I’ve sort-of already achieved this goal when I rode a dressage test at the Ram Tap Team Allison Horse Trials May 1-2, 2010. Here we are all dressed up:
Even though I have ridden a dressage test “at a show” I really wanted to ride a dressage test at a “dressage show,” not at an event, so I’m going to leave this one incomplete for the time being. Tomorrow I’m going going to write about 101in1001#7 ride in a 3-Day event, which will include video of us doing our dressage test!
What is dressage? Here is an excellent overview of dressage from the United States Equestrian Foundation (USEF) (⇐ click the link! I wanted to quote the whole thing, go read it!).
Dressage teaches a horse to be obedient, willing, supple and responsive. The horse freely submits to the rider’s lightest “aids” or body signals, while remaining balanced and energetic. The object of dressage is the harmonious development of the horse in both mind and body, and every horse, regardless of its type or use, can benefit from this training. – United States Equestrian Foundation (USEF)
Its fundamental purpose is to develop, through standardized progressive training methods, a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximizing its potential as a riding horse. – wikipedia: dressage
A dressage competition is a lot like watching paint dry, especially at the lower levels. One rides a pre-defined set of figures, changing gaits (walk, trot, canter, etc) at specific points in the figures. The arena is either 20×40 meters or 20×60 meters for the more advanced tests, and there are letters to designate certain areas of the ring. There are some nice arena diagrams (and figures) at this Australian site and you can read through the current dressage tests here at the USEF site and at the United States Eventing Association (USEA) site.
Dressage for the competition of Eventing, which is an equine triathlon comprising of Dressage, Cross Country Jumping, and Show Jumping, is not the same as Dressage for the sake of dressage. Just like road cycling and marathon running are not the same sports as a triathlon. At the highest and international levels of Dressage a freestyle competition is included, which is just like an ice skating freestyle: there are a set of required movements that are mixed into a choreography that is set to music. Here is a fantastic example of Dressage Freestyle (wait for the “moulin rouge” music!):