Horseback Riding How To

What Is Dressage And Can Beginners Do It?

‘Dressage’ is one of those terms that put people off if they don’t know what it means, because it sounds very difficult and exclusive. To a beginner in horseback riding, how to do dressage seems completely irrelevant.

And yet, dressage epitomizes good riding and starts the first time a rider gets on a horse. The actual word ‘dressage’ comes from the French word ‘dresser’ meaning ‘to train.’

The basic aim of dressage is to produce a horse which is obedient and willing, moves pleasantly and is easily able to carry his rider. The horse moves through various stages on his journey to becoming this desirable animal. And for his part, the rider must learn how to skillfully maneuver the horse.

All the information about English horse riding online or in books relates to dressage: it’s the basis for all English disciplines, including jumping.

Is Dressage for Beginners?

Even if in learning horseback riding, how to control your horse on the trails is your main ambition, you’ll nevertheless want to ride well, since the comfort of your horse depends upon it.

When you can perform basic dressage movements correctly, not only is this a good test of your riding ability but also the way to keep your horse supple and obedient.

Taking It Further

You don’t have to be an advanced rider to take your horse to a dressage show. Dressage organizations actively encourage lower level riders to participate in their competitions. They have tests for walk-trot level riders, to get them used to the show atmosphere. In the United States there are two tests, A and B, at the Introductory Level which are produced by the United States Dressage Federation.

There is nothing so inspiring for a rider as winning a ribbon. It creates the impetus to try harder and get even better.

If You Don’t Get a Ribbon…

It doesn’t matter, because (a) you won’t be the only one who doesn’t and (b) you’ll get helpful comments on your test sheet from the judge, which explain where there’s room for improvement.

Dressage riders use those comments to get improved scores at their next show.

Dressage is not just for the professionals – it’s for everyone – and is the way to become a good rider no matter what you want to do with your horse. Because it develops the horse’s muscles, makes him supple and better able to carry you, the horse wins out, too.

Horse Behavior: Two Common Vices

Posted on 2010-05-22

As part of horseback riding, how to understand equine behavior is necessary to becoming a good rider.

Horses acquire most bad habits through poor management. It’s useful when learning horseback riding to know how to recognize behavior by a horse that is not necessarily being ornery. The habit is so ingrained that he simply can’t stop himself from doing it.

These habits are called ‘vices’ and considerably reduce the value of a horse. Most result from boredom, stress or nervousness and can be prevented if the horses are allowed plenty of space to wander daily with friendly equine companionship.


Weaving is the act of rocking from side to side, placing weight on one front leg followed by the other.

The horse which weaves constantly puts a lot of unnatural stress on his front legs. This constant nervous motion can cause the horse to lose weight and creates uneven wear on his hooves. It can also lead to serious lameness.


There are actually two distinct habits – ‘cribbing’ and ‘windsucking’ – often understood by the one term ‘cribbing.’

A cribbing horse takes a solid object between his teeth, depresses his tongue and swallows air.

A windsucker simply closes his mouth, arches his neck, depresses his tongue and forces air down his windpipe making a gulping sound.

Research into the causes of these behaviors is ongoing, but boredom and stress are major factors.

Cribbing horses are unpopular at boarding barns because they pull on the fence rails in the field and tug on their feed buckets in the stall. Other horse owners fear that cribbing and windsucking are ‘catching,’ although personal experience does not support this. For this reason cribbers have to wear crib-collars.

Stable management should be included with your horseback riding, and how to prevent these bad habits is an important part of learning the way to keep horses healthy and happy.

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