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My Horse Isn't a Dressage Horse

Too often people feel and say that their horse was not meant for dressage, when in truth every horse is meant for dressage!

My rescue mare Pharra in her transfomation over 2 years, and my unfortunate transformation prior to realizing the severity of my back injury and just how much

it had effected me physically over time.

We have all been there at one point or another, with our little question mark horse (could be any breed, or mix of breeds) just feeling like said horse is completely incapable of being a dressage horse because they were not bred for the job. While it is true that there are certain conformational traits that are desirable in a dressage mount, a horse does not need to be specifically bred for the task to excel! As a matter of fact, a wise man once said ( I believe Carl Hester) that "dressage is for the horse, the horse is not for dressage". Such simple words that carry so much weight for several reasons. Yes becoming a skilled dressage instructor takes years of fine tuning and studying so that the rider can help the horse reach the highest level, but dressage is so much more than this. Classical dressage gives humans a better understanding of the bio-mechanical function of their equine partners, helps riders become soft and develop a better feel and reach a level of harmony and communication that may have been thought impossible. You see, dressage is not here solely as a competitive discipline, but a personal measure. A means to help your horse better carry you and do it with joy. The true essence of classical dressage is to highlight the horses natural strength and beauty and to help them excel and shine with their rider.

And so when I hear or see someone say, "well my horse is just not a dressage horse so we could never do it together", I get a bit of a ping on the inside, for both horse and rider. For the horse because it may never have a chance to reach its potential under saddle and build the strength needed to do its job effortlessly. And for the rider, because our society has led them to believe that their horse is not good enough for something that any horse could excel in (of course unless that horse has had some sort of injury that prevents them from moving in certain ways, but even then, with lots of work and dedication you could turn your horse around. unless its something that has led to their retirement).

With this being said there also has to be a healthy understanding of each horses limits, not every horse has what it takes to be a Grand Prix star, but every horse has the ability to be their physical and emotional best! No goal is too big or too small, it just takes time, education and an instructor willing to work with you and your horse to help you get there! Don't ever let anyone tell you or make you feel that your horse is just not cut out for it, he (she) may surprise you!

Everyone's journey with their horse is different and so it is important to remember that there is more than one way to get to the same place. When most people think of dressage they think of regimented and somewhat militant riders working their horses on strict schedules and working up the training scale with their horses to eventually compete and show. Many people dread the word dressage because usually fun and dressage do not correlate to many people. This is because many people feel that there are very specific steps to take when working up the dressage scale and working on their position, contact, collection and working our horses correctly.... how on earth is someone's brain supposed to function when it seems like there is so much going on at once?!? I may be in the minority in saying this, but this is far from the truth! Yes there is lots of wonderful information out there in regard to training a dressage horse, or incorporating dressage into your work with your horse, but we all do not have to stick to this very specific way of training it into our horses. We recently covered the dressage scale and spoke of how its been passed down by masters over many years and how helpful it is in giving us a guideline, but that is what it is... a guideline!! Again everyone's journey is different and it is for this reason that "dressage" can be so much fun. There are so many wonderful examples of horse women and men from around the world who put their own individual flare on training a horse to achieve self carriage and correct movement (for that individual horse). There is no such thing as one size fits all, the only general statement that I feel confident in making is that any horse at any experience level or age could benefit from the incorporation of working towards self carriage and fluidity in their movement that the essence of true classical dressage strives for! So find what's best for you and your horse and have fun on your journey together, wherever that may lead.

My mare Mandi is a wonderful example of this. She was my very first horse and for years she and I would just hit the trail and do whatever. When I first started down the path of educating myself on biomechanics and classical theories I thought she would not ever be able to get to the point she is at now. That we could never dance in the piaff, school walk and collected canter. But this little arabian mare has proven me wrong time and time again. And due to dedication and many hours, both my horse and I have transformed and reached levels of ability that I never thought we could. She had not been anything special to most people when I first got her, but she was special to me, there was something about this little mare and now everyone can see what I saw years ago. Do not let the words of others reflect poorly upon your horse, no matter the breeding your horse is special to you in ways that you cannot explain! Instead of writing them off, prove those people wrong and let them see the light that shines in you both!

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