High level dressage vs “everyday” dressage - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 33 Old 02-20-2020, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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High level dressage vs “everyday” dressage

First of all, I like dressage. I am very bad at it but it’s my favorite discipline.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t like the way it looks at the top. To me, those horses look too bouncy and tense, most of the riders look very tense and like they have a very hard time sitting that huge trot and I don’t understand the point of that high knee action. Also, they look like they are holding those reins with all their might, not soft at all.

So, my question is: what exactly are we aiming for in dressage? I sort of gathered that the purpose of dressage is to make the horse light, comfortable and responsive (maybe I am misunderstanding something). The top horses look responsive, but not light and comfortable at all. Even their responsiveness is questionable with that much pressure on the mouth. What am I missing here?

Basically, is top dressage different to your everyday, all purpose riding dressage? Are they two different things?
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post #2 of 33 Old 02-20-2020, 02:41 PM
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I have had the honour to ride a couple of top dressage horses. The first was an Olympic horse for Germany, a dark bay mare. She was as soft as butter, yes there was a good contact but it was with a soft hand.

Top dressage riders have exceedingly good balance with the horse, Thor core muscles must be like iron! Many cues are from the seat alone. Bends from the slightest movement of a finger.

When a horse is really collected and performing a collected trot or a piaffe or passage, the movement is very collected and slower so the knees will be lifted higher, then see them do an extended trot and there is very little high knee action.

Look at how low the quarters drop and how far under the body the hind legs are, that energy will create a higher knee action.

Personally I think you are misreading what you see in a top dressage horse. What makes you think they are tense?
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post #3 of 33 Old 02-20-2020, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Foxhunter View Post
I have had the honour to ride a couple of top dressage horses. The first was an Olympic horse for Germany, a dark bay mare. She was as soft as butter, yes there was a good contact but it was with a soft hand.

Top dressage riders have exceedingly good balance with the horse, Thor core muscles must be like iron! Many cues are from the seat alone. Bends from the slightest movement of a finger.

When a horse is really collected and performing a collected trot or a piaffe or passage, the movement is very collected and slower so the knees will be lifted higher, then see them do an extended trot and there is very little high knee action.

Look at how low the quarters drop and how far under the body the hind legs are, that energy will create a higher knee action.

Personally I think you are misreading what you see in a top dressage horse. What makes you think they are tense?
Mainly what to me looks like extremely tight contact. Also, like you said, they look like they have core muscles of iron - it appears that the trot is very active and the rider has to work very hard to keep up with it. That’s what I meant when I said “everyday” dressage - what would be the benefit of getting the horse to bounce so much that you have to have an iron core to follow it? I don’t really get it.

Here are some examples of how they look to me most of the time: very tight rein - look at her muscles bulging.

The second photo shows that bit is pulled so hard that the horse’s lips are pulled back. That cannot be a soft hand.

I am most probably mistaken, but very few of top riders make it look relaxed. It always looks like hard work and that’s maybe what I misunderstood - is it supposed to be hard work once both the horse and the rider know what they are doing?
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post #4 of 33 Old 02-20-2020, 07:14 PM
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Dressage is Very Hard Work! Anything worthwhile is hard.

These horse are Fit and Focused, as are the riders. All the movements are bigger, and yes can be hard to sit, but moving big is desired.

To show an example of how the concentration of the horse can be misunderstood as "forced" please view the following video and notice the horse's expression...especially at 18:00 ears are pinned to head, mouth is clamped but lips are moving, rhythmically...

Riding part starts at about 7:50


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post #5 of 33 Old 02-20-2020, 07:26 PM
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To me it always seems like dressage riders are doing a lot of kicking. Which is kind of ironic, because I thought the aids were to be as subtle as possible.

I don't have an off-hand example because I haven't been watching dressage lately, but I could probably find some. What's up with the kicking? Maybe it just looks like they are kicking with every stride because the trot is so big?

I am a lowly trail rider but I almost never have to do a noticeable "kick" to go. I can gently close my legs against my horse and she goes. So I'm thinking the rhythmic kicking has to do with extending the trot.......maybe? Or maybe that's just how it looks to me and it is just the movement of the horse that makes it look like they kick with every stride. (I have never ridden a horse with that huge a trot.....I converted to gaited!)

I should probably look up some examples so you can tell me what I am looking at.


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post #6 of 33 Old 02-20-2020, 08:13 PM
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Just wanted to say..........this horse is amazing!!!!

I was looking for examples of what I don't like about dressage, but found this horse and he blew me away. I guess I must prefer the Spanish horses to the Warmbloods. This guy's piaffe is like butter! And his lateral movements are like butter! I am in love with this horse.

It's seems like I've heard that the Spanish horses aren't as good at the top end of dressage...........well, if that's the case, who cares, this is what I think is beautiful! Does anyone else prefer this type of movement over the warmbloods? This is what I think of, when I think of "collected."




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post #7 of 33 Old 02-20-2020, 08:14 PM
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@trailhorserider someone here linked a vid (can't remember who or find the vid!) of a top rider on a horse with such huge movement he had to actively kick his legs down to help disperse some of the energy. After watching that I tried it with my mare also huge movement and boy... it worked! It helped quite a bit in keeping my butt down as there is only so much my poor body could absorb haha. IDK it's just something I've begun to see more. There is so much we don't understand...

... like I always thought a foamy mouth was ALWAYS a bad thing 100% of the time and the horse must be in pain so therefore dressage was cruel. That my mare can often look heavy but these days she just enjoys a light but reassuring contact... kinda cool IMO!
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post #8 of 33 Old 02-20-2020, 08:34 PM
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@trailhorserider the video you posted was very fun to watch, and the music was superbly choreographed. The rider and horse are very in sync and a pleasure to watch.

But the pair just does not have the precision and the ride was not as technically difficult as this ride by Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro

(will have to go to YouTube to watch)

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post #9 of 33 Old 02-20-2020, 09:11 PM
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I think of a dressage horse as a high level dancer. And very high level dancers doing their...whatever you call it moves will have lots of muscles and such and be very athletic. It's not that their muscles are tense but that they're using them. If that makes any sense.
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post #10 of 33 Old 02-21-2020, 01:53 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnitaAnne View Post
@trailhorserider the video you posted was very fun to watch, and the music was superbly choreographed. The rider and horse are very in sync and a pleasure to watch.

But the pair just does not have the precision and the ride was not as technically difficult as this ride by Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro

(will have to go to YouTube to watch)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uXXW8_NMOs&t=220s
Well, to me, Charlotte and Valegro ARE an exception and amazing. They look relaxed and completely in synch. It looks like all of those movements are done by Charlotte just suggesting them and Valegro doing them willingly. What I think dressage is about. I love those two.

I avoided mentioning any names because I don’t know enough about dressage to be able to publicly make such statements. “Charlotte and Valegro are amazing and everyone else sucks” - not a nice thing to say and makes me seem arrogant and clueless. But I love watching those two.
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