With its classical roots, dressage has evolved tremendously over the centuries. Originally the necessity to train horses was primarily for military purposes. However, over time those training techniques of classical dressage were use to create the modern dressage of today. Modern dressage has manifested into a sophisticated event that tests the almost invisible communication between horse and rider. Today the dressage discipline is divided into many competition levels that grade both horse and rider on various maneuvers. Dressage has become a very popular discipline and wondrous equine spectator sport.

Objective - The objective of Dressage is the harmonious development of the physique and ability of the horse. As a result it makes the horse calm, supple, loose, and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider.

Arena 

A list of terms and dressage maneuvers are shown below. Read through these terms to familiarize yourself with the definition of each maneuver and how they are to be executed correctly. You can teach these dressage principles to your horse, no matter your horse's breed and no matter the discipline you may ride and/or compete in with your horse.

Introductory Level Dressage - To confirm that the horse has been introduced to the fundamentals of dressage training as a result of which it moves freely forward in an obedient manner, with a light and steady contact with the bit.

Training Level Dressage - To confirm that the horse's muscles are supple and loose, and that it moves freely forward in steady rhythm, accepting contact with the bit.

The Halt - At the halt the horse should stand attentive, engaged, motionless and straight with the weight evenly distributed over all four legs being by pairs abreast with each other. the neck should be raised, the poll hight and the head slightly in front of the vertical. While remaining on the bit and maintaining a light and soft contact with the rider's hand, the horse may quietly chomp the bit and should be ready to move off at the slightest indication of the rider.

The Walk - The walk is a marching pace in which the footfalls of the horse's feet follow one another in "four time," well marked and maintained in all work at the walk.

Medium Walk - A clear, regular and unconstrained walk of moderate lengthening. The horse, remaining on the bit, walks energetically but calmly with even and determined steps, the hind feet touching the ground in front of the footprints of the forefeet. The rider maintains a light, soft and steady contact with the mouth.

Free Walk - The free walk is a pace of relaxation in which the horse is allowed complete freedom to lower and stretch out his head and neck.

The Trot - The trot is a pace of "two time" on alternate diagonal legs (near left fore and right hind leg and vice versa) separated by a moment of suspension. The trot, always with free, active and regular steps, should be moved into without hesitation.

Working Trot - This is a pace between the collected and the medium trot in which a horse not yet rained and ready for collected movements shows himself properly balanced and, remaining on the bit, goes forward with even, elastic steps and good hock action.

The Canter - The canter is a pace of "three time," where at canter to the right, for instance, the footfalls follow one another as follows: left hind, left diagonal (simultaneously left fore and right hind), right fore, followed by a movement of suspension with all four feet in the air before the next stride begins.

Working Canter - This is a pace between the collected and the medium canter in which a horse, not yet trained and ready for collected movements, shows himself properly balanced and remaining on the bit, goes forward with even, light and cadenced strides and good hock action. 

Maneuvers for the more advanced riders training or showing 1st Level and above.

For more information about these maneuvers visit www.usef.org. Click Disciplines then Dressage and then Dressage Rules.

The Leg Yield

"Leg-yielding. The horse is almost straight, except for a slight flexion at the poll away from the direction in which he moves, so that the rider is just able to see the eyebrow and nostril on the inside. The inside legs pass and cross in front of the outside legs. Leg-yielding should be included in the training of the horse before he is ready for

collected work. Later on, together with the more advanced movement shoulder-in, it is the best means of making a horse supple, loose and unconstrained for the benefit of the freedom, elasticity and regularity of his paces and the harmony, lightness and ease of his movements. Leg-yielding can be performed on the diagonal in which case the

horse should be as close as possible parallel to the long sides of the arena although the forehand should be slightly in advance of the quarters. It can also be performed along the wall in which case the horse should be at an angle of about 35 degrees to the direction in which he is moving (see fig. 5). " - The United States Equestrian Federation 2010 Rule Book; Rule DR111.2.b.   

Basically, the horse is traveling both sideways and forwards at the same time. The horse's body is slightly bent to the outside (the opposite direction in which he is traveling). Both front and hind legs cross over each other.

