I'm the proud owner of a 10-year-old Belgian Draft crossed with a Thoroughbred. He is built more like a draft horse than a thoroughbred. He is of average height, about 16 hands but very stocky, with big strong hooves like a draft horse. He looks much more like a purebred Belgian horse than a draft cross.
He is my first horse, and I'm a timid rider. I had mentioned to someone at the farm that I was interested in learning dressage with him. The person that I happened to mention this too laughed it off and said: "draft horses don't do dressage". I was disappointed by this comment, but not knowing anything about dressage, is it even true?
- Aspiring Draft Cross Dressage Rider
Dear Aspiring Draft Cross Dressage Rider,
My first horse was quite similar to the way you describe yours. I was taking lessons back then. Mainly though, I was a pleasure rider. My instructor (one of the best ones I ever had) introduced me to lower level dressage with my draft horse.
He was quite capable and did just fine at the lower levels of dressage. The word "dressage" actually means training. The whole premise of dressage is a progressive training system to produce balanced and obedient horses.
The lowest levels of dressage introduce the rider to riding a dressage test and encourages the horse to carry himself and bend and balance properly. Basic dressage skills are skills that any riding horse can benefit from, no matter what breed they happened to be.
In fact, if you attend local low-level dressage shows, you might be surprised at the variety of breeds you see competing.
Obviously, some horses are bred for dressage or built for it, which makes it easier for them. These are the horses that can perform the fancy movements of upper-level dressage.
Though some things may be a bit harder for your horse due to his conformation, that doesn't mean he can't do it or that you shouldn't. Basic dressage skills benefit any horse no matter what breed or shape.
As long as you are realistic about what level your horse will be able to handle, you can have great fun learning dressage. It will benefit both you as a rider and your horse.
I encourage you to give it a try! Any sound horse can learn and benefit from learning dressage. I bet you will have fun with it too!