What do you get when you take a huge (and handsome) Clyde / Hackney cross, and add in a determined amateur owner and a highly skilled and supportive coach? Proof that dressage really is for any horse, of any breed.
I'm not going to pretend that breeding doesn't make a difference, because of course it does. If you had serious ambitions to compete in Formula One car racing, you probably wouldn't try to qualify in a Toyota Corolla. But if you are an average person looking for a safe, fun and affordable car to drive every day, the Corolla might be a perfect choice.
Dressage horses are much the same. If you genuinely plan to ride at the CDI level and represent your country on the international stage, your chances will be much improved if you are competing on a purpose-bred horse with strong performance bloodlines. However most of us don't have the ambition, skill, time or money to even dream of showing at that level. Most of need the Toyota Corolla of horses; dependable, cute with enough get-up-and-go to get the job done, but safe and reliable for an amateur driver.
The beauty of dressage is that - at the lower levels at least - any horse can do it, and any horse can be improved by it. Breed, size, colour...none of that should be a barrier to success. But getting up the levels - all the way up the levels - is no easy feat even on the priciest warmblood. Huge respect to every rider and trainer who successfully trains a horse to this level while keeping it horse sound, healthy and happy in the work. If those riders happen to be amateurs and the horses happen to be draft crosses, well that ratchets up my respect to a whole new level.
Meet Jacob, the Clyde / Hackney cross I was telling you about. With the help of the supremely talented Meredith Risk of Nobleton Dressage, owner Alison Baxter has brought her former Mennonite carriage horse carefully and correctly up through the levels. At the recent Palgrave show she had what must have been an incredible experience, watching Meredith pilot Jacob through his first Gold show Grand Prix.
Watch and enjoy Jacob's test here:
About the author
I'm a middle-aged, overweight, rusty re-rider who refuses to let any of that get in the way of my passion for dressage.