6 Dressage exercises

Por Horse TV
NEWS | Dressage

Dressage is a technical discipline that requires years of practice and dedication for both the rider and the horse. Here are 6 basic exercises to practice.

Before starting with specific dressage exercises, it is essential to perform a proper warm-up for the horse.

Start with a period of walking in a straight line so that the horse relaxes and begins to stretch its muscles. Then, circles and straight lines at different sizes and lengths will help make the horse's joints and muscles more flexible.

It includes light stretches, such as flexing and extending the horse's neck, gentle lateral movements and limb stretches.

During the warm-up, it is helpful to practice smooth transitions between different gaits, such as walk, trot and canter. These transitions help the horse concentrate and focus on the rider.

Incorporate two-track exercises (a set of lateral exercises, such as supports, leg yields...) and changes of hand.

Circles and Straight Lines

Circles and straight lines are fundamental dressage exercises used to improve flexibility and balance.

You can vary the size of the circle according to training needs. Smaller circles require more flexibility and balance from the horse, while larger circles allow you to work on incurvation and regularity of the air you are working at the time.

Some straight line exercises involve working on the horse's straightness. For example, you can practice changes of direction and transitions within straight lines to challenge the horse's balance and attention.

When executing in a straight line, the horse must maintain a clean and steady path. The rider should sit balanced and maintain a smooth connection to the horse's mouth through the reins.

Both of these exercises are essential to the horse's development in dressage. Practicing circles and straight lines consistently and accurately will contribute significantly to improving the horse's air quality and suppleness in the ring.

These movements are essential, as they are similar to what you would encounter in competition.


Transitions are one of the most crucial aspects of dressage. They refer to smooth, controlled changes between different gaits (walk, trot, canter) and within the same gaits (e.g., speed changes within the trot). Well-executed transitions are indicative of the rider's ability to maintain the horse's attention and response to aids.

When transitioning from walk to trot, the rider's aids should be progressive and smooth. The rider's leg and seat encourage the horse to accelerate into trot. Very similarly, in the transition from trot to canter, the aids are gradually increased to allow the horse to make the change without losing balance.

Upward transitions should be smooth and seamless. The rider must maintain a constant connection with the horse's mouth through the reins to guide the horse into the new air.

On the other hand, downward transitions are a test of the horse's balance and attention. They must be performed in a controlled manner to prevent the horse from becoming unbalanced or tense. When slowing from canter to trot, the rider gradually reduces the aids and uses his seat and reins to signal the horse to slow down.

Leg Yield down and up the wall

Leg Yield down the wall and Leg Yield up the wall are beginner but important exercises in dressage that involve the horse being able to execute that movement following the arena.

It is a suppling exercise as well as being a fundamental lateral movement at its core that will greatly improve the horse’s longitudinal and lateral flexibility.

At the same time, the rider is introduced to learning how to balance and control the sideways driving aids and the outside (holding) aids by feel and timing.  

For the beginner rider, it is easier to start with leg-yield along the wall or outside arena barrier, with the horse's head out toward the wall. This way the rider can concentrate more on the timing of the sideways pushing aids and does not need the reins as much as there is a barrier to assist in guidance.

Ultimately; however, the goal is to be able to perform the leg-yield on any straight line, in any direction.It is interesting to be able to perform this exercise at any time.

Pirouettes and Piaffe

Pirouettes and piaffe are advanced dressage exercises that require a high level of skill and training from both the rider and the horse. These exercises are part of the most advanced tests in Dressage competitions and demonstrate the horse's ability to perform complex movements with grace and precision under the guidance of the rider.

These exercises involve the horse moving in place. The piaffé is a trot step in which the horse lifts its legs while staying in the same place. The pirouettes, involves making a circle on the spot where the horse stands on the hind legs and is tracing the figure. Both exercises involve a large gathering of the horse.

Both exercises are highlights in dressage competitions and require years of training, patience and practice to execute successfully. These movements are a testament to the level of skill achieved by rider and horse in the discipline of dressage.

Passage and changes of foot

The passage is an exaggeration of the trot, in which the horse raises its limbs and performs a trot gathered, jumping and advancing more slowly than normal.

The changes of foot are also one of the most complicated exercises to perform correctly. They are performed at a canter, and require the horse to be able to change the hand to which it is galloping in suspension. All 4 legs of the horse must walk at the same time. It can be an isolated change of foot in the air, or done at different strides. One stride is the most complicated, then two strides, three, four... and so on.


Extensions are fundamental movements in dressage and demonstrate the horse's ability to increase the amplitude of its stride in the gaits of the walk, trot and canter. These extensions are evaluated in dressage tests and reflect the horse's elasticity, fluidity and obedience under the rider's guidance.

On the one hand, there is the trot extension and on the other hand, the canter extension. During trot extension, the horse increases its amplitude and length of stride without changing trot action. The hands are raised and extended forward, showing greater elasticity in the trotting action.

During the extension of the canter, the horse increases its length of stride in the air of the canter, showing greater amplitude, this is called long canter.

In dressage tests, extensions are performed at specific times. The quality of the extensions is evaluated according to the amplitude, regularity and fluidity of the air.

A horse capable of performing elegant and controlled extensions is highly valued in dressage.

It is important to note that these dressage exercises must be performed with the supervision of an experienced instructor to ensure the safety of the rider and horse. In addition, patience and consistency are key in dressage training, as it takes time to develop the necessary skill and harmony between rider and horse.

Related news
Advertising Companies
Content Companies
Media Companies
Technology Companies