Question of the Day: Why Is Dressage An Olympic Sport?

With all of the attention given the horse of the Romney family competing as the ultimate dark horse at the Olympics, there seemed little discussion of the far more relevant question: why is this still an Olympic sport?

That is the question I kept asking myself while watching the dressage competition, which comes off as horse dancing. The World Federation insists that dressage is “the highest expression of horse training” but of course it is not the horse that receives these medals. In surfing between gymnasts doing multiple dangerous exercises to achieve one medal, I could only think of how one of the gymnasts or track and field athletes must feel watching a guy dance a horse around a field for the same medal. I am not saying that this does not take work or that it is not impressive to watch the horses, but I fail to see how this merits olympic medals. I am willing to accept that events like jumping have athletic components but dressage has to go. Honestly.

Frankly, I often have the same reaction about the awarding of a medal to the coxswain in rowing who is selected for his of her ability to steer the boat and keep the pace — and of course being as small as possible. I also have serious question over the athleticism needed for some of the shooting competitions, which seem more skill than athleticism.

None of this takes away from the effort and training of dressage riders, but it would seem that the Olympics should try to keep some rough relative sense of effort for medals. There will always be more physically demanding sports but dressage seems well below what should be required.

What do you think?

81 thoughts on “Question of the Day: Why Is Dressage An Olympic Sport?”

  1. Let me just say several things. Dressage is highly demanding and it requires a large amount of athletic ability. Say what you will but a 45 minute dressage session burns about 400 calories and requires you to use your core and back to balance and work. Many of the privileged dressage riders do have it easier than most but it is still a difficult sport. As many other sports such as gymnastics, skiing, swimming, and other such things are individual sports. Yes the individuals compete as a team, but it isn’t something in which you must work with the other team member at the same time. Sure, one teammebers performance may keep a “team” out of the medals but they aren’t truly a team. When riding dressage, your horse is relying on you and you are relying on your horse. It is a partner sport in which both the horse’s and the rider’s performance is needed to suceed. The rider needs the horse and the horse needs the rider. I have been riding for about 10 years and even I admit, sometimes it looks like the horse is doing all the work. But to the untrained eye, you would never be able to tell how hard the rider is working because it isn’t supposed to look like the rider is working hard. Dressage is not a traditional sport but it is still a sport that takes years to master and an incredible amount of athletic agility to do well. With all do respect, if you tried to do the things that dressage riders have to do and you had to do it well, you would be amazed at how complicated and tiring it is. It is an elegant sport that looks simple on the outside but is unimagineably complex. This sport requires similar things that many of the other athletes also must possess. In some ways, it even requires more. To those who have never done dressage, it is difficult to understand and accept that dressage is as much a sport as many of the other olympic sports. You may not be able to see the human body working hard but the point is to do it without making it look hard. That is part of the sport.

  2. Dressage riders need so much athletic ability, the muscles they need to get the horse to do everything they do is amazing and the fact that they get the horse to do these movements with what looks like to be an effortless command just shows how strong and how much muscle they actually have. The riders must also have a great lung compacity and fantastic core muscles as there is no brakes and they must keep the horse balanced and concentrating the entire time

  3. Dressage Rider 1, May 6, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    You know Matt (freaking) Johnson you need to shut your mouth about dressage. I’d love to see you ride a 1200 pound animal that can kill you with one leg.
    I took a colt down. It was trying to strike me. The way you take down a steer. Do you know why? It knew it was about to get it’s balls cut off.

  4. You know Matt (freaking) Johnson you need to shut your mouth about dressage. I’d love to see you ride a 1200 pound animal that can kill you with one leg. One hoof, to be exact. It’s not like you have ever competitively ridden a Gran Prix test, either, or you wouldn’t be talking.

  5. “And is the aimal smarterthan you? ” I would LOVE to put you on my horse and see how long it takes you to realize how ignorant you are.

  6. I have been riding horses since I was 4, my dad is a horse trainer, we are not rich and I I show dressage. Nothing makes me more furious then people who have never even ben the sport of the dressage. Not everyone who tries to ride can be good at it, you must have ptience, dedication, and much more. you have no idea how stupid you sound to me if you think dressage isnt a sport.

  7. sarah 1, May 5, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Far more dangerous than your pansy wansy gymnastics! You are on top of an unpredictable 1000 lb animal!

    You are obviously all retarded!
    Is the animal smarter than you?!

  8. Do you know how physically and mentally fit you have to be? Dressage isn’t just dancing horses! It looks easy and simple but its not! The concetration required to make sure you use everything correctly! You have to be able to control you’re legs, hips, waist, heartrate, breathing, hands, fingers, weight position and be able to use everything at once! Dressage is mentally draining. Oh you also have to be able to count and memorise everything as well! Its not for rich people, you do realise the majority of horse people are only just above pikey too and some of the top riders live in trailers…
    Far more dangerous than your pansy wansy gymnastics! You are on top of an unpredictable 1000 lb animal!

    You are obviously all retarded! How about football why is that an olympic sport, over paid twats who cry if the break a nail!

  9. This post angers me beyond belief. Boils my blood, honestly. I assume the idiot who composed this piece of crap “article” is not only an utter moron for not seeing the hard work and sweat that goes into mastering perfect equitation, rhythm, bonding, vertical, leads, pirouettes, etc but also has likely never taken dressage lessons! I have been in dressage training for a while now and it is extremely hard. Emotionally AND physically. So if you’ve never even done it and competed, how can you say such a terrible thing like we shouldn’t be allowed to be in the Olympics?! I have done ballet, cheer, gymnastics, softball, soccer, and many, MANY other sports and none have given me the muscle that I have gotten from dressage. I have a 4 pack!! It takes extreme strength to keep perfect equitation, ask for upward transitions, and even to do rising trot! I do rising trot for an HOUR. And that’s a warm up. How DARE you say dressage isn’t phsically demanding! I’d like to see you do what we do! And I’d like to see you have a terrible, bone-breaking, confidence-shattering fall and have the raw courage to get back up and continue your ride! I bet you couldn’t. There’s a reason dressage is in the Olympics. It’s hard and rewarding and graceful and beautiful and historical. Among other things. Don’t bash my career again!

  10. I’m staying up late. I’m going to go to sleep now, Jean. I will wake up in the morning.

  11. To Matt Johnson: there’s no way that you know her name. That’s hysterical that you think you do. I actually know her, and FYI, that email is not her name if that’s what you think. It’s her horse.

  12. No you don’t. Now stop lying, it’s not helping you any. Good day now, I’m done with this conversation.

  13. Sincerely,

    Why don’t you use your real name? I know who you are.

  14. Yeah sorry about that. It wasn’t even me. My friend was mad at you and stole the phone.

  15. Sincerely, The Dressage Queen 1, March 23, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Why are you a 20 year old gay lid living in the getto
    I’m not a gay lid, and I’m older than 20. You spelled ghetto wrong.

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