Dressage Horse Critique - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 01-01-2013, 11:58 PM Thread Starter
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Dressage Horse Critique

Hello! Though I lease a lovely Standardbred, Playday, I've been riding another of the barn owner's horses, Bailey, after my ride on Playday. Bailey is also who I ride in lessons, the focus of which is dressage. Which brings me to my confirmation question:

What makes Bailey (pictured first) conformationally better suited for dressage than Playday (pictured second)?They are completely different horses both to ride and look at.

I'd love to understand a little more of the mechanics (for lack of a better word) that make them suited for the tasks they are bred for (Playday a racing trotter, Bailey for dressage and driving).

I understand some basic things - Playday's long back means it's harder for her to collect herself, but keeps her from interfering with herself when trotting at 32 mph. But the rest....is a mystery.

Playday's trot is gorgeous (of course) with a lovely floaty-ness. Her canter is super smooth to ride, but definitely flat. Bailey's trot is less 'huge' but looks very fancy and his canter is this big circus-y (in a good way) movement that is fun to ride and very pretty to see!

A few details:

Playday is a 5 year old, 16 h(ish) OTT Standardbred who has been under saddle for just over a year and is learning lots! Bailey is a 10 year old 15 h Welsh Cob who both trains and competes in dressage.

And...I've included one of Playday in motion. The other two are not her most flattering, and I felt a bit guilty (Bailey is such a looker - even winter-fuzzy and post-ride sweaty). She is really a pretty girl, especially when moving. Also - pay no mind to the lunge line - there was a bit of a jail break that day. She is not usually lunged with a lead trailing along behind her!

Looking forward to learning a lot from your comments and thanks in advance!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Bailey 1.jpg (75.1 KB, 32882 views)
File Type: jpg Bailey 2.jpg (39.1 KB, 203 views)
File Type: jpg PLayday.jpg (85.0 KB, 207 views)
File Type: jpg Playday 2.jpg (85.3 KB, 15644 views)
File Type: jpg playday 3.jpg (85.7 KB, 199 views)

Last edited by gtmochi; 01-02-2013 at 12:00 AM. Reason: grammar
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post #2 of 8 Old 01-02-2013, 06:51 AM
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Very differently built horses, but neither are terribly ideal for Dressage. The welshie is the best built of the two, but he does look quite cart horsey in type rather than sport horse bred. He is out behind quite significantly, making it difficult for his to work in high degrees of collection, if much collection at all. It is obvious from his lack of topline musculature that he is not worked over his back to build these muscles.

Your STB has an extremely long and weak back, with a very straight shoulder, upright pasterns, slightly behind at the knee and quite toed out behind. Overall a downhill build, which will make Dressage very demanding for her. I can't see this horse going much further than the basic levels, she could learn to use herself correctly as well as her conformation allows, but will not be a horse that is competitive in the Dressage arena. Not being nasty about it, but she's just not built for the job and to try and push it may very easily result in rapid break down for her.
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post #3 of 8 Old 01-02-2013, 10:41 AM
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post #4 of 8 Old 01-02-2013, 10:49 AM
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I guess the question is what are you hoping to achieve by working dressage. If you are looking to build a better body, improve athleticism and better/lighter response to the aids, dressage is a good choice. If you're considering competitive dressage, Kayty is correct in neither horse has the correct confirmation. I believe every horse was born for s particular job. It is our responsibility to discover that job and help the horse be the best, happiest at performing its task. Think of if as an opportunity to broaden your horizons and try something different. I'd love to be an Olympic runner but I have bad knees, asthma and am not built for it. On the other hand, I love the horses and I'm a great cook. ;)
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post #5 of 8 Old 01-02-2013, 10:58 AM
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Both look like very sweet well tempered horse's. What might make Bailey a better dressage horse probably mostly has to do that he is built up hill. Essentially his withers are higher then the highest point of his rump. Which in dressage is key because, as you probably know in dressage you want the horse to sit back on their hind quarters because that is where the horse has most power, and this then causes more impulsion with the right riding. It is harder to get this if your horse is on it's forehand, which is that natural position all horses are in, unless they're showing off to their pretty little girlfriend/boyfriend, which is the movement and poise that dressage people want to achieve. But getting a horse off their forehand is extremely hard for the horse and rider if the horse is already built down hill, making dressage a hard discipline for the horse to do. Also having good conformation like straight legs also effects how the horse will move, not to mention, like you said Bailey probably has better movement because of his breeding.
Hope this helps
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post #6 of 8 Old 01-02-2013, 11:44 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for your responses!

