About Dressage

Dressage is a French term meaning “training” Dressage promotes riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance, thus making any horse more tractable and enjoyable when participating in any riding activity whether it be hacking, trekking, hunting or Jumping and Dressage competitions


Competitive dressage involves nine progressive levels incorporating multiple tests within each level. There are also tests specifically written for young horses (4,5,6 yrs), Prix Caprilli (incorporates small jumps) and the crowd pleasing Musical Freestyles.

International Tests are revised every four years by the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale)

Competitions occur in internationally sized arenas (40m x 20m or 60m x 20m) with all rules for national competitions, apparel and equipment being regulated by ESNZ Dressage.

National Judges are accredited ESNZ Dressage.

Success in dressage is dependent on the rider’s execution of the requirements of the test at each level, but because of the goal of the training, many horse breeds can be very successful.

Dressage competition is delivered by ESNZ Dressage nationally, 20 ESNZ Area Groups and a number of ESNZ affiliates (eg: Pony Clubs, RAS) and ESNZ Member organisations.

These groups collectively offer a wide variety of events nationwide with the season highlights being the FEI World Dressage Challenge, North and South Island Championships, the National Pony and Young Rider Championships, the National Championships and finally the Horse of the Year Show.

Competitions are based on the grade of the pony or horse and / or experience of the rider.

Pony & Horse Grades: Grades are defined by the level of competition and the number of grading points earned at each level

Introductory Level is the most rudimentary and earns no grading points. Graded Tests are divided into 9 Levels which progressively get more difficult from Level 1 – Grand Prix (Level 9 equates to Olympic & World Championship Level)

Riders are classified into Rider Categories from CN (Newcomer) to C9 depending on the highest level at which grading points have been earned

Grading points are allocated to each horse based on the percentage gained in each test.

  • 1 point 57 - 59.99%
  • 3 points 60 - 62.99%
  • 5 points 63 - 66.99%
  • 7 points 67%+

These points are accumulated on the ESNZ National Database and a horse moves from one grade to the next once a predetermined number of points are accumulated.