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How To Choose A Dressage Horse

Mar 9, 2008
Finding a suitable dressage horse is a difficult task that requires planning and a thorough understanding of your horse needs. Before you start, you need to compile a list of what you want in your dressage horse along with a list of the characteristics that are not acceptable. In this article we'll cover how to build those lists, narrow your dressage horse selections, good dressage horse breeds and how to find the right horse for you.

The first step is determining your price and budget. This is going to be your guiding factor; from there you can work on eliminating horses with unacceptable characteristics. Here's a list of undesirable traits in a prospective dressage horse:

1. Poor movement.

Avoid a horse that isn't straight in its movement, both in front and behind.

2. Faulty conformation.

Any horse with a faulty conformation should also be avoided. Watch out for a horse that stands higher at his croup, has a low-set neck, or a poorly set-on head. Poor head conformation means the horse will have trouble opening up his neck and jaw, a detriment in dressage.

3. Wide frame.

Any horse that is too wide through the chest, shoulders and rib-cage will prevent you from riding with a good depth of seat and length of leg - both critical in dressage.

4. Narrow frame.

If the frame is too narrow, the horse's action may be too "close" in front or behind. Also, a weak horse won't perform as well.

5. Difficult temperament.

Ideally, you want a horse with a pliable temperament and a willingness to learn and work with you, rather than against you.

Now that we've covered some of the unwanted characteristics in a dressage horse, what are the more desirable traits?

1. Good conformation.

Look at the horse's conformation when it's standing naturally, and when he's moving. As you watch the horse, imagine the frame and appearance of a Grand Prix champion dressage horse, with the lowered coup and the horse rising up through the back and withers. You should see that potential in your prospective, young horse.

2. A horse to match your lifestyle.

Do you need a horse that thrives on work and daily activity, or one who can be content staying sedentary for a day or two? Does the height and size match your proportions?

3. Temperament.

A calm and consistent temperament that is compatible with your own will make training and competition much easier and all the more rewarding. Look for a horse that is full of character, but still manageable and trainable.

4. Good pace and movement.

The walk is so important, even on a loose rein. The horse's steps should be long and even in length. There should be no indication of tension, nor any inclination to hurry out of its steady, pacing rhythm.

What are some good dressage horse breeds?

Swedish Warmblood horses make popular dressage horses because they are compact, yet very strong. Even larger horses like the Irish draught do well due to their strong conformation and typical middle weight status. Finally, the Irish Trill is another popular dressage horse because it is strong enough to easily bear the rider's weight, but not heavy in stature or in the way it caries itself.

That said, the ideal dressage horse has a strong frame without any serious weakness, a generous temperament, and the will to work and train as a partner. The shape and size of a dressage horse is surprisingly varied, and therefore so are your breed options.
About the Author
CS Swarens is the president of Find a Pet Online. 800 998-7065 For additional information on dogs, cats, birds, horses, and exotic pets visit the internet's pet resource including pet classifieds at http://www.findapetonline.com. Research over 130 horse breed profiles at http://www.findapetonline.com/horse_breeds_a_m.html
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