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The History Of Dressage

The History Of Dressage The equestrian sport of dressage has a long history that dates back to the beginning of equestrianism. One of the earliest recorded forms of dressage was when in 430 BC Green commander Xenophon wrote on training of horses to do specific moves to be used on the battlefield in combat. The use of horses in warfare would continue to drive the development of dressage on the parade arena`s of historic armies.

It is during the European Renaissance period where we first saw dressage as a sport and not just military training. Knights and noblemen would show of their command of their horse as part of the tournament competitions.

These highly skilled riders would be the first dressage trainers and would by highly sought after for training of other riders as well as their horses. The first recognisable riding school for the training of dressage moves was set up by Federico Grisone in 1532 in Naples, Italy. The Spanish Riding School of Vienna was founded in 1735 to teach classical dressage moves, this famous school is still in existence today and one of the most respected riding schools in the world. In 1828 the Cadre Noir (Riding School of Saumur) was established by a group of French cavalry officers.

Dressage would continue to be linked with the military, in 1912 Dressage would become an Olympic sport but would still only allow military officers to compete; this would remain the case until 1952 when the rules changed to allow no non military riders to compete. The dressage tests in the 1912 Olympics were much more basic compared to tests carried out today the early dressage tests would not include many of the common moves recognisable today, we would see some of these moves get included at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. In 1996 dressage was included in to the Paralympic games.

During the 20th century horses would be replaced in the military as well as in the worlds of agriculture and transportation. This would see horses being used more and more for recreational use as well as equestrian sports such as dressage.Modern Dressage

In 1961 we saw the founding of the British Horse Society Dressage Group, this would only have 123 member and hold 8 competitions throughout the year. The governing body for modern British dressage riders now has over 13,000 members and organises 2,000 dressage competitions every year.

In the USA we would see the founding of the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) in 1973.

The world governing body for dressage is the FEI (Fédération Équestre Internationale) which was first formed in 1921 with 8 initial countries Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States of America. The modern FEI now has 134 countries and is responsible for many major world dressage championships such as the world cup, world equestrian games and the European championships.

The FEI established the dressage world cup in 1985 with the final being help in 's-Hertogenbosch and won by Anne Grethe Jensen riding Marzog representing Denmark.

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Spanish Riding School

Below you can watch a video showcasing the Spanish Riding School, one of the oldest classical dressage schools in the world. The horses on show at the Spanish riding school are the famous grey Lipizzaner stallions, although you do still find lipizzaner horses in dressage most horse competing in the modern dressage sport are mainly warmblood horses.

Spanish Riding School


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1920 Antwerp Olympics

Below you can watch some vintage footage from the 1920 Olympic games in Antwerp, the dressage had 17 riders competing from 8 countries. It was the dressage riders from Sweden that dominated the podium, winning all the individual medals, gold was Janne Lundblad riding Uno, silver was Bertil Sandström on Sabel and bronze was Hans von Rosen riding Running Sister.

Sweden Dominate Olympic Equestrian Dressage - Antwerp 1920 Olympics


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