Should we stop comparing dressage with ballet?

Por Horse TV
NEWS | Dressage

We have heard on many occasions that dressage can be compared to ballet. This sport is the most systematic and corrective training for all breeds of horses. It trains both horse and rider. However, some argue we should stop comparing dressage with ballet.

The movement and guide by rein, hands and legs of the rider act as the mode of training. At present Dressage is an Olympic discipline and there are international events at all sorts of levels.

You might find useful: Find out the meaning of the C’s in dressage.


Dressage is like dancing with a partner

Patricia Becker is a dancer and dressage trainer. She dances with her boyfriend, a professional Latin ballroom dancer. Taking dancing lessons helped her improve in the equestrian discipline. The harder she worked, the more she connected with her horse.

Having a 50-50 partnership with a horse helps establish a deeper connection. It is as if the horse was the gentleman on the dance floor. Stamina is essential in dressage competitions, just as in dancing. 

Also, maintaining the position without being stiff requires concentration. For this, core strength and flexibility is needed, this is why it is so similar to ballet.


Dressage is not horse ballet

The other side of the argument claims we should stop referring to dressage as horse ballet. According to Katie, horse ballet is not a term she has come up with in equestrian literature, and is “simply another contemporary media concoction, an elevation of the everyday to its overinflated excess.”

For many riders of dressage, it is flatwork. However, when we refer to it as horse ballet we are just overdressing it. The dressage world already is extremely demanding and beautiful to watch on its own. 

Correct but limited

Roslyn Sulcas, from the New York Times, decided to watch three hours of dressage competitions to come up with a conclusion. As a dance critic, Roslyn wanted to establish whether there were significant coincidences or not

Firstly, we need to take into account that a horse movement is far more limited to a dancer’s. There are 38 set movements in this equestrian sport, and not only the horse has to execute these movements with precision, but also doing so through the subtle use of reins and leg pressure. 

Roslyn’s conclusion is that the description that the sport is ballet-for-horses is right, but limited. The apparent calm and near-indifference of the riders is similar to the one of a ballet dancer, and they are making difficult accomplishments look easy to the public. 

In Horse TV, we agree that dressage is a beautiful sport that requires deep concentration and a higher level of stamina than in other sports. Performed at its highest level, it is a fantastic spectacle for all, and whether we refer to it as horse ballet or not, it does not stop being an equestrian discipline worth watching.

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