Ailsa Harvey


This equestrian sport involves the training of horses, to execute precise movements by using subtle signals from the rider. ‘Dressage’ is derived from the French word for ‘training’ and is loosely described as a “horse ballet”.

The purpose of the sport is said to be to develop a horse’s natural athletic ability and showcase their “willingness to perform”. Competitors aim to be able to control the animal while appearing relaxed, with the horse performing the required movements.

The routine is predetermined beforehand, allowing both the rider and horse to prepare. Dressage is considered to be “the highest expression of horse training in equestrian sport.”

To portray the horses’ natural movements, the rider aims to sit balanced on the horse, without needing to rely on the reigns to stay upright.

A panel of judges analyse and score every movement from zero to ten: If a horse fails to execute a movement, it will score zero points. The total is then calculated to rank the riders and select those moving forward to the next round.

Did you know…

  • The sport has been part of the Olympics since 1912, and riders are able to compete as individuals or in teams.
  • Dressage was originally used as an art form to entertain the kings and queens of Europe.
  • The horse and its rider must perform in a 20 x 60 meter arena which is marked by letters. The letters indicate the specific moves which should be done.
  • The sport only became popular in the U.S. in the early 1980s when the dollar was strong enough for people to afford to travel to Europe and find horses specifically bred for dressage.