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Equestrian vs. Dressage — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on August 18, 2023
Equestrian refers to anything related to horseback riding or horse sports, while dressage is a specific discipline focusing on precise movements and trained responses of horses.
Equestrian vs. Dressage — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Equestrian and Dressage


Key Differences

Equestrian is a broad term that encompasses all activities and events related to horseback riding. It's an umbrella term covering various disciplines, sports, and horse-related pursuits. Dressage, on the other hand, is one such specific discipline within the equestrian world. While all dressage events are equestrian in nature, not all equestrian events are dressage.
Equestrian sports can be as diverse as show jumping, eventing, rodeo, and many more. Dressage specifically tests the horse's and rider's ability to perform a series of precise movements, gaits, and postures, emphasizing harmony and elegance.
Equestrian enthusiasts might be involved in various aspects of horse care, training, riding, and competition. It's a world that spans casual riders to Olympic athletes. Dressage, as a segment of this world, demands a deep understanding between the horse and rider. This understanding is showcased through choreographed routines, often set to music, highlighting the horse's training and responsiveness.
Equestrian pursuits are vast and varied. From the thrill of racing to the excitement of polo matches, there's an equestrian event for every interest. Dressage stands out in this realm due to its emphasis on precision, control, and the artistry of both horse and rider. It's often likened to ballet on horseback.
In both equestrian and dressage worlds, the bond between horse and rider is paramount. This connection is a testament to the dedication, training, and mutual respect necessary for success. While equestrian covers a broad spectrum of activities, dressage delves deep into the finesse of trained movements.

Comparison Chart


Pertaining to horseback riding
A discipline focusing on precise movements


Broad, covering all horse sports
Specific to trained routines


Varies by discipline
Harmony and precision

Common Events

Show jumping, racing, polo
Set routines, often choreographed

Skill Required

Dependent on the discipline
Deep connection, training, finesse

Compare with Definitions


Pertaining to horse or riders.
The equestrian statue in the park has been there for decades.


A competition in which horses execute precise routines.
The Olympic dressage event is a spectacle of skill and artistry.


Relating to horseback riding.
The equestrian event was attended by riders from all over the country.


The art of training a horse in obedience and precision of movement.
Dressage requires patience and consistent training to achieve the desired results.


Concerning the art or activity of riding horses.
Equestrian sports have been a part of the Olympics for over a century.


Controlled and stylized horse movements.
Dressage emphasizes the bond and understanding between the horse and rider.


A person who rides horses.
As an equestrian, she trained for hours every day.


Choreographed routines performed on horseback.
Her dressage routine to the classical music was breathtaking.


Of or relating to horseback riding or horseback riders.


Dressage ( or ; a French term, most commonly translated to mean "training") is a form of horse riding performed in exhibition and competition, as well as an art sometimes pursued solely for the sake of mastery. As an equestrian sport defined by the International Equestrian Federation, dressage is described as "the highest expression of horse training" where "horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements."Competitions are held at all levels from amateur to the Olympic Games and World Equestrian Games.


Depicted or represented on horseback
An equestrian statue of a famous monarch.


The guiding of a horse through a series of complex maneuvers by slight movements of the rider's hands, legs, and weight.


One who rides a horse or performs on horseback.


(uncountable) The schooling of a horse.


Of horseback riding or horseback riders.
They were an equestrian people.
After his death an equestrian statue was erected.


(uncountable) An equestrian sport in which the horse and rider perform a test of specific movements in an arena, and are judged on the horse's obedience, acceptance of the bridle and of the rider's aids, gaits, impulsion, and the harmony between horse and rider.


(historical) Of or relating to the ancient Roman class of equites.


(countable) An event or competition of the sport of dressage.
I'm competing in two dressages and a jumping show this weekend.


One who rides a horse.


Maneuvers of a horse in response to body signals by the rider.


(historical) eques


Maneuvers of a horse in response to body signals by the rider


Of or pertaining to horses or horsemen, or to horsemanship; as, equestrian feats, or games.


A method to develop a horse's balance and ability.
Dressage techniques can enhance a horse's responsiveness and agility.


Being or riding on horseback; mounted; as, an equestrian statue.
An equestrian lady appeared upon the plains.


Belonging to, or composed of, the ancient Roman equities or knights; as, the equestrian order.


One who rides on horseback; a horseman; a rider.


A man skilled in equitation


Of or relating to or composed of knights


Of or relating to or featuring horseback riding


Involving, or adapted for, horsemanship.
The equestrian academy offered various courses in horse care and riding techniques.

Common Curiosities

How long does it take to train a horse for dressage?

Training for dressage is a lengthy process, often taking years to develop a horse's skills, responsiveness, and harmony with the rider.

What is equestrian in relation to sports?

Equestrian pertains to any sport or activity related to horseback riding, encompassing disciplines like show jumping, racing, and polo.

How does dressage differ from other equestrian sports?

Dressage is a specific equestrian discipline focusing on the horse's and rider's ability to execute precise movements and postures in harmony.

Why is dressage often compared to ballet?

Dressage is likened to ballet because of its emphasis on grace, precision, and choreographed movements, showcasing the artistry of horse and rider.

Is every equestrian a dressage rider?

No, while dressage is an equestrian discipline, not every equestrian participates in or specializes in dressage.

Can an equestrian event include dressage?

Yes, dressage can be one of many events at an equestrian competition, given its status as a specific discipline within the broader equestrian world.

How important is the bond between horse and rider in dressage?

The bond is paramount in dressage, as the discipline demands a deep understanding and connection between the horse and rider to achieve the desired precision.

Do all equestrians compete in events?

No, while many equestrians participate in competitions, some ride horses for leisure, recreation, or personal satisfaction without competing.

What's the primary goal of equestrian sports?

Equestrian sports aim to showcase the skills, training, and capabilities of horses and riders across various disciplines.

Is dressage limited to specific breeds of horses?

While certain breeds excel in dressage due to their movement and build, dressage training can be beneficial for various horse breeds.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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