Draft horses in the Dressage ring
In an earlier thread, someone made a great point about draft horses. The purpose they were bred for is becoming less and less useful. To keep these breeds in demand, they need to find new careers. Though driving and farmwork still exist, there are more horses than jobs because its not as popular as it once was. It wouldnt hurt to have some of these horses working in a different field, as long as the breed standard itself isnt changed in a way that hinders its ability for the work it was bred for.
Draft horses are obviously not built for jumping, but I have seen some do excellent in flatwork, like dressage and western pleasure. Hell, I've even some successful low level barrel racers.
I have always wanted to own a draft horse, mainly because I love their size. I want to do more than just pleasure and trail riding with it though. I like having something to work towards, whether we become exceptionally good or not. So, as for drafts in Dressage, would you say there is a specific breed that has better chances at it? I know they are not quite built for dressage either, but surely some breeds can collect better than others, right?
Depends in what you mean by Dressage.
If you're talking lower levels with minimal collection then no dramas.
If you want to aim for higher levels, then find a draft that has strong haunches, good bend through the hind limb joints and a nice open shoulder. Don't go out with expectations of winning and huge percentages, when you're competing against wbs with generations of careful breeding for success in the sport.
You see more friesians than any other draft breed in the higher levels, though it is very rare that they place well. They are great if you love the breed more than the sport.
Basically, if you love drafts, buy one and find something that you enjoy doing with it. If you love Dressage and want to be competitive, buy a warmblood or a talented Iberian
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I am just wondering if there are any breeds that are better suited to it than other drafts. Obviously, none will beat an olympic level warmblood. Are there any breeds of drafts that fit your description better than other drafts?
Percherons seem to be pretty athletic and far as draft breeds go they seem to be very popular in dressage, especially the crosses... I would even hazard to say that they're the most popular besides friesians, haha. If you're interested in the large draft breeds, I've heard that shires are pretty athletic, too. Like Kayty said, friesians are most common in dressage but, in the words of my trainer (she is also a dressage judge), "they're very pretty but every time I see one enter the ring I just think 'ugh, another freisian,'" haha.
At 120 lbs and not quite reaching 5'4'' I'm not really a fan of the larger draft breeds. I've always loved and wanted a halflinger and/or fjord, they're fantastic and I see them a bit more in dressage than the bigger breeds. I've heard that halflingers are pretty stubborn little things, though, and can be pretty pushy. There's also the gypsy vanner, who seem to range from 14 hands to 16. -edit- if you're interested in gypsies, FeatheredFeet can pretty much tell you everything there is about them, if you want to ask!
Like I said, friesians are pretty popular in dressage. They look fancy, and I'd you're into that type of horse then go for it, but they're not terribly suited to competitive dressage.
In Australia we see a lot of Clydesdale x thoroughbreds out in dressage and eventing. If you get the right cross they can sometimes be quite nice.
There is one pure Clyde that competes in higher level (though not FEI) competition, but again it is more of a novelty 'trick training' version of dressage than something that would be competitive.
As I said in my first post, if you want to be a competitive Dressage rider then find a horse bred and built for the job.
Otherwise find yourself a breed that you like and train it up as far as you can.
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Can you do low level dressage with a draft? - yes, you can do low level dressage with any sound horse.
Can you go further than that? - very very unlikely and if you do you wont score very well. If you find a draft that scores well at higher levels then i can garentee that it wont be a typey one and will have lost a lot of its breed characteristics.
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