Andalusians in Competitive Dressage

Introduction

The objective of dressage is the harmonious combination of the structure and capabilities of the horse. The desired result is an animal that is calm but flexible, attentive, full of trust and receptive, and in full understanding with the rider.

Any horse breed can perform dressage, but there are a few that stand out of the crowd. A good dressage prospect, if you are looking for a dressage horse for sale, will be well balanced, built uphill, and have good gaits. The equestrian who likes the challenge of precision horse riding will enjoy dressage. Some riders combine dressage and jumping into the sport of eventing. Others enjoy the competition of a dressage horse show. Different levels of dressage exist, from the very basic or introductory levels to FEI.

Riders looking for an FEI level horse often choose the warmblood horse such as the Trakehner, Holsteiner, Hanoverian, or Oldenburg. A dressage horse that has many years of experience and is highly trained is called a schoolmaster. Other riders, just getting into dressage, may prefer a less expensive breed of dressage horse such as an Arabian, thoroughbred, quarter horse, or Morgan. Dressage horse shows can be found all around the United States and are very popular in California and Florida.

The Andalusian, to which this website is devoted, makes an excellent choice for a dressage horse. But you will not find many Andalusian dressage horses in sale...they are very valuable due to their training and rarity.

Why does the Spanish horse excel in Classical Dressage?

The great riding academies of Europe based their art on Spanish horse natural movements which demand the balance, collection, agility and working temperament to calmly perform the Piaffe, Pirouette, Capriole, Curette and Levade. These "high school" arts are still performed at the Spanish Riding School, Vienna, Royal School of Equestrian Art, Jerez, the Cadre Noir, Saumur and others.

Can Andalusians be Competitive in Open Dressage?

This article below was originally published in 2003 but I thought it was worth re-printing.

If you google "competitive dressage", you might land on a page that has competitive dressage results. These include U.S. and International results, United States Equestrian Team (USET), and FEI standings and so on.

The USET site defines dressage as “derived from the French verb ‘dresser’, which simply means ‘to train’... it has come to denote both a training method and a competitive sport. . .as a sport competitive dressage challenges horse and rider to strive for even greater levels of precision and harmony.” The competition venue is described as a playing field which is 20 by 60 meters with 12 letter markers. The horse and rider performing competitive dressage then perform a “series of required movements at specific locations within the arena.”

Interestingly enough, the USET site then goes on to list the required movements which are: piaffe, passage, pirouette, half pass, and flying change.

What does the current competitive dressage arena look like? Today it is dominated by large, heavy European warmbloods. Mari Monda Zdunic was a student of the late Chuck Grant, often referred to as the “Father of American Dressage.” In one article posted on the internet, Mari refers to the current fad of dressage as “Bay Watch Dressage” because of the prejudice towards large warmbloods with a certain type of build. When it comes to riding, she, in fact, seems to prefer lightness and the French and classical methods.

Now, if you google “competitive dressage” and “Andalusian”, what you’ll see pop up is listings of horses with POTENTIAL. That’s right, lots of potential competitive dressage horses out there that also happen to be Andalusians. If there’s so many potential Andalusian dressage horses, why haven’t we seen them?

That’s because in the USA we have yet become a force to be reckoned with. The warmbloods are still in power. Everyone’s hoping that someday the Andalusian horses will make it big in dressage. But let’s face it, that just isn’t going to happen anytime soon. The competitive dressage arena is ruled by big, bold, bad horses. The round little fat Andalusian just doesn’t have a chance. Or does he?

The potential for an Andalusian to make it to the FEI level is all in the genetics. Sure, you could take a mediocre horse with short legs and a quick little trot and put him with a top trainer. In no time he’ll be doing all the required movements. But could this 15.2 hand shrimp really compete with the 17.2 hand warmblood breathing over top of him? I don’t think so.

That’s why if you’re going to the top, I mean way up there in competitive dressage, you’d be the type of serious rider who is ready to plunk down 40 or 50 grand for an imported European warmblood. You wouldn’t bat an eye at purchasing a 17 hand monster with great extensions.

But wait, there are those of us who prefer the classical dressage methods. We like a little collection in our horses. We don’t care so much for hotty-totty European warmbloods this or warmbloods that. We want a horse with a soul, a horse with a culture, and let’s face it, we like that long mane and tail. If you’re the type of person who is intrigued by the pure Spanish horse for what he is, good stuff and bad, then you CAN find a horse that is good enough for the Cria and good enough for dressage.

