Is dressage necessary?

“Dressage is like watching cement dry.” “Dressage is like watching grass grow.” We’ve all heard the comments from non-dressage riders. In all honesty, I can understand how, especially at the lower levels, it appears redundant. But I also can say with elevated pulse that it can bring an exhilaration unlike any other I’ve experienced riding horses! It is my passion. Yes, many years ago I rode hunters, I competed in combined training, and even fox hunted. I’ve felt the slide and spin of a reining horse. I’ve felt the gallop that causes your eyes to tear up. But nothing compares to the creation of Baroque art! With the development of all the natural inborn talents of the horse, art is created, and those fortunate enough to be astride experience living art.

I totally understand that other riders have that same feeling with the discipline of their choice. I am not wishing to develop a “Dressage Cult,” but I do believe that dressage is a valuable and healthy foundation for all styles of riding. In my opinion, dressage is necessary in the training of all horses. Dressage is equine gymnastics. No one can deny the beautiful musculature, coordination, and grace of a human gymnast. The gymnast spends many hours developing joints and musculature. Without the gradual and correct development of their body, their ability to perform would be greatly compromised. Horses are no different. All of the movements in dressage are natural. It is a systematic and gradual development of the horse. When we take the time to properly develop the horse’s joints and musculature, the horse is able to perform movements of incredible power with maximum grace. Using dressage to develop the foundation for your style of riding will enable you to jump that fence with less effort, to run faster, turn easier, and stop quicker. So, regardless of discipline, a horse will perform with much greater ease, coordination, and power.

It should be a non-confrontational relationship guided by love and kindness. I am not naïve, however, and dressage, unfortunately, is not always ridden with love and kindness. We only have to click a mouse and we’ll see Rollkur, which is both physically and psychologically damaging. We also see mouths clamped shut with cavesons, hands jerking on mouths, and spurs digging in sides. This saddens me to see in any discipline, and my choices are to either turn my head the other way or to reach out when opportunity allows to share a softer and kinder approach. There are riders with far more talent and experience than I, but there are a lot of horses in this world calling out for help. My goal in teaching students and training horses, and my goal with this blog, is to make a difference in even a few horses’ lives. My hope is that by sharing a different approach, that perhaps it will trickle down and people will “pay it forward.”

The physical and psychological well-being of a horse are synonymous. What better way to bring the spirit of the horse and rider together?


Hi!  My name is Sandi Forester.  I’ve been passionate about horses for most of my life and involved with training and teaching for 43 years.  My passion has never diminished and I find myself increasingly fascinated by these magnificent creatures.  They are artistic masterpieces, substantial in size and gentle in spirit.  They willingly partner with mankind, serving us for centuries as general transportation, taking our troops into battle, carrying mounted police, delivering mail, milk, and medicine.  They have been and continue to be an elite status symbol for some, and in today’s world are primarily entertainment and pleasure for a vast number of people.

“Horse people,” real horse addicts cannot imagine a life without their horse, resulting in never ending topics to discuss with like minded individuals.  We may have nothing else in common, but this one common ground is enough to form a society of sorts!  So, this blog will have several topics where I’d like share my experiences, opinions and information with you and invite you to share yours as well.

Today, being the first post I’d like to talk about Natural Horsemanship.  Regardless of your style of riding, your level of riding, or your breed of horse, it all begins with the understanding of the horse in nature.  With the study of the horse we can learn to communicate, train, and partner with them. By understanding the instincts, natural behavior, and language of the horse, I believe the spirit of the horse and rider can come together in harmony.  I am sure that every horse-loving person would like to have such a relationship with their partner.

So, who is the horse? First and foremost, he is a PREY animal.  He must rely on his instincts for survival from the predator.  And who are we? The human is a PREDATOR.  Understanding the difference of both the physical and psychological aspects between prey and predator is the first step in the process of communicating and training your horse using Natural Horsemanship.

I look forward to sharing my views on these essential subjects in detail with future posts, followed by how we can use this information in training our horse using a soft and natural approach. Additional areas of discussion will be classical dressage, general training, and horse care and management. I also plan to introduce you to some of the horses I work with now, and horses who have taught me along the way.

I hope you will enjoy my blog, and I encourage you to comment at any time.