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But My Horse Isn't a Dressage Horse... Can We Really Do Dressage?

As a trainer and coach, I am surprised by how often prospective clients ask, "Dressage is so beautiful. I'd love to try it one day, but I don't think I can. My horse isn't a dressage horse."

Dressage Thoroughbred OTTB horse
Shasta - an eight year old OTTB

What exactly is a "dressage" horse?

What makes a horse a dressage horse? What makes a horse NOT a dressage horse?

The default, obvious answer - a warmblood is a dressage horse, duh! The fancier and bouncier, the better the dressage horse it is, right?

I'm not convinced it's that black and white. While conformation, gaits, and quality of movement certainly help, these qualities alone do not make or break a good dressage horse.

While I have long advocated for "non-traditional" dressage horses (I currently ride a Thoroughbred and a Quarter Horse, as well as a warmblood!), it turns out I'm not the only trainer who thinks this way!

In a recent Horse Illustrated interview with Steffen Peters, he was asked what advice he would give to adult amateurs new to dressage. The most important quality a horse needs according to Steffen? Rideability.

What does exactly does "rideability" mean?

How willing is the horse to try? How to do they respond to your leg? How do they respond to the contact? When they don't understand what you're asking, do they argue or are they game to try?

Have you ever heard the saying, "Hard work always beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."? This applies to horses just as much as people. If the fanciest horse in the world doesn't want to try to do the work for his rider, it really doesn't matter how fancy he is, does it?

Dressage AQHA quarter horse
Steve-O - A five year old AQHA (Hancock bred, at that!)

I'm a firm believer that ANY horse can do dressage. If your horse is sound in mind and body, he is a dressage horse.

Over the next posts, we're going to talk more about a few of the more popular "non-traditional" dressage horse breeds and discuss their specific strengths and weaknesses and how we can use those to our and their advantage! Stay tuned!

Still unsure? Let's talk! Send me a message and tell me about your horse. Let me send you a few exercises FOR FREE to get you and your horse started on your dressage journey!

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