The U.S. just won team dressage gold at the Pan Am Games, and I'm betting that's a lot more exciting for me than it is for you. But it got me thinking that this is a good time to bring up the sport of my heart, because there's a dressage reference or two in The Skeleton King.
Our new Leading Lady in this Dartmoor novel (who you will meet soon) does not wear a shadbelly or profess to be Olympic-bound like the awesome team pictured above, but she does ride local-level dressage in Knoxville where she teachers, trains, and manages a farm. When I talk to friends and family about my work, they always say, "Wait, you're not writing about horses???" I don't normally. I did with Whatever Remains, and the opportunity presented itself again, with The Skeleton King.
So, what is dressage? It's an equestrian sport rooted in cavalry training, named for a French term that means "training," go figure. The emphasis is on balance, flexibility, and harmony, creating a partnership between horse and rider. It stems from the bond necessary for quick maneuvering as cavalry officers steered their mounts with their legs and seat while wielding swords, shields, and later guns. It's all about control and communication.
I'll let Steffen Peters demonstrate what it looks like at the Olympic level. My character dabbles in the much lower levels, enjoying the partnership the training establishes between horse and rider. I don't go into too much of the fancy detail about the sport - the LL's life is more about the daily grunge of working, sweating, and problem-solving - but I wanted you to see the "dance" if you were curious.