Saturday, January 21, 2012

Okay, on dressage horses...

I'm going to try and keep this just shy of bashing. Because I'm kind of tired of seeing all these baby videos of horses bred to be dressage horses, by dressage horses, out of dressage horses and, more frustratingly, the results.

The jumping horses do not have to be an entirely different animal from a dressage horse! A good dressage horse has a big, forward, sloping shoulder so they can get as much movement out of it as possible. They also should have pretty powerful haunches for collecting. They should also have adjustable gaits. Wait, that's a great deal of jumping horses! That is a good, all-around English horse! A lot of your older dressage sires had plenty of babies that could go either way. These new ones? God forbid they have the conformation or durability to potentially jump, even if it's not planned for them. It's a good, solid, tried-and-true conformation base. Why mess with it? It worked for several hundred years.

But then, we couldn't have all those flashy trots!

I'm starting to get pretty darn tired of seeing all these sale and baby videos of horses with really flashy trots. Really flashy trots. And it's all the same. You start them under saddle, and it all looks the same: working trot, extended trot, collected trot, passage even! I certainly can't tell the difference, and the difference should be pretty blatantly obvious, shouldn't it?

And what about the walk? The canter? Why can't I see video of that? If they don't have an equally impressive walk or canter, then why on earth would I want them as a dressage horse? If I wanted a horse with a flashy trot only, I would just go into Saddlebreds or gaited horses or park Morgans or just hit the Scottsdale show!

So, what is it with the flashy trots? Is it because it looks nice to Molly Moneypockets who wants to start riding dressage but doesn't have a clue about horses? (Easy sell: "Look at his flashy trot!") Or do people just think judges are uneducated enough that they'll be awed by those gaits and nothing else will matter? Wrong, in case you were wondering. Does it make up for a sloppy rider? Is it because it's easier to hide them not being genuinely round? Is it so you can "GP quality" (uh-huh, try telling that to 17-year-old "I just retired after many years of working to the top" Satchmo and owners and riders) in a significantly shorter amount of time? If so, please read my quote by Mr. Montgomery on the side bar. Rollkur, breeding: none of it makes up for good ole' time and effort!

So somebody please answer this befuddling riddle!

There's a difference between a nice, tracking-up, fluid, adjustable trot and these overly-flashy, toe-flicking, super-suspended, jumpy, "it would be easier to adjust your mortgage than to adjust this gait" trots that people seem to want to breed for now. Horses bodies aren't meant to move that way. It can really wear them down over time, as evolution has not caught up to their bodies.

Besides, they are hell to sit.

Maybe I'm just overreacting. I probably am. I just saw a string of Totilas baby videos and thought, "HOLY MOLY WHY DO THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME? WHY CAN I ONLY SEE THEIR TROT? WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?!" And proceeded to have a slight spasm of frustration.

I'm probably looking at this all wrong. Somebody please correct me. Why these trots?


  1. A-freaking-men!

    Why would you breed to try to get the same extended trot as a horse who is known for not having a good extended trot?

    I can see breeding to him to try to increase collection capability, but that's not what people try for. I'd rather have a less flashy horse who can learn GP if trained well than a very flashy horse who can't.

    One of my friends, who I love, is fixated on the trot. (Well, most of them probably are, but only one of them has had many conversations about it with me.) She repeatedly mentions that my horse doesn't have suspension. He actually does, and it's increasing as he gets stronger, but that's beside the point. What he has is a tendency to bring his haunches under him and both walk and canter are 9 gaits. He has a rider who has never trained a dressage horse yet has somehow gotten him to offer half steps and canter pirouettes just in the course of normal work because the talent is there. I'll take that over a flashy front end and inability to collect any day!

    This friend has multiple horses. My favorite is one she doesn't think much of because she has a naturally faster tempo. Yet the one I love has a GREAT hind end and when seen in video actually has a ton of suspension... but shortens and maintains energy naturally, as if she were born doing that, with a gorgeous canter. The one my friend loves best has a canter which leaves a lot to be desired and trailing hocks, but lots of suspension. Can't lengthen as well as my guy I've been working with for less time than she's been working with the mare, because while she naturally floats her gaits aren't adjustable.
    Yeah, I'll take less flashy but more talented ANY day of the week!


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