The history of dressage is rooted in equestrian sport that, itself, finds its origins in the training of horses by Xenophon in 400 BC Greece and later by the French, German and British cavalries in the 18th and 19th centuries. By the mid-20th century, the art of dressage, or classical riding, was introduced to equestrians in Winnipeg and throughout Canada, by European and British riders who were instructing and competing in national and international trials. Accordingly, on 2 November 1975, 15 Manitoba riders met to establish the first provincial dressage association. At the time, horse sport in Canada was organized by the Canadian Equestrian Federation (CEF). Dressage, a branch of the CEF, was run by the Canadian Dressage Riders and Owners Association (CADORA) - a national non-profit group dedicated to the development of dressage in Canada. In Western Canada, that November, the Manitoba Dressage Association (MDA) was founded to include dressage riders from Winnipeg, Brandon and all other parts of the province. Gillian Sevier was elected the first chair. By-laws were drawn and the MDA committed itself to furthering dressage in the province through the organization of horse shows and clinics that would be held at stables where instruction in dressage was taking place. Notably, Captain John de Kenyeres, trained in the Hungarian cavalry, was equestrian instructor at the Charleswood Riding Club and Margaret Anne Sellers, herself an accomplished rider and competitor, at Riverbend Stables did much to promote classical riding in Winnipeg. Within a few years, though, in the early 1980s, Brandon dressage riders decided to form their own branch of CADORA so that in 1985 WESTMAN CADORA became an affiliate or branch of the MDA.
Two years later, in 1987, Winnipeg area dressage riders established DRESSAGE WINNIPEG (DW) becoming another affiliate or branch of the provincial body, MDA.
Although the MDA is still in existence, for all intents and purposes, Westman Cadora and Dressage Winnipeg have worked independently of the parent body since the early 2000s. From time to time, though, the two clubs have jointly organized horse shows and they collaborated in the planning of the Pan American Games (Dressage) in 1999.
Since 1987 Dressage Winnipeg has operated according to by-laws that were first drawn up with the establishment of MDA. The goals of the club have been to promote the equestrian discipline of dressage according to the rules and regulations set out by the Manitoba Horse Council (the provincial body for horse sport), Equine Canada/Dressage Canada, formerly the CEF (the national body), and the Fédération Équestre international (FEI) (the world equestrian body).
The 12 member Board of Dressage Winnipeg, from 1987, has organized a range of activities that include three to four annual Equine Canada/Dressage Canada approved horse shows, as well as dressage clinics, winter lecture series, publication of quarterly newsletters, Passage, and a summer camp (2009). From 1999 the horse shows have been held, for the most part, at Birds Hill Equestrian Facility in Birds Hill Park and clinics have been held at individual stables. Judges and clinicians have been hired from all over Canada and include many with international reputations, such as Bonny Bonnello, Cindy and Neil Ishoy, Sue Rothgeb and Lee Tubman.
Manitoba riders complete from introductory training level to the highest level of Prix St Georges. The horse shows are regulated by stewards who have been educated according to the rules of Equine Canada. Clinics, as well, are run according the dressage rules of Equine Canada and are presented by clinicians from across the country.
Other equestrian activities that have been promoted over the years include: DW riders participated in the Western Canada Games held in Winnipeg in 1990, DW and Westman Cadora riders ran the trials for the Pan American Games (dressage) that were held in the autumn of 1998, and more recently DW riders competed in the Western Regional Dressage Championships and Alberta Provincial Championships in Red Deer Alberta in 2008.
In 1998, Captain John de Kenyeres established a scholarship program for young riders in memory of his wife Katherine. Manitoba riders under 18 years of age compete in a series of schooling shows in order to qualify for the Captain John de Kenyeres Scholarship Fund. Scholarships have been awarded each year since 2000. They were originally presentedat the Captain John de Kenyeres Memorial Trophy Show. The first winners received a cheque that covered riding lessons or work with a clinician in the following year. This program has since expanded, now offering six scholarships per year in three different age categories. DW now supports these scholarships through their Education Fund. Check the Scholarship Programs page on this website for the details of the current scholarship program. In short, since the first meeting of the Manitoba Dressage Association in the autumn of 1975, much work has been done to further the equestrian discipline of dressage in the province.