Kayty, I don't think your comments were nasty at all - they were helpful. Can you tell me more about what about her confirmation (other than length) signal a weak back? Or, if there is a site I can go to for accurate information? What you said about her breaking down if pushed too hard/beyond her ability is something I'd hate to do to her or any horse I ride. Although right now we are doing very basic things. The only part I am unsure of is Bailey - he was a show horse (maybe he'll be shown again? I don't know his owner's plans), but now is leased part time (on the weekends) by another woman. Additionally, as of a few months ago I've been riding him a couple times a week. So I agree with his topline needing work! He actually has been looking a little better to me lately, but that very well could be my imagination However, he seems to have no problem collecting. When I am able to get myself together and sit correctly (halleluja!), his hind end comes right under and up he goes (though they are brief, those moments are awesome!). So different from when he just tucks his head (very easy for him to do) which makes him look pretty but does nothing else. Wait - I just re-read your comment - you said "high degrees of collection"! Sorry about that! I am anything but high-level. Maybe someday...but right now I'll stick to basics.

66Domino, I agree! Every horse is made for a job :) As of now, I have no plans to compete seriously. Maybe a show or two each year to keep me honest in terms of my progress in dressage, but I do want to learn as much as I can. I guess you could say I am competing with myself! So in that way, when I do buy a horse, I'd like one that can progress with me. Also, I wish I were a good cook. I am a disaster in the kitchen unless it involves cleaning.

Tikapup1, They are both super sweet! Bailey is kind of a sensitive guy though. If he were a person he'd be into poetry, existential conversation, and possibly wear a beret! What you've said really clarifies the uphill/downhill thing. I hear that talked about a lot, but your analogy of how a horse will flirt/prance in front of a horse is really helpful! Bailey is fancy-shmancy in the breeding department (the fanciest I've been aboard in a long time!). His half brother is a Welsh Cob that (I am not competing so I am going on what I've been told) is doing really well, named North Forks Brenin Cardi.

Last edited by gtmochi; 01-02-2013 at 11:54 AM. Reason: grammar
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post #7 of 8 Old 01-02-2013, 12:08 PM
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I think if you were to look at Bailey and Playday exactly from the side you'd see that Playday's Sacroilliac joint is further back than Bailey's. her's is back behind the point of the hip by quite a bit, whereas Bailey's is probably about equal with it. This is part of what will make it hard for Playday to tuck her pelvis under her, while Bailey will be more capable of this.

Just looking at Playday's hip and the very slight hunter's bump she has gives an impression of stiffness. Which, would be in keeping for a horse that is trotting at high speeds. In order to do that, the horse needs a spine that is more rigid, like a board, from which the legs can swing back and forth. Whereas a horse that gallops will have some flexing of his spine, more like a Cheetah (tho not nearly as much)
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post #8 of 8 Old 01-02-2013, 04:01 PM Thread Starter
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Thank for your insight, tinyliny! Your thoughts on Playday's confirmation (and why it has helped her and how it affects future work) is very helpful. Crazy as it sounds, I never gave much thought to why she would be more stiff than say, Bailey or any of the other non-ex-racing Standardbreds at the barn. Which is what motivated my posing this comparison question! Thanks so much!
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