Dressage: Equine Intervention


If I had a dime for every time I’ve been asked the question, “What is Dressage,” I could afford another horse. The conversation typically starts off like this. I tell someone that I ride and train horses. Their first response is typically, “Oh, so you race?” or “So you jump?” When I explain that I do Dressage, the puzzled look on their face is then followed up with the inevitable: “What is Dressage?” I have given several short and varied answers over the years trying to find the words to sum up my sport. Although it is an Olympic sport, it seems very few know it exists and my short answers fail to do it justice. Alas, I will endeavor to describe the beauty that is Dressage and why it deserves to be more widely known.

Dressage is a sport that develops a horse into a well-toned athlete, achieving better straightness, symmetry, strength and suppleness. It is the job of the rider to be the athletic trainer for the horse by using his or her body to communicate. The skill to learn and understand the horse’s body language and to respond with physical cues is cultivated by Dressage training and produces a seemingly invisible language between both the horse and the trainer. When done properly, the level of balance and strength in the horse is undeniably unmatched. (And the trainer typically benefits by becoming ambidextrous.) Continual Dressage infinitely improves both horse and rider communication. There is no limit as to how much can be learned. All horses and riders can benefit from learning Dressage.

Dressage dates back to the military training that classical Greeks put on their horses to perform in battle. In fact, the earliest recorded works of horse training and horsemanship are from around 430 BC. This style of riding and training is the oldest, most tried-and-true method of equestrianism. Having been performed and perfected for thousands of years, it has proved its success and thus, can benefit anyone who wishes to communicate properly with one’s horse no matter what job he is asked to do. Dressage teaches the rider to ask quietly, clearly and correctly so the horse can respond in a willing and happy manner. A happy horse, happy in his work, creates a happy partnership with his rider. This is where greatness is born. And from here, one can go anywhere.

Through Dressage training, the horse becomes the best version of himself by learning how to achieve a level of strength and lightness akin to a gymnast or a dancer. The horse has the appearance of floating along the ground with seemingly no effort, creating pictures that remind us all of the power and grace they possess. Dressage is a dance. Complete with choreography, seamless transitions and even musical freestyles, the beauty reaches a climax as two spines align, one becoming the extension of the other, to create art in motion. No one knows the horse better than the rider. The horse becomes part of her as she now has the ability to control every aspect of her mount as simply as she has the ability to stretch out her own hand. The horse moves to the will of the rider like a ship moving across the waters with the lightest breath.

In a nutshell, Dressage garners proper communication with man and beast without the use of force or show of strength. It is a recreational sport that is also an art and a dance, bringing joy and awe to spectators. It builds strength, focus, balance, relationships, and trust. And it is my passion.

Topline Dressage is a boarding, lesson and training facility in Powhatan, VA. Address: 2200 Cedarwood Rd Powhatan, VA 23139. Website: toplinedressageva.com. Phone number: 804-464-8067. Accepting horses in for boarding, full or partial training. Lessons available on your own horse or on our schoolmaster. 12 stall barn on 20 acres with competition sized arena.

Bethany Larsen
Author: Bethany Larsen