History of Dressage
Dressage is a form of horse riding that involves performing a series of movements with precision and harmony. The word dressage comes from the French verb dresser, which means to train or prepare. Dressage is often considered as the art of horse training, where the rider and the horse communicate through subtle cues and aids.
The origins of dressage can be traced back to ancient Greece, where horses were trained for military purposes. The Greek commander and historian Xenophon wrote a manual called On Horsemanship, which is one of the earliest works on classical dressage. He advocated for a gentle and humane approach to training horses, and emphasized the importance of balance, rhythm and suppleness.
In the Renaissance period, dressage became more formalized and was used as a means of training horses for nobility and high-ranking officials. The Italian rider Federico Grisone published The Rules of Riding in 1550, which was the first treatise on equitation in over a thousand years since Xenophon’s work. He introduced the concept of collection, which is the ability of the horse to carry more weight on its hindquarters and lighten its forehand. He also described some of the advanced movements that are still part of dressage today, such as the piaffe, passage and flying changes.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, dressage reached its peak of development in France, where the royal court established a riding academy called the Cadre Noir in Saumur. The French riders refined the principles of classical dressage and created a system of training that was based on harmony, lightness and elegance. Some of the most influential masters of this period were Antoine de Pluvinel, François Robichon de la Guérinière and François Baucher.
In the 19th century, dressage became more popular as a sport and was included in the first modern Olympic Games in 1912. The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) was founded in 1921 to regulate and organize international competitions. The FEI established a set of rules and standards for dressage tests, which are prescribed series of movements that are performed in a standard arena. The tests are designed to evaluate the horse’s level of training, obedience, balance, impulsion and expression.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, dressage has evolved as an equestrian discipline that attracts riders from all over the world. Dressage competitions are held at various levels, from amateur to professional, and from national to international. Some of the most prestigious events include the World Equestrian Games, the Olympic Games and the World Cup. Dressage also has a strong artistic component, as some riders perform musical freestyles or choreographed routines that showcase their creativity and musicality.
Dressage is not only a sport but also an art form that requires dedication, patience and skill. Dressage riders aim to achieve a harmonious partnership with their horses, where both are attentive, responsive and relaxed. Dressage horses are trained to perform complex movements with grace and agility, while displaying their natural beauty and charisma. Dressage is a discipline that challenges both the rider and the horse to reach their highest potential as athletes and artists.