The third level of the dressage pyramid is contact. This comes from the horse willingly lifting his back and reaching forward to the bit.
The second level of the pyramid is suppleness, or looseness (losgelassenheit). This isn’t merely the ability of the horse to stretch and bend his frame, but also the relaxation with which he moves.
Although a discipline in itself, dressage is not merely a style of riding but the basis of all riding. The show-jumper teaching her horse to balance and collect to squeeze an extra stride into an awkward line of jumps; the cowboy training his reining horse to bring the haunches under for sliding stops and rollbacks; and the knight using half-passes to manoeuvre in battle are all practising dressage.
No amount of skill with the sword or lance will save the knight who can’t make his horse go where he wants it to. The training that teaches a horse to respond to its rider’s cues is dressage, and the training that teaches a rider to cue her horse clearly and effectively is equitation.