Best Horses for Dressage

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
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Dressage is one of the most popular equestrian competitions, and – contrary to popular belief – it requires great skill and tons of training. But, more than anything, this sport requires a great mount. Not all horse breeds will excel in this sport, however. It requires agility, flexibility, good balance, and plenty of stamina. And it also requires a horse with great intelligence. As a result, dressage has been commonly associated with the world’s most noble and exquisite horse breeds. Whether you are a beginner or veteran dressage rider, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best horses for dressage to help you find a perfect mount for this noble sport. With either one of these majestic animals beneath your saddle, great results are bound to come pouring in. 

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#1 Oldenburg

One of the old and renowned horse breeds from the north of Germany, the Oldenburger is a marvel of professional equine breeding programs. Created over generations in Germany’s past, this breed has a bit of everything in its blood: Thoroughbred, Trakehner, Westphalian, Arabian – the best of the best. As such, this breed is exceptional for a variety of equine sports. They are smart, eager to please, agile, graceful, and have very high stamina. Everything that a horse needs to excel in dressage. They possess plenty of balance and flexibility in their movements – these traits are crucial for the art of dressage. When paired with a skilled and seasoned rider, these horses can truly display everything that they are capable of.


#2 Friesian

Hailing from the seaside region of Friesland in the Netherlands, these horses are hard to overlook. Exceptionally pretty, graceful, and powerfully built, the Friesian horse is one of the iconic breeds – and one of the most photographed horses in the world. This is because of their unmistakable charm: their luscious flowing mane, bushy feathering, and long tails are their most iconic features. But pretty looks are not the only thing they boast. These horses are quite exceptional in a variety of equine sports and activities. Their powerful and muscular build is great for dressage, as is their surefooted and balanced step, their endurance, and their obedience. These were originally working, draft horses, and have learned over time to obey commands. But beneath this, they are very intelligent and can work perfectly in unison with a professional dressage jockey. With both the looks and the skills, these horses truly have it all. 


#3 Trakehner

One of the oldest and classic German warmblood breeds, the Trakehner has all the predispositions to triumph in the art of dressage. They are tall, graceful, agile, and obedient, and bred over generations to be the perfect mounts. One key trait that they have is great endurance – these horses boast great stamina and excel as racing horses and in dressage. One of their best traits (the one that all will mention) is their calm and temperate behavior, as well as their eagerness to please. In simplest terms, the Trakehner was bred specifically to be the ideal horse, and in many ways, it is. This is why they are so highly sought after and quite expensive: those wanting a true Trakehner will have to spend at least $10,000 and up. But if you want a mount that will lead you to the top of the dressage competitions, then this money will certainly be well worth it. 


#4 Dutch Warmblood

Here is another iconic warmblood breed, this time hailing from the Netherlands. One of the more modern breeds, it was developed in the 1960s, combining the two best Dutch horse breeds, the Gelderlander and Groninger. By combining these two exceptional horse lineages, the Dutch created a fantastic equine – one that excels in virtually every calling. Needless to say, these magnificent creatures are great for dressage. The two finest dressage horses were actually Dutch Warmbloods! These animals are slender, tall, graceful, agile, and very smart, and they have everything that a fine dressage horse needs. Together with a skilled rider, nothing can prove to be too large an obstacle. Of course, these are exceptional horses and as such will be hard to attain and very pricy. But even so, it is worth the trouble of getting one. 


#5 Holsteiner

Hailing from Germany, these horses are amongst the oldest and most renowned equine breeds in the world. They originate from the 13th century, and as such, they are one of the world’s oldest specially bred lineages. They are the true champions in the horse Olympics and will excel in virtually all of its branches. Of course, the breed possesses great agility, flexibility, good balance, intelligence, and fantastic stamina. They are known as a breed that is easy to train, and eager to please its owner. The Holsteiner is known as a hard-working animal, with good devotion to the olympic track. In dressage, their agility and balance, as well as their stamina, will be ideal for achieving great results. Finding one, however, might be a challenge, as the breed is reserved for only the most professional equine competitions. Still, if you are looking for a champion at dressage, this is it. 

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#6 Irish Cob

Similarly to the Friesian, the Irish Cob – also known as the Gypsy Vanner – was originally bred as a tough and hard-working horse. They used to be draft animals, pulling heavy carts and caravans, and doing farm work. But this changed over time, and the Irish Cob showed its true nature. These are very beautiful animals, with flowing manes and luscious feathering, and great powerful bodies. But they also possess surprising agility and great balance, being surefooted on any ground. They are very quick learners, and as such can adapt perfectly to the art of dressage. Together with their great stamina, this can be a winning combination. With a bit of training and patient work, the Irish Cob can be a true surprise – especially for a novice, up-and-coming dressage rider. They are also known for their calm demeanor and easygoing attitude.

