Expert advice to help you find the perfect dressage horse to match your ability and ambitions...
Competition has never been hotter in the dressage world. With our Olympic medal chances at an all-time high, dressage fever has gripped the sport at all levels – from the popular Trailblazers league and Petplan Area Festivals to the prestigious British Dressage regional and national championships. Even at grass roots level, riders are specialising in the sport and looking for a horse that fits the bill.
So what makes the perfect dressage horse? Whether you aim to impress at Prelim or Prix St Georges, making your mark in dressage means finding a horse willing to work with energy, expression and obedience.
While it’s easy to believe that the warmbloods have the sport sewn up, the good news is that a variety of breeds are showing their flashier counterparts how it’s done. Natives such as the Welsh Section D are topping the leaderboards at the lower levels, while further up the scale the likes of Gelderlander-Hackney Grand Prix superstar Mr President have proved that trainability can triumph over bloodlines.
The key to dressage success lies in the partnership between horse and rider, so great breeding and spectacular paces are nothing if the two of you can’t present a picture of harmony. If your relationship is fun and productive, your time spent together will be all the more rewarding. It’s all down to finding the horse that suits your budget, your ability and your ambitions.
Dressage trainer Alison Short teaches a number of combinations starting out on the dressage ladder. What advice would she give those looking for a horse to take them through Prelim, Novice and Elementary?
“Trainability should come first,” she says. “Some riders new to the sport have a considerable budget, but there’s a real risk of being over-horsed. While it’s easy to be tempted by flashy and expressive paces, they’re no use if the horse is uncooperative or dangerous.”
Being trainable doesn’t just mean sensible, according to Alison. “Trainability also refers to a horse’s ability to recall information,” she explains. “Some learn quickly, while others need the same lesson repeated again and again. What’s also important is the horse’s willingness to learn. Ideally you’re looking for a horse with a consistent temperament who’s not easily distracted or difficult when in season – something more inclined to say ‘yes’ than ‘no’.”
Read the rest in the new issue of Horse Deals, out in shops now...