Dressage School

Overcoming Challenges and Achieving Elegance : Women in Dressage

alison kenward equestrian coach dressage international women's day Mar 08, 2023

Dressage is a beautiful and demanding sport that requires a deep connection between horse and rider. The art  of dressage requires that horse and rider show their strengths in terms of their communication, bond and balance to present a series of linked movements. 

I arrived in the Dressage Arena via an unconventional route. Initially convinced that I didn’t have the shape, the figure, the ability to put myself forwards for judging. I did however have a love of the feeling of flow and cadence that could be achieved through schooling and careful training. As a young coach I was aware that to pass my exams I needed to look elegant as well as be effective. I had a series of great coaches who helped me to train my posture, my self carriage, my timing of the aids, my feel for the movement. This changed my view of Dressage and I happily presented my first tests, blocking out the self doubt that told me I couldn’t be here without long legs and a different body line. The Judges were helpful, they marked the horse’s way of going they rewarded my partnership. The most important factor in my decision to stay involved in dressage was the kindness of others in the sport. The shared love of horses and the challenge of schooling and training. The presence of role models and in turn their kindness and generosity too. A smile, a shared look of understanding, a little space to breathe when things such as a spook or test error upset the applecart.. This for me is why it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day. For me it’s a thank you to those who support others. To those who face challenge and uncertainty. To those who may be battling self doubt and wondering if they should enter any area. To those who might be worried about the judgement or censure of others. In short it’s about visibility. Today, tomorrow and the next 363 days until we remember each other and share our stories again.

Despite the elegance and grace of the sport, women in dressage may face unique challenges and obstacles that can make it difficult to achieve success. In this blog post, I will explore some of these challenges, share inspiring success stories of women in dressage and provide quotes to motivate and inspire.

Challenges Faced by Women in Dressage

Balance. It’s our ultimate goal to support and influence our horse’s balance. Balance though is a challenge in many other areas of life. To compete in any sport is a balance between the demands of training and competition and the needs of family, friends and earning a living. I haven’t experienced gender bias in the test arena and perhaps this is because we compete on equal terms in our sport? The pressure to balance home life and self care with the needs of our horses and other dependents is real. Financial constraints loom large too.

Success Stories of Women in Dressage

Today is a celebration. My spotlight is turned towards the women who have graced the podium. The women who nurtured their early growth and self belief. The women who recognised the early spark of greatness and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. My spotlight is turned towards the mirror too so we can each look in and remind ourselves of who we are as women. The part we each play in nurturing and motivating the next generation. My spotlight seeks the Coaches and the family members who encourage and boost our resources of resilience and drive. To the horses of both genders who have believed in us and joined us on our journeys. 

Women have made significant contributions to the sport of dressage, both as riders and trainers. From pioneers like Liselott Linsenhoff to modern-day icons like Isabell Werth, 6-time Olympic gold medalist and Charlotte Dujardin, 3-time Olympic gold medalist and holder of multiple world records in dressage. Women  have helped to shape the sport and raise its profile on the international stage. 

Charlotte Fry made her Olympic debut at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. She has been successful at international level, winning medals at the European Championships and World Cup Finals and World Championships.

Ingrid Klimke is a German event and dressage rider and trainer who has been competing at the highest level for over 20 years. She has won multiple Olympic, World and European medals and is known for her success as a breeder and trainer of top-level event horses. 

Women in dressage face unique challenges but with resilience, determination and support, we can achieve incredible success and pursue our dreams. What will make a difference for future generations of women? Today, by highlighting success stories and sharing inspiring quotes, we can encourage and empower women in dressage to pursue their passions and reach their full potential.