Dressage (pronounced dre-SAZH) means "training" in French. The Fédération Equestre Internationale, or FEI, the governing body of the sport, describes in its rules the object of dressage as "the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider."
Each horse and rider perform the same test, a combination of movements and gaits designed to demonstrate the level of achievement of the qualities described above. The maneuvers progress from simple to complex, with more and more asked of the horse. The U.S. Equestrian Federation describes the highlight of a dressage competition as "the musical freestyle, in which the rider creates and choreographs to music an original ride of compulsory figures and movements."
How it's scored
Five judges mark the prescribed movements in each test independently of one another. The horse and rider achieving the highest score are the winners.
What to watch
Dressage has been compared to ice skating's school figures and described as a horse ballet. Because each horse-rider combination will be performing the same routine, one must pay close attention to discern subtle differences. The U.S. Equestrian Federation spectator guide states that "the aids should be virtually imperceptible. A squeeze of the calf, a closing of the fingers, a shifting of the rider's weight in the saddle should be all that is necessary to tell the horse what is required." Not only must the test be completed properly, it should be done in such a way as to reflect the harmony between horse and rider, as well as all the qualities listed in the FEI's description of the sport.
As concentration is key for both horse and rider, spectators are expected to conduct themselves in a manner similar to fans watching golfers putt. Running, shouting and sudden movements should be avoided when a horse is in the ring, and applause is appropriate only after the test is completed.
■ Dressage riders face three tests: Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle. All riders complete the Grand Prix, which serves as the team competition and the first individual qualifying round. The top 30 riders move on to the Grand Prix Special. The top 15 riders in the Grand Prix Special move on to the final individual competition, the Grand Prix Freestyle.
■ A standard arena measures 20 meters by 60 meters — about 66 feet by 197 feet.
■ The arena is lined with a low rail. Along the rail, letters are placed to represent a location at which a movement or change of pace is to be performed.
■ In addition to being a discipline in itself, dressage makes up the first test in the three-day event. In eventing, dressage is followed by cross country, then stadium jumping.
Countries competing (based on preliminary nominations): 18 countries have dressage teams; six countries will be represented by individuals.
Individuals competing: 98 athletes have been nominated to compete in dressage.
Awards: Medals and trophies will be presented in the team competition and to individuals in the special and freestyle competitions.
MARK MALONEY, email@example.com
Grand Prix, first half, part 1, 8:30 a.m.
Grand Prix, first half, part 2, 2 p.m.
Grand Prix, second half, part 1, 8:30 a.m.
Grand Prix, second half, part 2, 2 p.m.
Grand Prix Special, first half, 10 a.m.
Grand Prix Special, second half, 2:30 p.m.
Grand Prix Freestyle, 7 p.m.