’t associate the reward with the action performed and won’t know to repeat it. In fact, you should always focus on good behavior. Don’t ignore it when your horse does something incorrectly, but don’t become obsessed with mistakes. Remember, dressage is about unity between you and your companion.
Choosing an event
According to Equestrian.com, both Trailblazer and British Dressage offer events for beginning riders in the UK. There’s no cost to join Trailblazers, and you can compete in certain sections of competitions affiliated with British Dressage without becoming a member.
In terms of money, you’ll need to purchase a proper saddle and correct riding gear, complete with show boots, jacket, shirt, pants and gloves. You might also consider healthcare products for horses throughout the training phase to make sure your friend is in premium condition and doesn’t get injured. If your first event is a recognized competition rather than a schooling show, expect to pay for transportation, stall use, entry fees and administrative costs. Each event has a list of necessary payments on its website.
The best way to get started in dressage is to seek the help of a local trainer and work through the basic skills. Dressage is a hard sport to master on your own, but working with a trainer and participating in competitions will help you get better each time you get in the saddle.