In dressage, a horse and rider are expected to demonstrate their training with a set of prescribed moves. It’s considered one of the highest expressions of horse training and is one of only three equestrian sports included in the Olympics. If you’re looking to get started in dressage, here’s what you need to know about the rules of the sport and the equipment you’ll need to get started.
Does Dressage Riding Require Special Equipment?
Dressage does have requirements as to what equipment you must use and what you are allowed to use. Some of the tack requirements are different from other forms of English riding. The following tack is considered required for dressage competition:
- English saddle (dressage saddle is required at higher levels)
- Bridle with a simple Caveson or a drop nose or a flash Caveson
- Simple snaffle bit (upper levels may use a double bridle with a bradoon with a curb bit if needed)
Additionally, dressage riders may use a white or black saddle pad, and some competitions allow other colors or colored trim. You’ll also want to get braiding equipment for your horse’s mane.
Rules for Dressage Riding
Dressage has a number of rules for what riders are allowed and not allowed to do. Some depend on the level at which you’re competing, and some even depend on the specific competition. However, there are some consistent rules you’ll likely be expected to follow at any dressage competition.
- Use of the rider’s voice while riding is not permitted.
- Tack and other items not allowed include bandages, boots, martingales, blinders, twisted wire bits, running reins, draw reins, and side reins.
- A rider must enter the arena within 45 seconds when called (by name, bell, or whistle).
- A whip (under 47.2”) may be carried during a test, but they are not permitted in championship classes.
As always, check the rules for your specific event to see if there are any additional requirements.
Can You Use Brown Tack for Dressage?
You can absolutely use brown tack for dressage! In fact, brown is the traditional color that has been used historically for this sport. Nowadays, brown, black, and navy are all acceptable, as they are dark and conservative colors. Black leather is most typically used, though dark brown is considered in fashion at the moment. Whatever color you go with, though, you should use it for all of your tack. So if you have a brown saddle, use brown for your bridle, Caveson, noseband, and so on.
Dressage Equipment List
Here are some product options for dressage riding that we offer at the Farm House.
English and Dressage Saddles
Arena Dressage Saddle with HART ($1,479)
This beautiful black leather dressage saddle is stylish and comfortable. It has lovely detailed European leather with a deep seat, moveable knee blocks, and classic high-wither styling. It also has performance panel technology that maximizes the weight-bearing surface of the saddle to reduce pressure on the horse.
Black Country Kur Dressage Saddle ($4,900)
The crème de la crème of dressage saddles, this saddle offers nice custom options with incredible, flexible support and a wide selection of trees and panels to adapt the fit for any horse. It has a lower cantle to provide a flatter seat than other saddles, giving the rider better freedom of movement in the seat. This saddle is made with English leather and 100% pure wool flocking with exquisite craftsmanship.
Wintec Kids Saddle ($220)
This black Wintec saddle is a perfect dressage introduction saddle for young riders. It provides a comfortable and supportive seat with moveable foam panels to offer added stability. Plus, it’s an easy-care, weather-proof saddle that parents will love.
This bridle is made of some of the finest quality materials and features an elegant design. It has a curved black-and-clear crystal browband, a subtly shaped patent noseband, and an ergonomic uni-crown headstall with 5/8” cheek pieces to alleviate poll pressure and allow plenty of room for the ears. There’s also a patent flash crank noseband that’s 1 ½” at its widest area and gently tapers down on each side. This bridle comes in black, and reins are not included.
This Black Oak by KL dressage bridle is a great mid-range choice offering a lovely design and durability. It has a curved crystal browband for a little sparkle, a round raised noseband, and a soft padded uni-crown headstall. It’s black and does come with dressage reins.
Here’s a classic dressage bridle that also comes with reins! Its ergonomic fit alleviates pressure on your horse’s most sensitive areas — their poll, mouth, and ears. The ergonomically designed noseband is shaped to fit in a way that relieves pressure on the main facial nerve, and the wide, softly padded crownpiece evenly distributes poll pressure while allowing room for the ears. The hardware is stainless steel, and the bridle comes in black.
If you have a bridle already, you may be able to convert it to be used as a dressage bridle. To do so, you’ll need to get a flash noseband and a Caveson. And here are some dressage reins if you need them, too.
- Loose Ring Eggbutt Snaffle Bit ($29.95)
- Coronet Flat Ring Eggbutt Snaffle Bit ($31.95)
- Toklat Copper Eggbutt Snaffle Bit ($59.95)
- EcoGold Coolfit Dressage Saddle Pad ($215)
- Catago Fir-Tech Dressage Saddle Pad ($119.95)
- TuffRider Basic Dressage Saddle Pad ($26.95)
The following equipment will be helpful for braiding your horse’s mane:
- Quic Braid — Used for taming an unruly mane
- Shire’s Braiding Thread — Waxed braiding thread that also comes in a spool
- Braiding Bands — 800 count of natural rubber braiding bands
- Clip Braiding Comb – The best tool for taming and braiding a mane
Step Up Your Dressage Game
Dressage is a demonstration of horsemanship and the relationship between a horse and its rider. The athleticism, obedience, and flexibility it requires can take years to master. But the right equipment will help you progress more quickly and enjoy your training at the same time.
You might also like:
- 20 of the Best Horse Breeds for Competitive Riders (by Discipline)
- Best Horse Riding Hairstyles for Competition
- Horse Riding Equipment List (What Do You Really Need?)
Fact checked by Caitlin Kincaid. Caitlin is a USDF Silver and Bronze medalist and currently operates her training and sales operation: Kincaid Dressage out of Lazy R Farm in Greer S.C.