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#7 Appaloosa 

This time we are going to the United States, with one very old and popular horse breed, which might seem a bit out of place in a dressage competition. This could be due to their unique looks, as they have colorful spotted coats. Still, they have all the physical prerequisites for being fantastic dressage animals. They are agile, surefooted, very fast, and enthusiastic, with great height and good stamina. Thanks to their versatility, the Appaloosa horses are commonly seen in a variety of equine activities – from racing to dressage. The secret to their success is their intelligence: these animals are quick learners and will pick up dressage rules in no time. Still, they might not be ideal for a novice, but for an intermediate rider, they can be a perfect choice. These animals are well known for their positive attitude and friendly and versatile character that will go well with all types of riders.


#8 Andalusian

Hailing from the warm regions of the Iberian Peninsula, the Andalusian horse is known as the Real Spanish Horse. Charming, powerful, spirited, agile, and quick-witted, this horse can be the true hidden champion of dressage. With origins tracing all the way back to the 15th century, it is one of the most renowned and oldest European equine breeds. A very smart, enigmatic, and enduring horse, they are one of the earliest champions of dressage, especially with the most professional training and true champion riders. The Andalusian horse has that ideal combination of perfect traits, from agility, stamina, height, and balance, to their competitive attitude and great intelligence. With all that, you are guaranteed an animal that has all the potential needed for the best results. But don’t be mistaken – such a horse is not for novice riders. You’ll need plenty of experience in the saddle in order to triumph with such a mount. 


#9 Hanoverian 

The oldest of the warmblood breeds, the Hanoverian horse hails from Germany and is well known as one of the perfect mounts in the world. Truly at the very top of all the horse breeds in the world, the Hanoverian is the result of some professional and very dedicated horse breeding that spanned many generations. But through the combination of the best horses, the Hanoverian was developed – a horse with truly ideal traits. These animals are tall and graceful, possessing ideal agility and great stamina, with fantastic intelligence and great balance in the field. One of the exclusive, noble mounts, the Hanoverian horse boasts numerous champion titles, in a variety of equine competitions. Of course, getting your hands on one such exquisite mount might not be the easiest of tasks. But, if you have the needed skills and a budget of roughly $15,000, you can expect to be an owner of an exceptional mount. Together, you can easily achieve great results. 

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#10 Westphalian

Another one of the iconic German horse breeds, the Westphalian has long been considered a truly exceptional equine breed. This warmblood was bred specifically with perfectionism in mind. As such, they have consistently won top prizes in equine competitions, and are ranked amongst the top dressage competitors across the globe. That is no small boast. When compared to other warmblood horses, the Westphalians have a slightly lighter build, and more agility, stamina, and flexibility. This gives them one extra step ahead when it comes to dressage. With a Westphalian beneath you, you can really notice a difference when competing in the field. Like many other German breeds, this one too is very intelligent, has a good disposition, and will respond great to training programs. Simply put – this is a balanced, all-around competitive breed that won’t fail you.  

What are the Important Traits of Dressage Horses?

In order to excel and triumph at dressage, you will need an adequate mount. But, only a select few horse breeds will be truly suited for the job. That is because they will have a good balance of traits that are needed in dressage. So, if you want to take that gold medal home, you better make sure that the mount of your choice has the following traits. 


In dressage and all other equine sports, agility is key. A horse needs to perform well on the track and navigate the twists and turns in the various activities. In dressage, it is important too, especially for those challenging moves. Of course, agility is directly related to a horse’s physique – taller and more slender animals are bound to be more flexible and agile on the track when compared to thickset and muscular horses. But it won’t do good to starve a muscular horse in order to make it more slender and agile, as this trait is natural and a part of the breed's characteristics. 


Stamina is also very important – no matter the activity. Horses are often on the track for long periods, performing challenging tasks and all that at a furious tempo. Some breeds simply couldn’t do it for long, as their stamina gives in before the circuit is finished. But the exceptional breeds won’t be bothered by it since their endurance levels allow for long periods of rapid-tempo activities. Of course, stamina is also directly connected with a horse’s physique and genetic traits. The more slender and muscular horses will tend to have greater endurance. 


Last but not least, is obedience. All horses that are required to perform tasks and to compete, need to have an obedient character and that eagerness to please the rider. Obedience comes naturally, but also through the training process. So, if you want your horse to respond well to the dressage commands, and to understand the instructions you are giving it, then obedience is key. Some breeds are naturally more obedient than others, especially those with a history as draft animals. So don’t underestimate a calm and obedient horse! 

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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