One of the most demanding and artistic disciplines, dressage is similar to ballet. The word itself loosely translated means “training” in French. The horse must possess tremendous flexibility and balance while having the strength to perform a series of athletic movements. The dressage horse is judged on its ability to perform described movements in patterns while exhibiting a willingness to go forward with impulsion and obedience to the rider’s instructions. Most of the movements, particularly at the upper levels of competition, require the horse to carry its weight primarily on its hind end with a high degree of engagement.
The ideal dressage horse is strong and well-muscled with an uphill build. A wide jaw and throat and a proportionate back aid in engagement. The horse must have a strong abdomen and expressive gaits with joints that flex deeply.
All breeds of riding horses can benefit from at least low level dressage training.