Dressage: The Movements of Horses

The dressage discipline is much like a ballet on the back of the horse. The rider and horse work together to execute movements that appear effortless. Also, it has a graceful flow from one to the next. This style of riding involves a high degree of sportsmanship. Also, a good contact between the horse and the rider. 

There are certain physiques like ballet or any sport. There is a particular physique that find it easier than the other. In the test of dressage, there are movements within each gate that change pace. Also, there are lateral movements that cause the horse to travel in a direction. They should keep the current balance and gate while doing the movement. There are some movements that enable the horse to use more and sit more their hind legs. Some horses have the ability to lengthen, and others have the natural ability to sit.

Each Level Movement for Dressage

Dressage defines the highest standard of rider and horse training. Also, every dressage movement build on the previous level. With this, horses’ training could reach the next greater level. You need to remind yourself to have a sequential proceeding to make sure. Also, you need to make sure that your horses can execute the current training level movements. 


Some horse cannot perform the highest level. But all horses could learn the fundamentals.

Training Level 

In this level, the dressage test begins and it where the dressage training begins. At the training phase, it measures the willingness of horses in doing the movements. Also, in this stage, it measured the suppleness of horses.

There are different three test training level. Horses should be able to create the medium walk and free walk. Along with these exercises are the working trot and working halt and canter. Riders must prove they are capable of shortening and lengthening the reins. Straight lines, circles, gait transitions and bend also contain gestures.

First Level

There are four challenges in this training level. It adds new movements such as 10-meter half circle or riding one loop. These movements are the foundation of higher-level serpentine work. It includes also the leg yield. Moreover, horses should perform a 20- and 15-meter circle. They should show the proper inside leg bending of the rider. Horses must also be capable of stretching their stride and returning it to the service. Riders at this stage can also perform a normal freestyle of music.

Second level

The second stage incorporates collection-related gestures. In the second level, it includes all motions at first and training levels. Judges examines the different gaits for crisp. Also, the seamless transitions between gathered and lengthened strides. The shoulder in, counter canter, and traverses are new movements at Second Level. Along with this, are the rein back, gathered trot and canter, and easy lead adjustments.

Third level

The third level measure the ability of the horse to extend right after the collected work. The movements tested while walking includes the free and medium walk. Also, judges will test if the horse can shorten and lengthen the walk strides. Horses must execute the half turn on the haunches. In the trot, horses should execute on the medium. It includes also the half shoulder in and pass, and collected and extended trots. Furthermore, the canter movements have collected and medium canter.

Fourth Level

For the upper stage movements in dressage, Fourth Level measures the building blocks. Horses have to show impulse, versatility and willingness. There are movements added to the previous levels such as center quarter pirouette and walking half pirouette. Also, the flying lead changes executed every fourth or third stride.

Prix St. Gorges

The elite dressage standards checked at international horse shows begin with the Prix St. Georges. Before competing at the Prix St. Georges, horses must be at least seven years old. Judges will check all the movements needed at previous level. Also, they will test the turn at the trot in an 8-meter circle. Along with this is the collected canter halt.

Intermediate Levels

The higher dressage level sets at intermediate levels one and two. Grand Prix is next in the line. There is an addition of movements in this level. It added the zig zag half pass required from previous levels. Instead at the fourth or third stride, horses must change leads in second or third stride. Moreover, in the intermediate II, horses must change leads with every stride. It includes also the Piaffe and Passage.

Grand Prix

The Grand Prix is the highest level of dressage. This level is familiar to people since they can see it at the Olympics. Moreover, the FEI holds the Grand Prix according to their rules and regulations. This level added no movements. However, horses should have an excellent execution of the intermediate II movements.

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The Movements of Dressage

The passage

This is a calculated, strongly collected, elevated and cadenced trot. Quarter pronounced engagement is the reason why it has characterization. The knees and hocks flexion should be more accentuated. It also includes the elastic grace of movements. Horses alternate the raised and lowered of their diagonal pair of feet.

The Piaffe

A trot that is strongly collected, cadenced, elevated and gives the appearance of being in position. The back of a horse is elastic and supple. This movement lower the quarter and the haunches that has active hooks are well bonded. Also, it gives freedom, mobility and lightness of forehand and shoulders. Horses alternate the raised and lowered of their diagonal pair of feet.

The Pirouette

It is a higher level of lateral movement. On a tiny circle, it is where the movement executed. Its radius is more or less equal to the horse length. Horses executed movements such as piaffe, canter ad walk in this area. The very important part of a good pirouette is its gait tempo and rhythm. The horses should have a maintaining performance before, during and before the movement ends. The change of achieving it is high when impulsion and collection is well-established.

Flying Change of Leg

The horses’ legs should have an asymmetrical gait beat to execute the movement. With this, the horses can make a change of flying from canter-right to canter left. Also, this movement involves the fast adjustment of hind legs. It should be exact on how young horses change their legs while jumping the pavement. However, the execution of this movement is very short followed by the third beat. The four legs of the should be on the ground upon executing it. 


Horses should have an excellent execution of this movement without any hesitation. Also, they should avoid loss of balance and stride shortening. Everyone should witness that you and your horse done it with confidence. The key to excellent movement is the strong foundation of gymnastic freedom and balance.

Lateral Movements


Lateral movements are comprising of all movement headed towards one direction. Also, horses can use various forms such as canter, walk and trot. Shoulder-in, leg yielding, half-pass and traverse are standard variants. The leg yielding does not belong to advance dressage. 

Moreover, the purpose of lateral movements is to make sure that the horses are obedient and attentive. They should improve the balance, collection, and balance using the aids. Also, compromising the stride rhythm is a no.

The half-Pass

The half-pass belongs to the advance dressage. This movement is very impressive and elegant when performed. Traversal refers as the transfer of movement from one side of the arena to the other. Furthermore, you can see half-pass in zig-zag form or hand counter change. If this movement done in canter, it requires flying change of legs. When a horse is moving in a direction, he should do slight bent.

For more ideas about the movement of dressage, watch this video:

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