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17 Best Horse Breeds for Dressage

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Dressage is a type of horseback riding where the rider uses specialized training techniques to improve the horse’s natural balance and grace.

In many dressage competitions, judges evaluate horses on the quality of their gaits, which are measured by quality, regularity, and elasticity.

Essentially, a good dressage horse should move fluidly, without excess speed or motion. Some of the best dressage horses are bred specifically for this discipline, so if you’re interested in dressage, make sure you’re considering a horse that’s designed for it.

Here are seventeen of the best dressage horse breeds:

closeup of Dutch Warmblood dressage horse at a competition

1. Dutch Warmblood

The Dutch Warmblood is a versatile breed of horse that excels in dressage. They are known for their kind, gentle temperaments, which makes them a good choice for a wide variety of riders.

The Dutch Warmblood is also known for its spirited jumps, which makes it a good choice for cross-country riders and trainers.

One of the reasons that the Dutch Warmblood excels in dressage is its willingness to learn.

They are also known for their good gaits and the way they can execute the collected trot, which can be useful in dressage.

holsteiner horse running in grass field - ss220503

2. Holsteiner

The Holsteiner breed, originating in Germany, was originally bred to produce milk and meat. However, as Europeans became more interested in riding for sport, the Holsteiner was bred for dressage.

The Holsteiner breed is known for its agility, good balance, and responsiveness. These characteristics are evident in the Holsteiner’s ability to perform advanced movements in dressage, such as leg-yields, piaffe, and passage.

The Holsteiner breed is also known for its muscular frame.

These animals are generally larger than other breeds and have been bred for centuries to deliver performances that leave people in awe.

3. Oldenburg

The Oldenburg horse is a breed of heavy warmblood horse and a member of the “warmblood” family, originating in Germany.

Over 60% of all dressage horses in the world are Oldenburgs.

The Oldenburg has a naturally solid temperament: they are intelligent and trainable, and they are often willing to work. They also have a very smooth, long stride, making them ideal for dressage.

Female horseman with Thoroughbred horse in stable

4. Thoroughbred

As the name suggests, a thoroughbred is a horse that is descended from horses bred for racing. Often, they have been trained to be racehorses, although not all thoroughbreds are.

Thoroughbreds have been bred to be leaner and faster than other horses, but that doesn’t mean that they are not good for other things.

Thoroughbreds and thoroughbred crosses can be a great option for dressage horses. Their size and body type makes them powerful enough for advanced maneuvers, and their athleticism makes them a good choice for dressage competition.

black hanoverian horseon blurry tree background

5. Hanoverian

The Hanoverian is a popular choice for dressage competition. This breed excels at the sport for a number of reasons.

Here’s a look at some of the most common reasons the Hanoverian is a top choice for dressage.

  • The breed is known for its intelligence and obedience in addition to its athleticism.
  • They are known for being easy to train, and adjusting well to different training methods.
  • Hanoverians are known for their willingness to do what the rider asks of them, which includes the ability to learn and remember.
  • The breed is known for its calmness, which makes it a good choice for a beginning rider.
  • They are also confident, which makes them willing to approach new things with a positive attitude.

These qualities enable the Hanoverian horse to quickly learn and retain new movement patterns.

Winter portrait of Andalusian gray horse with long mane at sunset light

6. Andalusian

The Andalusian originated in the Andalusia region of Spain, in which it primarily was used as a war horse. Later, this horse became a status symbol among the royalty.

Dressage is a sport that requires a lot of concentration and control from both horse and rider.

As such, because of the Andalusian horse’s natural athleticism and intelligence, it is one of the top breeds for this discipline.

Andalusians have been specifically bred to be very athletic which makes them able to perform advanced dressage movements with accuracy, suppleness, and responsiveness to the rider’s directions.

Black Friesian Horse walking in the farm

7. Friesian

The Friesian is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, though its history is somewhat murky. The horse has been prized for centuries for its beauty, strength, and calm demeanor.

Today, the breed is the center of a dedicated breeding program that has helped bring the horse back from near extinction in the 19th century, and has made it a popular choice for riding, driving, dressage, and as a family pet.

Reasons the Friesian horse excels at dressage are that, first and foremost, the Friesian is a very intelligent animal with a mind of its own.

They are also extremely sensitive, very agile, and have a surprising amount of power and strength. These powerful muscles and bones are what helps make this horse so strong and durable.

8. Trakehner

If you are looking for a good all-around horse that can be used for dressage, heavy work, or trail riding, the Trakehner horse breed may be your best option.

The Trakehner is a strong, athletic breed with a noble, elegant look. It’s no surprise, then, that the Trakehner horse breed excels at dressage.

As many experienced horse owners know, the most important part of being a good dressage horse is a great temperament, strong muscles, and good conformation.

The Trakehner is well-built for dressage, as it is naturally athletic, has plenty of endurance and is known for its willingness to learn. Its versatility has made it one of the most popular breeds in the United States for over 40 years.

