An Introduction to Shooting the Principles of Dressage

All Gaits and Movements

Can you explain word by word what a good dressage picture looks like? How about what a good frame and good rider position look like?

There’s been a lot of concentration and emphasis put on capturing the right moment in the stride, as well as plenty of discussion about the best lens and the correct angle, but I almost never see any discussion about the horse’s frame.

The way the horse actually moves demonstrates in the best way, whether or not he’s accomplishing the goals and purposes of dressage: self-carriage, suppleness and willingness.

Capturing a predescribed moment in the stride of any one of the gaits enhances the illusion of balance, or the fact of it, but it does nothing for showing us how well the horse is actually executing dressage.

To shamelessly quote Wikipedia’s purpose of dressage:

“Its fundamental purpose is to develop, through standardized progressive training methods, a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximizing its potential as a riding horse”

And here’s the link for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dressage. I also have to point out that the picture they use of the extended trot is taken at the “wrong” moment, but it still exhibits the ideal frame.


I’ll be discussing the walk, trot, canter, lateral work, halt, and advanced movements such as the pirouette, the piaffe and passage. An indepth study of the horse’s frame; how to recognize it, what it tells us and how to shoot it will also be part of the discussions.

We will cover the horse’s frame and learn how to identify and recognize when it’s being done correctly. Same thing with the rider’s position. When these are understood, everyone’s shooting will improve. It’s so much more than knowing the /\/\ moment at the trot, for instance, and relying on the degree of vertical in the horse’s face.

The Walk

The best angle and moment. All strides have an option, so you don’t have to stick with just one thing. Different angles and moments flatter or hide some of the faults in a horse and/or rider.

The Trot

Again, the best moment and angle. There’s more to shooting dressage than learning which is the best moment in the stride, the best lens, the best angle. More importantly, you have to learn when the horse is demonstrating his strength, suppleness and willingness. It is obvious to see, once you learn what you’re looking at.

The Canter

Moments and angles. Balance, scope and correctness that demonstrate the ideals and goals of dressage.

Lateral Work

Do you know why the horses have to learn lateral movements? When are they correct and being corrective to the way the horse carries himself? How does the rider’s position affect the horse’s way of going?

The Collected Gaits: walk, trot and canter. Discuss how each one looks different and why they’re performed in tests. What difference does it make to how the horse moves, in the long run?

The Piaffe and Passage: do they serve a purpose?

They’ll learn to critique their own pictures and subsequently improve the pictures on their web sites.

This is complex and will require six weeks to understand the principles and change the way we’re shooting.

(Ed: Unfortunately, Susan never finished this course. This is all we have :-( )

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