Basic Dressage Terminology

Dressage is full of unique vocabulary. For anyone watching dressage for the first time, it can be difficult to understand what the commentators are saying. Learning a dressage test and interpreting the judge’s comments also requires an understanding of dressage terminology. This blog provides a brief overview of some basic dressage terminology. 

Basic Dressage Terminology

Track Right / Track Left: You will see this instruction near the start of every dressage test. Put simply, it means to turn right or left. For example, “C Track Right” means “when you get to (the letter) C, turn to the right”.


Working Walk / Trot / Canter: A working gait is between a collected and medium version of the gait. Generally introduced at the lower levels (e.g. working trot is found in Intro tests), it is supposed to be relaxed, forward, even and balanced. 


Transition: A transition is simply a change in the gait. For example: “transition to walk”.


Change the Rein: Changing the rein is something you will do in every dressage test and every schooling session. It is a change of direction, usually across the school. For example, you might change the rein from M to K, meaning you would ride diagonally across the school from M to K to change direction.


Down the Centre Line: The centre line runs between A and C in the arena. When you travel down the centre line, you are riding straight down the middle of the arena. You will do this at the beginning and end of every dressage test. 


Long Rein: You will leave the arena on a long rein at the end of your dressage test. You may also do some work on a long rein during the test. When you work on a long rein, you allow your horse to stretch and walk freely with little or no contact.


Halt Immobility Salute: You will do this at the beginning and end of every dressage test (except in the lower levels, when you will only do this at the end). The horse should stand still and square, whilst you salute the judge(s) by bringing one hand down to your side and bowing your head.


Halt: The halt should be square (with all four feet balanced and even, like table legs), and the horse should remain relaxed, straight and on the bit. 


Half Halt: Used to recapture the horse’s attention and balance, half-halt is a combination of seat, rein and leg aids. It is often used before a change of pace or direction to help focus and collect the horse in preparation for the next movement. 


20m Circle: A circle of 20 metres in diameter. Introduced from Intro level, the 20m circle is one of the most basic movements in dressage. As you move up the levels, you will perform smaller circles in higher gaits. 


Record Your Dressage Lessons with the No Horse? No Problem! Lesson Journal

If you are taking flatworm or dressage lessons at your riding school, it’s very likely that you will practice these movements. The No Horse? No Problem! Riding Lesson Journal is designed especially for riding school clients who want to set themselves goals, track their progress and make the most of their riding lessons. You can order our riding lesson journal via our website. 

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