Because of its size and strength, the Trakehner also excels in other disciplines, such as jumping and eventing, which makes it an excellent choice for riders who aren’t sure which discipline they want to compete in.

Westphalian horse standing beautiful sunny day

9. Westphalian

The Westphalian is one of the oldest breeds of horses, originally bred on the border between the Netherlands and Germany, in the region called Westphalia.

Westphalian horse breeders say their horses are all about versatility. They have been known to work on farms, in endurance races, in dressage competitions, and even to serve as companion animals for people with disabilities.

What’s more, these horses are said to have a sweet, gentle nature, which makes them ideal for both children and adults alike.

10. Danish Warmblood

Danish Warmbloods are one of the most popular breeds in the world for dressage, and for good reason.

The breed has an impressive history of athletic prowess, a calm temperament, and a gentle personality.

Danish Warmbloods are renowned for their ability to move and carry themselves with elegant poise, and their even temperament makes them wonderfully suited to dressage.

Aesthetics aside, the breed is also known for its versatility. Danish Warmbloods excel at any discipline, from show jumping to dressage to eventing, and no wonder: the breed is known for its easy training, calm temperament, and willingness to work.

In fact, the breed is so versatile that it is often used to build other horse breeds.

11. Selle Francais

The Selle Francais is a popular breed of dressage horse, and it’s easy to see why. Long a mainstay of Western culture, this French horse is a majestic animal that can be a pleasure to own.

These horses can vary in height from 14 to more than 16 hands, and they can be trained for a variety of purposes.

This French horse is also a highly intelligent breed, known for its willingness to please and learn.

The breed is known for its well-muscled, elegant build, and the long stride of its canter. This makes it a natural for the slow, controlled movements of dressage.

The Selle Francais’ natural athleticism also lends itself to jumping and other jumping disciplines.

Portrait of the world famous Lipizzaner Stallion legendary White Stallions horse

12. Lipizzan

The Lippizan horse is a breed of horse from the Lippizan region of Austria. They are famous for being incredibly good at dressage.

As a result, they are used in performances all over the world to show off their amazing talent.

If you’ve ever seen a Lippizaner perform dressage, you know that they are truly special horses. They move with an elegance and beauty that seems to border on the supernatural.

The most famous Lippizan horses are the stallions who perform in the Vienna Prancing Horse show.

13. Irish Draught

The Irish Draught is a breed of horse that was developed in Ireland in the late 18th century. It is an Irish breed, although it was developed in part from British bloodstock.  

It is a very popular breed that is most often seen in the show jumping arena but excels in dressage as well.

In 2016 the Irish Draught stallion, Steeped in Luck, became the first of the breed to compete at the 3 star level in dressage. (source)

14. Swedish Warmblood

The Swedish Warmblood horse was specifically bred for dressage. It was founded in the 1970’s by crossing the Swedish horse, the Danish Warmblood, and the Holsteiner.

The result of this breeding was a horse with great trainability and athleticism. In fact, in the early days of the Olympics, Sweden dominated the dressage ring.

Both in 1912 and in 1920 the gold, silver, and bronze individual dressage medals were all won by riders who rode Swedish Warmbloods. (source)

handsome studly morgan stallion horse in open field

15. Morgan

The Morgan horse breed originated in the North American colonies at the turn of the 19th century.

Morgan horses are well suited to trail riding, competitive trail riding, endurance trail riding, and other equestrian activities, as well as for showing.

Morgan horses are relatively new to the dressage world, but their strong natural abilities have taken the discipline by storm.

Morgan horses are powerful and agile, with flexible shoulders and necks that allow them to perform the movements with a natural, flowing grace.

Because of this, many dressage riders have found that Morgans are the ideal breed for their discipline.

black Mustang running over snow field

16. Mustang

The BLM Mustang adoption program began in the early 70’s and there are currently over thousands of mustangs in almost every shape, size and color available for adoption or sale for as little as $25.

The initial work required to gentle or tame these wild horses is often the most difficult step in the journey to making them into nice competition horses. Once tamed, the possibilities are endless due to their hardiness and innate versatility.

In fact, in 2015 a BLM mustang named Cobra proved that these horses can and do compete with the best of the best in the dressage world.

Cobra was named 2015 World Champion, USEF Horse of the Year, and FEI PSG Adequan All breed Champion. (source)

If you are looking for a dressage horse on a budget, the mustang may be the right breed for you.

17. Belgian Warmblood

A good-looking horse, the Belgian Warmblood has a top-notch build, with a long neck, a broad chest, powerful hindquarters, and a muscular body.

Originating, as the name implies, from Belgium, this breed excels at dressage.

The Belgian Warmblood breed is popular among the sport horse community due to its versatility, trainability, and physical strength to perform advanced dressage maneuvers.

Aside from dressage, the Belgian Warmblood also competes in a variety of disciplines including show jumping, cross-country, eventing, and even western riding.

The breed is also known for its large size, which makes it a popular mount for adult amateur riders as well as children.