Kristin asked in PetsHorses · 2 months ago

Is my horse suitable for dressage?

I have a saddlebred and have always ridden saddleseat but now we’re taking some dressage lessons and it’s a whole new ballgame. Idk if I’ll ever take him to shows or not but I’d like different perspectives from dressage people. I know he has a long way to go in developing the right muscles and learning how to carry himself, and I know I also have a lot to learn, but do you think he has potential?


I have asked the person I’m taking lessons from but I also want to ask other people and see what they think too.

Update 2:

Sigh. I am well aware of the abusive practices as are present in every discipline unfortunately. But just so we know I am taking lessons in a type of classical dressage that uses absolutely NO methods of force or coercion in its training. It’s called legerete if you want to look into it more. Now please someone actually answer my question...

Update 3:

Thanks for all the answers and letting me hear your opinions! I know he’s gonna need a lot of work regardless of if I decide to compete or not. Right now I just want to do it for him so he’s as comfortable as possible and develops the right muscles and carriage. Side note: my friend was working with him in this picture and was long lining him and tried a few different bits. I don’t normally use a kimberwick and certainly not when I’m riding. 

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7 Answers

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    Of course your horse has potential, Kristin. ALL horses, and ALL riders, regardless of discipline, can benefit from dressage training. Even RACEHORSES can and do benefit from it-the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, was trained using dressage methods. That is why he was so easy to handle and had such good manners, unlike most racehorses his age. They could never have gotten him through all the surgery and trauma that he went through without his having been trained the way he was.

    As to the claims that dressage is "cruel", let me remind the other responders on here that there are horse sports and other sports involving animals (such as greyhound racing, which is just APPALLING) that are far MORE CRUEL. Dressage is NOT cruel when it is done correctly. I'm a dressage enthusiast myself, and have always been one- and NONE of the horses I've ever ridden have been mistreated- at least not intentionally. What none of YOU seem to realize is that dressage is one of the two oldest horse sports in the world (the other one is polo) and like all of the horse sports in the Olympics, it didn't start out as a sport.

    Dressage in its purest form was originally invented in and by the MILITARY, primarily by the great armies of Europe and Asia- not as a sport, but rather as a SYSTEM OF TRAINING horses and riders for mounted WARFARE. The newest "inventions" (if you want to call them that) in the sport are the lateral movements, which were all invented in the mid-1700's by an army officer who was stationed at the French Cavalry school. The first of the lateral movements to be invented was the shoulder in, and everything else followed after that. And for the next 5 centuries and more, the sport continued to evolve and change until it finally took on the modern appearance it has now. Some of the sport's common customs still reflect the military origins- such as the custom of starting and ending every ride with a salute to the judge or judges. That came about because soldiers were expected to offer a salute to their commanding officers as they entered or left the parade ground. ALL of the Olympic horse sports have rules which mandate that riders offer a salute when entering or leaving any arena. This applies to show jumpers and eventers as well as dressage competitors. Riders who are on active duty with either the national police force or the military of their respective countries are permitted to use a military hand salute if they wish to, and they are also permitted to ride in dress uniform.

    Dressage has roots that run far back into history. The first and perhaps best known work on the subject of riding and classical horse training was a treatise written by Xenophon, who lived and died in the 4th century BC- or 400 years before the birth of Christ. That treatise still exists, and the principles it contains are still used today at places like the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, as well as in the various schools of classical dressage throughout Europe. Xenophon, who was Greek, was something of a jack of all trades- he was a soldier, a statesman, a philosopher, and a diplomat- and a master horseman. He is considered by many historians to be the founder of modern horsemanship as we know it.

    In your case, Kristin, I think the biggest challenge you will face will be to teach your horse how to carry himself correctly, and how to stretch down and travel long and low when this is required. He looks like he has great gaits and a naturally upright head carriage, be he will need to learn how to step up under himself, collect, and round his back up in order to be successful in dressage. This is something that you can't teach using gimmicks. Work in a surcingle and side reins is great for teaching collection, but the tools must be used correctly. In the picture you posted with your question, you have the reins adjusted so that he's in a "head set". That is NOT self carriage, nor is it an example of correct collection, because your horse is hollow in his back and his neck is too upright. In order to get from this to where you want to be, the side reins will need to come down so that his head is actually level with the rest of his neck and body- which will allow him to to step under himself and round his back. It will be a big change for him to adjust to moving this way, and he may be sore at first. Not all horses CAN collect enough to be successful at dressage. I've got an OTTB that I am training right now who has issues with rounding up, because he spent so many years on the track. It's going to take many months of work on the longe line in a surcingle and under saddle to get his top line developed enough so that he's comfortable stepping under himself and collecting. I expect that the same will be true for your horse.

    One other note: If you plan on showing your horse in dressage at any point, you need to get him used to a different bit. Kimberwicke bits are illegal in dressage under USEF rules. I use a Baucher bit on my horse, and he seems to be comfortable in it.This bit is a type of snaffle with a small shank on the top side that you attach to the cheek pieces of your bridle. The reins attach to the rings on the bit. You can order this kind of bit on Amazon- that's where I got the one I use. They're not expensive.

  • 2 months ago

    I had a nice big Saddlebred who was fabulous for dressage and eventing. Just so smart and marvelously cooperative. And I knew a dressage trainer in NJ who specialized in Saddlebreds and did very well with them.

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    Any horse and person healthy enough to ride can benefit from dressage training.

    That is totally different from competition.

    You haven't said anything about your goals.   What are they?    No one here can tell you if your goals with this particular horse are attainable because you haven't told us what they are.

    P.S.  I do Cowboy Dressage with my horse and we both love it.   I far prefer it to the classical dressage of my youth.   My horse is not a fancy-pants and no horse needs to be. 

  • Amber
    Lv 6
    2 months ago

    "absolutely NO methods of force or coercion in its training." - so you wont be using a bit, spurs, whips, or tie downs, flash nose bands - nothing. 

    He doesn't have the best confirmation and certainly needs to build some muscle. I don't he'll be "flashy" enough to compete in dressage at a high standard because confirmation and movement is a part of the scoring system and he's lose points there. Not a fan of competing on horses to be honest as I've seen to much bad riding at shows and horses getting a bad deal. But he's yours and it's your decision. It'll take some work.

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  • 2 months ago

    Saddlebreds can and have competed successfully in dressage at the Grand Prix level.

    That said, it is impossible to tell from your pic if your horse is suitable or not.  He appears to be in some kind of bitting rig that is determining his head set, so I can't judge that, and the point in his trot that is pictured does not tell me what his action is.


    He does not appear to be rounding his back as I would like, but that may be a consequence of the rig he is in.

    I will say he looks like he'll be suitable for at least low levels of dressage, but without a vid of his natural action I couldn't say more.

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    Dressage is possibly the worst Olympic sport, and is also arguably cruel. ... Animal welfare officials appointed in 2002 by British Dressage witnessed riders punishing their horses in the arena by forcefully pulling on their bridles, without fear of reprimand. Aug 11, 2016

     However, some dressage competitions and training are cruel. Harmful conditions arise through forceful and rapid training methods. ...

    Owners of competitive dressage horses are typically animal lovers, but they also have a desire to win.

    [Many horses compete at the highest level of dressage and are not treated cruelly.]

    Horses are generally bred for dressage

    Best Breeds For Dressage, At All Levels

  • 2 months ago

    ask the person giving you the lessons about it

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