For a horse breed to be suitable for dressage it needs to be able to have the athletic ability to carry itself in a frame naturally and be able to collect and extend its body and gaits. A dressage horse prospect horse should have long legs with long strides and good conformation. As the best horses competing on the higher levels have to perform advanced moves such as piaffe, passage and pirouettes.
The most popular dressage horse breed for dressage competitions is by far the warmblood horse. Warmblood horses exists in a range of different breeds including Swedish warmbloods, Dutch warmblood, Trakehner, Danish warmblood, Belgian Warmblood, German warmblood Hanoverian and Holsteiner. Even though warmblood horses are regarded as the best horse breeds for dressage, other non warmbloods are gaining popularity too including Andalusian horses, Friesian horses and the Irish Sport horse (cross breeds).
Spanish horses including Andalusian horses and Lusitano horses have gained popularity in the dressage horse over the last decade because of their expressive movement, gorgeous long manes and fairytale like appearance. The instagram personality and Matt Harnacke is a dressage rider from Australia that lives in Europe and promotes the Spanish horse breeds to both amateur riders and Grand prix level riders. Over 1 million people worldwide have watched his youtube videos and some get inspired to try the versatile Andalusian breed. These beautiful horses have gained popularity in the last 20 years with an increase in numbers of breeders worldwide.
Older type Dressage Horses vs Modern Dressage Horses
30 year ago the dressage horse breeding program focused on lighter and taller types of warmblood dressage horses with medium long necks. The most common dressage horse breed in the 80s and 90s was the Trakehner horse. The Trakehner is the oldest warmblood breeds. A good dressage horse in more recent years however have focused more on stockier dressage horses that are not as tall but with longer necks and full of impulsion and suspension and needs to not only have a striking appearance but also have a good character and drive to please its rider. The equestrian sports are getting more competitive every year. High level dressage riders and breeders tend to pick solid color horses over pinto, buckskin or gray horses. All types of warmbloods are used for dressage today.
Most Popular Lighter Dressage Horse Breeds
- Trakhener – Most popular breeds in the 90s
- Arabian Horse
- Appaloosa horses
- Westphalian horses
Most Popular Heavier Dressage Horse Breeds
- Iberian horses – Andalusian horse breed, Lusitano, PRE
- Friesian Horse
- Gypsy Vanner – Never seen at higher than intermediate level
- Irish Draught
- Oldenburg Horse
- Holsteiner Breed
- Selle francais
- Swedish warmbloods – athletic horses also used for jumping
- Dutch warmblood – also reffered to as kwpn horses (often seen at the highest levels)
- Danish warmblood
- Belgian Warmblood
- German warmblood