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A Brief History of Dressage

1936_von Oppeln-Bronikowski on GimbelIn the Western World, the earliest work to incorporate principles of classical dressage is Xenophon’s On Horsemanship, who wrote about training the horse through kindness and reward.

Before the 15th century, training methods were comprised of mostly brute force, but during this time, riding started to take on it’s first notes of artistry. During the Renaissance, riding as an art developed further, mostly as a part of the general cultivation of the classical arts that was going on in general during this time. By the Victorian Age, indoor riding had become a popular and sophisticated activity performed by riders and horses with years of training and experience. Gueriniere, Eisenberg, Andrade, and Marialva wrote their treatises on technique and theory around this time.

As the equine of the past was used primarily by the military, it makes sense that the mastery of horse-riding would be incorporated into the Olympics as a means of testing the military horse for exceptional obedience and maneuverability, as well as the ability to jump obstacles.

The modern Olympics commenced in 1896 with equestrian events appearing in the 1900 Paris Games, but it wasn’t until the 1912 Stockholm Games where the ‘military test’ first appeared. The sport slowly evolved into the separate disciplines of dressage, eventing, and stadium jumping, first coming into full formation in 1912.

The sport remained male dominated and predominantly military for the next few decades. It was the United States Cavalry at Ft. Riley working with the schools in Europe that brought dressage training out of military to civilians in the United States.

After the US Cavalry was disbanded in 1948 was when the focus of dressage really shifted from military to civilian competition and sport. Women began to practice dressage for the first time, and in 1952 the first women were allowed to compete in the Olympics. In 1973, the United States Dressage Federation was formed.

To learn more about dressage trainer, Dr. Cesar Parraplease visit his personal website.