Exhibition Dressage
  Airs Above the Ground
  High School Movements
  Not included or
  Allowed through Grand Prix

Exhibition Dressage and Airs Above the Ground

The focuse of Airs Above the Ground is precision with beautiful movement. The movements are a drill of balletic grace combined with dramatic and difficult presentation.

Airs Above the Ground or 'School Jumps' are a series of higher-level dressage maneuvers where the horse leaves the ground. These airs comprise of the levade, courbette, ballotade, croupade, capriole and mezair and require that the horse is trained through all levels of dressage, include the passage and piaffe before attempting the airs. These exceptionally difficult maneuvers are all highly refined leaps performed only by Andalusians, Frieisan, Lusitano and Lipizzan stallions of great strength, intelligence and endurance are included in the celebrated Airs Above the Ground. Rarely is a horse taught more than one jump. Collection is the key to school jumps and horses are usually taught each air on the long rein without a rider, which is less strenuous for the animal, before asking the horse to perform the movement under a rider.

The pesade and levade are the first airs taught to the High School horse, and it is from these that all other airs are taught. The horse is asked to enter the pesade or levade from the piaffe, the trot in place.


The horse raises his forehand off the ground and tucks his forelegs evenly, carrying all his weight on the hindquarters. The horse forms a 45 degree angle to the ground The pesade is not the same as rearing – the move requires precise control, excellent balance and a great deal of strength and is the product of correct training, rather than resistance from the horse

Pesade performed during an open air performance of the South African Lipizzaners from Johannesburg


The levade is like the pesade only it is more difficult due to the angle the must must achieve. The horse rises on his haunches from a standstill position and tucks his fore legs under him. The horse coils his loins and seeks closer to the ground and holds the position at 30-35 degrees which requires much more effort from the horse. While to some it may seem the horse is rearing but it is not. The move requires control, balance training with no resisant and strength from the horse. The Levade is often the pose of classical equestrian sculpture and art.


Another photo of the Levade

From the pesade and levade, the other airs evolve.


The horse raises his forehand off the ground, tucks up his forelegs evenly, and then jumps forward on his hindlegs, usually three or four leaps, before allowing the forelegs to touch down,. The record number of leaps is 10.



Friesian performing the Courbette


The capriole is one of the most difficult jumps. The horse jumps from a raised position of the forehand, leaps from all four feet straight up into the air, at the peak of elevation the horse kicks out violently with the hindlegs and lands on all four legs.




The Ballotade also looks similiar to the capriole and again the horse rises into the air like the capriole, but does not kick out and you can see its shoes if watching from behind, but the horse is not asked to kick out.



The croupade looks similiar to the capriole but is distinct in that in the horse, while remaining parallel to the ground, does not kick out at the height of elevation, but keeps his hind legs tucked tightly under.


Mezair or Courbette

The mezair was originally called the courbette by the old dressage masters, and it is no longer practiced at the Spanish Riding School. In the mezair, the horse rears up from the pesade or levade, and strikes out with its forelegs. Unlike the pesade and levade, the horse moves forward with each successive movement and touches the ground with is front legs before pushing up again.

The Mezair-the horse rears up and strikes out with its forelegs. It is similar to a series of levades with a forward motion (not in place), with the horse gradually bringing its legs further under himself in each successive movement and lightly touch

Another photo of the Mezair.

Class Premium
This class is open to Andalusian, Friesian, Lusitano and Lipizzan stallion genders only when you list your premium in the comment line to read Airs Above the Ground. If you choose to list your premium comment line as Exhibition then your can use any breed assignment. There is even a miniature horse performing a Capriole on a lounge line on YouTube.

A Dressage saddle or Spanish Riding School "school" saddle is required (with or without stirrups).   A Pelham or Double Bridle with bridoon and curb with curb chain, and cavesson noseband is required for ridden horses.

If the horse is being shown with a standing handler, then a halter with lead or Snaffle bridle and Long Reins (longe lines to each bit) may be used.

Optional Tack
Colorful Saddlecloth (shabrack)
Breastplate and/or crupper
Leg wraps or bandages

Prohibited Tack
Martingales, bit guards, blinkers, or other gadgets are strictly forbidden

The rider or handler may be dressed in Upper Level Dressage attire, or Spanish Riding School or other Uniform.

The Upper Level Dressage attire is Shadbelly, tail coat of black or dark blue color, with tie, choker or stock tie white, off-white, or same color as coat, white or light-colored breeches or jodhpurs, black boots or jodhpur boots, and a Top Hat that is black or the same color as the coat. Men may also wear a short coat with a bowler hat. Gloves of white, off-white or same color as the coat are required. Spurs without rowels are compulsory.

Spanish Riding School uniform consists of: the traditional brown uniform tailcoat, a bicorne style hat, white buckskin breeches, white suede gloves and black top boots. Swan neck spurs are also part of the uniform.

For additional instruction on competing in this class please read Beverly Lynch's article: Dressage - Airs Above the Ground

Arena Required. Can be either solid wall or fenced, indoor or outdoor.
A description of the movement being performed.