The object of dressage, which means “training” in French, is for a rider to work with the horse in harmony to achieve a partnership that is calm, supple, loose, flexible, attentive and keen.
The senior major Championships cycle over a four-year Olympiad – an Olympic Games, a World Equestrian Games, and European Championships in the two years in between. The youth teams (young rider, junior and pony) compete at European Championships each year.
The dressage tests are performed in a 60m x 20m all-weather arena and are a predetermined set of movements, except in the freestyle competition where riders decide their own test (including compulsory movements) and perform it to music. Five judges, at different positions in the arena, mark the movements independently, with each movement receiving a mark out of 10 that is then converted to a percentage score. The competition consists of three ‘rounds’ – the Grand Prix (team test), the Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle.
Riders compete for team and individual medals. For World and European Championships there are medals for each of the Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle; in an Olympic Games only one set of individual medals is awarded – combining the scores from the Special and the Freestyle.
At an Olympic Games
In modern Dressage competitions, the horse and rider perform a series of movements in a 60m x 20m arena before a panel of seven judges, who award scores for individual movements and for the overall routine.
The Dressage competition consists of a Team event, which is made up of the Grand Prix (GP) and Grand Prix Special (GPS) rounds, and an Individual event, the Grand Prix Freestyle (GPF).
Riders can compete in both the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special tests, only the top 7 teams as well as the top 11 individuals not part of a team compete in the Special – all riders perform the same set floor plan. The Grand Prix Freestyle sees only the top 18 riders from the Special go through – with a maximum 3 athletes per country able to participate in the Freestyle competition, which sees riders perform their own routines set to music.
Meet the British Dressage squad