The term dressage originate from the early eighteenth century, derived from the French verb dresser (to train, adjust or straighten out).
There are two forms in which it is known and enjoyed by the public.
The first is in the world of competitive events, and the second is that of dressage displays, the most famous of which are given worldwide by the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
Competition dressage covers a wide range of standards, from riding-club events right through to the Olympic Games. Competitions are controlled by the Dressage Bureau of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) which was founded in 1921 and is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Bureau lays down rules to cover performance standards, qualifications and rules for judges and competition organizers. Each country’s national federation is responsible for devising a set of tests for all levels of national competition. The FEI publishes the standard advanced international tests (the lowest being the Prix St Georges, then the Intermediate I, Intermediate II, Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special), as well as the requirements of Freestyle tests.
Dressage contests are ridden in rectangular arena. The standard size for this arena is either 20 x 40 m or 20 x 60 m required by the international tests. All arenas use a conventional lettering system to indicate to both riders and judges where each movement should begin and end. Dressage judges are required to allocate a mark from a maximum of 10 for each movement or combination of movements. The marks given by each of the presiding judges are collected and the competitor with the fewest penalties is deemed the winner.