Benefits: The leg yield can make a stiff horse more supple or a crooked horse more straight. By positioning the horse's body so the inside hind leg reaches farther under the horse and bearing more weight, the horse will become stronger and more supple in order to perform collection work.

The Shoulder-In

"Shoulder-in. This exercise is performed in collected trot. The horse is ridden with a slight but uniform bend around the inside leg of the rider maintaining cadence at a constant angle of approx. 30 degrees. The horse’s inside foreleg passes and crosses in front of the outside foreleg; the inside hind leg steps forward under the horse’s body weight following the same track of the outside foreleg, with the lowering of the inside hip. The horse is bent away from the direction in which it is moving (see Fig. 1)." -  The United States Equestrian Federation 2010 Rule Book; Rule DR111.3.f.

This maneuver gets its name because the horse's shoulders are ridden off the track of the horse and in towards the center of the arena. The horse is actually being ridden on three tracks.  

Benefits: It is a great exercise for suppling and building the strength needed for collected work. While in the leg yield the horse's body is parallel to the rail and he's traveling diagonally, in the shoulder-in the horse is traveling parallel to the rail and his body is positioned diagonally. Even though the rulebook states that the shoulder-in is performed at the trot, it can also be performed at the canter.   

Travers - also known as Haunches-In

 "Travers. This exercise can be performed in collected trot or collected canter. The horse is slightly bent round the inside leg of the rider but with a greater degree of bend than in shoulder-in. A constant angle of approximately 35 degrees should be shown, from the front and from behind one sees four tracks. The forehand remains on the track and the quarters are moved inwards. The horse’s outside legs pass and cross in front of the inside legs. The horse is bent in the direction in which it is moving. To start the travers, the quarters must leave the track or, after a corner or circle, are not brought back onto the track. At the end of the travers, the quarters are brought back on the track without any counter-flexion of the poll/neck as one would finish a circle (see Fig. 2)." - The United States Equestrian Federation 2010 Rule Book; Rule DR111.3.g.

Travers is very similar to shoulder-in, except that the haunches are pushed in to the center of the arena instead of the shoulders. However, the horse is being ridden on four tracks in the travers instead of three tracks as in the shoulder-in.

Benefits: Yet another wonderful suppling exercise to increase lateral flexion.

Renvers

 "This is the inverse movement in relation to travers, with the tail instead of the head to the wall. Otherwise the same principles and conditions are applicable as at the travers (see Fig. 3)." - The United States Equestrian Federation 2010 Rule Book; Rule DR111.3.h.

Half-pass.

 "This movement is a variation of travers, executed on the diagonal instead of along the wall. The horse should be slightly bent round the inside leg of the rider in order to give more freedom and mobility to the shoulders, thus adding ease and grace to the movement although the forehand should be slightly in advance of the quarters. The outside legs pass and cross in front of the inside legs. The horse is looking in the direction in which he is moving. He should maintain the same cadence and balance throughout the whole movement. In order to give more freedom and mobility to the shoulders, which adds to the ease and grace of the movement, it is of great importance, not only that the horse is correctly bent and thereby prevented from protruding his inside shoulder, but also to maintain the impulsion, especially the engagement of the inside hind leg (see Fig.4)."  - The United States Equestrian Federation 2010 Rule Book; Rule DR111.3.i.

 Piaffe

"The piaffe is a highly collected, cadenced, elevated diagonal movement giving the impression of being in place. The horse’s back is supple and elastic. The quarters are slightly lowered, the haunches with active hocks are well engaged giving great freedom, lightness and mobility to the shoulders and forehand. Each diagonal pair of feet is raised and returned to the ground alternately, with an even cadence." - The United States Equestrian Federation 2010 Rule Book; Rule DR114.1 

 The Passage

"This is a measured, very collected, very elevated and very cadenced trot. It is characterized by a pronounced engagement of the quarters, a more accentuated flexion of the knees." - The United States Equestrian Federation 2010 Rule Book; Rule DR114.1  

 Tempi changes - This is when the horse performs a flying lead change ever 2 strides or in the more advanced levels, changes every stride. A horse that can perform the tempi changes is very balanced and responsive to the rider's light aids.


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