Updated: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:13:56 GMT | By pa.press.net

EQUESTRIAN - DRESSAGE

Often referred to as the 'ballet of equestrianism', dressage requires skill from both a rider and their horse to be able to execute all of the technical exercises involved.


An equestrian dressage rider sits in the stirrups. (© Press Association)

An equestrian dressage rider sits in the stirrups.

Equestrian - Dressage

Often referred to as the 'ballet of equestrianism', dressage requires skill from both a rider and their horse to be able to execute all of the technical exercises involved.

The art of trying to create a harmonious partnership between horse and rider is by no means a new one and actually dates back 2,000 years.

The ancient Greeks introduced dressage training to prepare their horses for war, believing that if both a rider and horse were to survive in battle then complete understanding was necessary between the pair - with the ability of a horse to move from side to side, burst into a gallop or change direction quickly all considered to be vital.

Nowadays, all of these skills remain at the heart of what has been an Olympic event for 100 years - having made its Games debut at Stockholm 1912.

The event was only open to male cavalry officers until Helsinki 1952, at which point civilians - both men and women - were invited to compete.

The three equestrian disciplines are now the only events at the Games that allow men and women to compete equally on the same terms against each other, and in dressage in particular women have enjoyed great success.

Nine out of a possible 10 gold medals on offer in the individual event between 1972 and 2008 were won by women, with the Netherlands' Anky van Grunsven claiming three consecutive gold medals in more recent times.

In dressage competition, riders and their horses perform specific movements and exercises - such as pirouettes, passage or piaffe - in a rectangular arena that measures 60 metres by 20m.

Routines are scored by a panel of seven judges on the quality of the movement, as well as the general impressions of harmony, lightness and the fluency of the test.

At the Olympics, the dressage competition is made up of team and individual events, which run simultaneously.

In the first two rounds, called the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special, all riders perform the same tests and the scores are combined to decide the medals in the team event.

The 18 riders with the best scores in the Grand Prix Special round then qualify directly for the Grand Prix Freestyle, where riders choreograph their own routines to music, and the final scores determine the winner of the individual competition.

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