The Miami University Equestrian Team will host its first dressage riding home show in school history Sunday, March 27 at the John W. Browne Equestrian Center.
Dressage riding is about the relationship between the horse and rider, and the horse’s ability to respond to a rider’s minimal aids by performing the required movements in a smooth and relaxed manner. To understand dressage, imagine a dance between the horse and rider. An expert dressage horse and rider are like professional ballet dancers in Swan Lake; they make the dance look effortless.
The dressage team at Miami began three years ago when alumna Shannon Sullivan came to Director of Riding Lori Cramer with the idea to start a team. The 15-girl team will welcome teams from the University of Findlay, Otterbein University, College of Wooster and the University of Kentucky for this home event.
Hosting a home event offers two rewards for three-year dressage team rider Sophia Springer and her teammates. First, Miami will have the advantage of competing with two four-horse teams rather than just one. Second, this automatically puts Miami in the draw for two riding teams in away competitions.
“We just decided that we needed to step up our game, become more competitive and host our own show,” Springer said. “That way we can have two teams and have a better shot at Nationals.”
Unlike Hunt Seat or Western team competitions that are loud, exciting and at times disorganized, a dressage show is similar to a track and field event where it takes as long as it takes. The show is quiet, very well organized and requires much patience.
“It’ll be interesting because it’s a very different kind of horse show than the team has ever hosted,” Director of Riding Lori Cramer said. “We have 100 people who are extremely efficient and like to run a very thorough but quick paced horse show.”
On the day of the event, each school will draw a team of horses and Miami’s riders do a “parade”, or showing, of each team of horses. When each rider is matched with a horse, the event begins.
The rider enters a 20 by 60 meter dressage ring. The ring is a short white fence with the letters A-K-V-E-S-H-C-M-R-B-P-F placed around its borders. The letters indicate to the rider where specific movements are to be tested.
One hired judge will score each rider on a scale of zero to 10, zero meaning “Not Performed” and 10 meaning “Excellent.” An assistant known as a “scribe” is in charge of taking notes and making comments on each rider for the judge.
The show will go on as scheduled unless the weather takes a turn for the worse and rain floods the equestrian center, in which case the show will be moved to an indoor arena, possibly in Hamilton, Ohio.
The dressage team is part of the Intercollegiate Dressage Association, which is split into different regions for intercollegiate competition. The RedHawks are in Region E in the IDA and are coached by Cramer.