What do I mean by that? Good enough for the Cria? well, you see, in Spain they do this thing called culling. In the U.S. we refer to it as Cria approved, Cria Caballar, PRE, or Pure Spanish [or ANCCE revised]. It just means that your mare or stallion is considered of sufficient breed type to be given papers by the almighty mother country of Spain. A horse that meets the Cria standards had parents that met the standards and grandparents before that. He or she should be pretty darn nice. But wait, not all PREs are created the same!

That’s why you have to decide what route you want to take to the top. Will you be satisfied with a cute little gelding with long forelock and eyes that bat at you? When he bows everyone applauds, and then he marches off in a cute little Spanish walk. Take him on a trail ride, he doesn’t bat an eye. Sounds perfect. Till you show up at the dressage arena for your lesson and everyone just shakes their head. Don’t care about that? good. At least you can enjoy your horse and ride him down the road as the semi-truck passes you and you’re not afraid one bit.

But what if your heart is set on those third level tests? You really want to get top scores in second level. You want a horse that is born at least looking like a horse that could learn first level in a week. And you want a horse with a little bit of height and some extensions and good darn collections without paddling his feet around everywhere. In fact, you plan on doing FEI level competitions once you find a trainer in your area.

Consider that if you wander around the internet you can find purebred Andalusian stallions already trained at this level for $55,000. Too much? How about a colt with lots of potential? Now you’re talking. So, you write a few folks and get them to send you a video only to have to sit through a ton of videos [back before the days of YouTube] where you don’t see any potential at all. Does this sound like you?

Oh sorry. Did I forget to mention the overall quality of Andalusians in the U.S. is lacking? But everyone and their mother seems to have one for sale with dressage potential? That’s because you, you the dressage rider, appear to breeders as a lucrative market. After all, you’re already willing to spend $30,000 for a warmblood gelding. So why shouldn’t you plunk down a nice $15,000 for a rare Andalusian colt with competitive dressage potential? After all, Andalusians were bred for dressage. Or were they?

Andalusians make fantastic parade horses. They carry themselves with a lofty air. Some can really move those legs around. Some have nice knee lift that isn’t going anywhere. Others plug along like all four legs are weighed down.

Which one is for you? The one with movement, you say.

When I think of dressage horse and Andalusian in the same breath I think of a horse that has nice, long legs that can move around freely. I think of uphill, arched neck, good tying-in through the back. I think of a horse that can fly through the air. A strong horse. An athlete. I think of my horse like my big [now old] mare Keberes who with little training shows all the aptitude for the airs-above-the-ground. No, I mean, she really does them. She can do a little piaffe, some passage, loves the Spanish walk, rears on command, collects easily, and even does flying changes without being asked (a little perturbing if you’re in a pleasure class).

Now as far as the competitive results, nope, she doesn’t have that. I've not spent much time inside a real dressage arena with her except for one dressage clinic where I was chastised for teaching my horse too much too soon and not having the interest in boooorring competitive dressage. [I later went on to take more dressage lessons on warmbloods]. No, I mean, dressage is great. I love watching REALLY good riders and horses. But in the long run, its bad for my back, all that sitting. And besides, the tricks and airs are just too much fun. And don’t forget trail riding. Dressage instructors hate the word. I love it.

Back to competitive dressage Andalusians. Go ahead and keep up the search for that already started 2nd or 3rd level horse but get your pocketbook ready. The best horses are not cheap.  I suggest looking for a horse that’s got plenty of legs and a decently wide chest (the ones with long legs and narrow chests I call “lizards” – you don’t want one of those). Make sure she or he has been well-cared for (are you looking to buy someone else’s problem?). Inquire into the papers from Spain or from Portugal, your choice.  And if you really want a horse with true warmblood movement, go to Germany and pick one out. A warmblood.

Skyhorse Ranch - Andalusian horse breeder in Texas with Andalusian horses for sale. Breeders of PRE Pura Raza Espanola horses with cartas from Spain. Selling black, grey, and bay Andalusians. Recommend Andalusian stallions at stud. Pictures, history, facts, and info. Spanish Andalusian horse farm. Bloodlines from Spain in the USA.

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