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Dressage terms

From: Bonnie Watrous

Being new to dressage, I have some dressage related questions. I would like to show, but need a clearer definition of some things.

So here goes.

Walk: free, medium, extended
Trot: medium, collected, lengthened stride, extended
Canter: collected, extended

Please explain the differences, I am so confused ? Also what should I feel as the rider versus watching on the ground ?


Half Pass
Shoulder in
Simple lead changes

What exactly are the purposes of these excercises ? What do judges look for ? And how are they done correctly ?

These are questions with multiple parts, so I'll stop here for now.

Thanks, Bonnie

Hi Bonnie!

These are questions that really require visual aids as part of the answers. Since I'm not very good at "ascii art", and you really need to see some illustrations along with the definitions and explanations, what I'll do here is give you a list of good books in which you will find the information and the illustrations that you need.

For learning about basic dressage, I recommend




DRESSAGE TEST TECHNIQUE by J. Camaerts (Threshold Guide #29)

These are clear, well-illustrated, and won't be overwhelming.

You can also write directly to the USDF and ask for their information packet. It includes brochures that explain the different levels of showing and what the judges will expect.

There are literally hundreds of books on dressage! If you read these and decide that you want something a little more complicated and sophisticated, let me know -- these are excellent books to start with, but there are other good books I can recommend to you as you move up.

If you're just getting interested in dressage, good for you! You're going to have a lot of fun. Don't worry about the movements, the lateral work, or the medium, extended, and collected work yet -- those things come a long, long way down the road.

The first dressage tests you will do are Introductory Level tests, which only involve walking and trotting. At Training Level you will walk, trot, and canter, but you will still have the option of posting your trot.

There's nothing threatening or scary about these tests -- they are designed to let you check on how well you are doing with your riding and training, and they provide good "spot checks" so that if there are any problems, you can find out about them and fix them before you move on.

Actually, you are beginning at a great time if you want to participate in dressage shows! The tests are changed every four years, and these tests were new in 1995, so they will be around for a while. And the reason I say you are beginning at a great time is that these tests are the best tests to date, IMO. They are fair to horse and rider, and they start out with simple, basic questions and build slowly and logically. As you rise through the levels, the tests get more demanding, and you will be doing more precise and more complicated work, but the tests are so well-designed that by the time you and your horse have mastered the requirements at one level, you will DEFINITELY be ready to move on to the next level.

Dressage allows you to progress at your own pace. Take your time and enjoy the trip -- and let me know how it works out for you! And if you have any riding or training problems along the way,horse-sense is here to help you, so just ask.

- Jessica

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