The Basics of Dressage and Assessing Your Riding Level
 By EquestrianLady   •   19th Dec 2009   •   5,405 views   •   1 comments
Dressage: what are the basics and at what is your current riding level?

Letís look at the big picture and then see where you fit into it.

The basics of dressage

The Basics of Dressage and Assessing Your Riding LevelFull harmony between the horse and rider is achieved by following these six elements of the training scale. The horse moves from one phase to the next only when he is ready, however long that takes.

Relaxation: No matter how green or how advanced your horse is, begin each work-out session by relaxing him physically and mentally.

Regularity: The rhythm should stay regular within the four-beat walk, two-beat trot and four-beat canter. If your horse is relaxed and moving forwards heíll produce good gaits.

Contact: This is your connection with the horse through the reins. Keep it elastic, with your horse accepting the bit in a supple, closed mouth.

If you work on the above three elements when riding your horse, you are well on the way to producing a good dressage test. Here are the final three.

Impulsion: This applies to trot and canter which have a Ďmoment of suspensioní and refers to the thrust from the hind legs propelling the horse forward. Your supple, loose and elastic horse will produce impulsion.

Straightness: A horse is naturally crooked. Working through the phases of the training scale loosens and strengthens your horse's muscles so he can carry your weight evenly on all four legs and move straight.

Collection: This is for the advanced horse which has developed strong muscles through training. His strides are shorter but he maintains the same energy and activity as before.

What level are you riding?

Now letís see what dressage test would suit you. There are five test levels and you can download copies of them at

Letís look at the first two levels, which are ridden the most.

If you are proficient at walk and trot but not canter, you can compete at the Introductory Level. There are two tests to choose from and both require a 20 meter circle in trot. Work on relaxing your horse by asking him to move forwards and down into a light rein contact. Ensure his gaits are regular, and practice smooth transitions between walk and rising trot then back down to walk and halt. The gray horse in the photo is illustrating the free walk in the Introductory Test.

For those of you comfortable with cantering, look at the Training Level tests. In addition to moving freely forward, your horse will need to accept a stronger contact with the bit. This will bring him more into balance and he will carry his head higher than for Introductory Level. There are four Training Level tests, each getting slightly harder, and very test includes canter on a 20 meter circle. The bay horse in the photo is warming up for a Training Level test.

Can you see how working on the first three training elements of relaxation, regularity and contact already prepares you for the competition arena?

Next Iíll be talking about the different types of dressage competition, where to find them and how to choose which one to enter.
Horse News More In This Category:  Dressage      Horse News More From This Author:  EquestrianLady
Thankyou for this wonderfull article.. :D Finally! someone who manages to describe dressage in writing without going.. emm.. you know what i mean :S :D
  53 days ago  •  4,763 views
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