The sport of dressage involves horse and rider performing a pre-set pattern of movements appropriate to their current level of training. In freestyle competitions riders have to perform set movements, but can do so in any order and at any place in the judging arena and this is set to the rider’s choice of music.
In order to compete successfully in dressage, the horse must be expressive yet obedient and able to maintain the correct body form without any signs of stiffness. The sport has been described by the layman as ‘equine ballet’ and ‘dancing horses’.
Competition in the UK, which is overseen by governing body British Dressage, starts at intro level, where only walk and trot movements are performed, right through to grand prix, which is the level seen at the Olympic Games.
There are dressage competitions available for disabled riders, although some of the top para dressage riders also compete in able-bodied competitions. Britain has an outstanding record in international para dressage championships.