The Quadrille today is a choreographed dressage ride that’s usually performed to music. As a ridden demonstration it became popular in the 17th century with four riders performing movements in a square. In fact, it was so popular that it became a popular dance.
Riding in a quadrille is very challenging. I’ve tried it and it takes an enormous amount of practice and control to stay in formation. What makes the video below so impressive is that the girls have added an additional element of difficulty — they are riding on unicycles while driving their ponies. While I wish the girls were wearing helmets, this is quite amazing!
So, where did the quadrille originate? It was part of the military training for cavalry squadrons that allowed squadrons of nearly 200 riders to move in formation. Up until World War I battles were fought in linear formations and it was necessary for the cavalry to be able to present a unified front.
According to a recent article on Equisearch.com by Ron Smith, The History of the Dressage Quadrille:
An oblique line was used for a directional change of march, to avoid obstacles or to realign with the enemy’s front on the battlefield, usually done by file, twos, or fours. A simple turn, if executed improperly, could destroy a column’s integrity instantaneously. When turning, each trooper had to turn at the same spot in order to maintain the line or column. If the turn was called for by files, twos, threes or fours, each group was required to perform a left turn simultaneously.
Consider that a column could be as much as six to seven miles in length, and you can see the need for precision in executing each maneuver. On many battlefields in Europe and the Middle East, up to and including Waterloo, the front of a cavalry corps could contain as many as 10,000 horses. That meant a front up to eight miles wide, which explains why so many battles were on the plains of Europe and Asia Minor.
When aligning all of these troops so they could charge or receive the enemy, it was paramount that the groups moved as one. Lateral movements such as the half pass take on new meaning when there are 60 horses moving left or right at the same time. If the squadron is in double ranks (two deep but act as one), the levels of precision are even more demanding.