APRIL 1998 BACK ISSUE
Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 4/2/98; 2:00:00 PM.
Dressage: All Breeds Welcome
by Leslie Vilhauer
Breezy Valley Farm
12020 S. Spotted Rd, Cheney, WA 99004
If you think dressage is something that only people with European warmbloods do, look again. At any dressage show in any American town, numerous breeds of horses can be found in all colors, shapes, and sizes.
Dressage, a French word which means training, is a sport for everyone. Any breed that can walk, trot, and canter can complete a basic training level test. In fact, there are even introductory level tests which only require walking and trotting.
If you love to ride and train but are bored with showing in pleasure classes or just trail riding, consider learning about competitive dressage. A training level test, of which there are four, is very similar to an equitation pattern at breed shows and hunter shows. The horse and rider must be able to trot and canter large circles in both directions and be able to pick up the correct canter lead from the trot. Obviously, these movements don't require a special breed or body type to accomplish. Your horse doesn't have to be the equine version of Tara Lipinsky to perform these basic dressage moves.
If you're interested in trying out the sport of dressage but don't want to invest thousands of dollars, you can use the horse or pony you have now. And if you don't plan on showing for awhile you can even train in your western saddle. The only basic tack requirement would be a plain snaffle bit since bits such as Tom Thumbs and Kimberwickes are not legal in dressage.
Once you've got your horse going and you've bought an English saddle, consider showing. There are more and more small, affordable schooling shows available to go where you can acquire some experience and have fun too. For more serious showing there are incentives for everyone. The United States Dressage Federation has gotten together with breed organizations to offer the All Breeds Awards program. This program offers performances awards to horses of almost any breed imaginable. Scores are recorded by the USDF and placings are determined by your median score at the end of the year. This award program is great incentive to those who own popular American breeds such as Quarter horses, Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Paints, and Appaloosas. There are even awards for rarer breeds such as Fjords.
If you need training or just want to take a few lessons, there are numerous trainers in the northwest from which to choose. If the trainer has a negative opinion of your Morgan or your ex-racehorse, don't be discouraged, just look for another trainer. This is America where people, and horses, have pedigrees from all over the world.
Leslie Vilhauer and Miquito Leo, 1997 AQHA 2nd Place for Prix St. George All Breeds Awards