To the initiated, watching a dressage competition may seem akin to watching grass grow, especially when compared to other horse events such as show jumping. The horses are magnificent and the riders are attentive, but just what are they trying to do? You can sample the “action” yourself today (7/25) on the second day of the San Francisco Peninsula Chapter of the California Dressage Society annual show at Webb Ranch off of Alpine Rd in Menlo Park. (We captured Kristin Cook riding French Twist on Saturday.)
Dressage is a French term meaning training. Its purpose is to develop the horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work making him calm, supple and attentive to his rider. This is accomplished by a systematized method of training where one skill is built upon another as horse and rider progress along the training pyramid.
Competitive dressage tests these skills by providing standardized tests over a series of levels extending from Training level to the Olympic level of Grand Prix. Success is dependent on both the rider’s ability and the horse’s training. Participants include riders of all ages and a wide variety of horse breeds. Musical freestyle rides are the culmination of the training and are often compared to ice skating or ballet.
“It is a wonder these magnificent creatures allow us to sit on their backs and guide them through the rigors of training and competition,” says Cindy Engdahl, who competed in the sport for 20 years. “It is always the partnership between horse and rider that ignites the passion and creates the beauty.”