Dressage Is An Equestrian Ballet

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Gaylene Riepel dances with horses.

As a dressage rider, she likens the experience to "ballet on horseback."

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After a lifetime love of horses, Riepel began taking dressage lessons in 2002 from local trainer Shari Patterson.

"I loved horses from the time I was a kid," she said.

Dressage is defined as the training of a horse to carry out a series of precise, controlled movements in response to minimal signals from its rider.

Riepel said the movements are precise, graceful and classical.

"It's a communication between horse and rider," she said. "Dressage teaches you balance in the saddle."

Riepel said her favorite aspect of dressage is the communication she shares with her horse.

"With Western riding I felt like a passenger, whereas with dressage, you're an active participant," she said.

On Nov. 3, Riepel took part in the Arizona Dressage Association State Championship and Fall Fiesta held at WestWorld in Scottsdale.

Even though the show was one of only a handful she's done and her first A-rated show, Riepel and her horse Flynn performed well together -- earning fifth- and sixth-place ribbons.

Riepel said she plans to continue with dressage and will likely perform in a few shows in 2008.

"I'll continue to perform for as long as I can," she said.

A dream for the future, Riepel said, would be to someday move with her husband to her 320-acre ranch in Snowflake and raise her horses.

Until then, she'll continue the dance.

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