Dressage harder than it looks

Sunday, July 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:41 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

As easy as it looks, dressage tests the best riders and horses.

Reba Bryson, 58, of Rolla, began competing about 28 years ago.

“It’s as mentally challenging as it is physically challenging,” Bryson said. “That’s what I like about it. It is a constant challenge to be ahead of the horse.”

According to the United States Dressage Federation Web site,, dressage attempts to teach a horse to be obedient and responsive but energetic while receiving light instructions from the rider.

The second day of the Missouri Dressage Classic took place Saturday at the Midway Expo Center. Show-Me-State Games competitors also competed at the event, performing in 29 classes of various degrees of difficulty within the Classic. The Games competition ended Saturday, but the Classic finishes today.

Alicia Wagner, 12 of Columbia, said this was the first time she had competed in the Games.

Wagner said her ride could have been better. Her horse broke to trot from a canter, and Wagner could not recover.

Wagner, who will enter seventh grade at Smithton Middle School in the fall, earned a 60.769. One hundred is the best possible score for dressage but anywhere in the 60s or 70s is considered good.

Bryson competed in the Classic in the fourth level, test one class and finished fourth with a 61.8. Bryson said that her ride would have gone better if she would have practiced her test more.

Bryson’s daughter, Mindy Bryson, 31, also competes in dressage. She said she was never pressured into riding, but she had a lot of exposure. Mindy Bryson said she became serious about competing at 18 but has been riding since she was 6, when she was given her mother’s horse. The Brysons have three horses and board five.

Mindy Bryson said she trains with her mother, and it can be tense, but they help one another.

“It isn’t uncommon to have family pairs,” Mindy Bryson said. “It is a good sport for families. You don’t have to compete against one another and they’re not a teammate you have to depend on.”

The Brysons spend a lot of their time training. Mindy Bryson, who works as a nursing instructor at Waynesville Technical Academy, said she trains five to seven days a week.

Dressage has become a passion for Casey Freeman, 18, a rider from Hartsville.

Freeman, who will be a freshman at Duke in the fall, said that every time she steps into the ring it is a challenge.

“How far can I go,” Freeman said. “Each horse is interesting and reflective of us mentally and physically and emotionally. We become attuned to the horse.”

Freeman said that she never has a perfect ride but there are perfect moments and that’s what she works toward.

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