Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Dressage - A Prissy Word for a Prissy Sport

Photo by Bob Haarmans


Noun. Mid-20th century.
[French, literally 'training', from dresser to train, drill.]

The training of a horse in obedience and deportment;
the execution by a horse of precise movements in response to its rider.

Here's a dose of ignorance for you - I have always considered dressage, with its topped and tailed riders and buff, stately horses, to be a rather prissy sport (and I struggle to call it a sport at all), well-matched with a similarly prissy word, dressage, with its pretentious French pronunciation and aura. What's more, I always assumed that dressage had something to do with dressing, so conspicuous are the finely outfitted riders and horses in their displays.

I was, however, utterly abject in my ignorance, and I do bow my head in deference to the thousands of dressuers (not a real word) who would be utterly aghast at my aspersions. Dressage, you see, and as the OED has taught me, has nothing to do with dresses or dressing, but rather originates from the French word dresser, meaning 'to train'. And that's of course what dressage is all about - training, obedience and (ahem) chevaline deportment.

And chevaline deportment, I can tell you, is nothing to sniff at. It starts with basic training (campagne), but will advance to the cream of the riding crop, the haute école. And with moves like the pirouette, the piaffe, the passage, the levade, the courvet and the capriole, it quickly becomes clear that there is nothing in the least bit prissy about dressage. No sir. Not on your Nelly.

If you've never had the pleasure of watching dressage, here's a video. Feel free to skip to the interesting bits.

Are you a fan of dressage?

Do please saddle us with your most blinkered comments below.
(alternatively, if you'd like an article from someone that actually knows something about dressage, this one is excellent)


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