There has been an increase in the amount of people asking their native ponies to turn their hoof to dressage. With British natives possessing many sought after qualities for competition, their genes are influencing the breeding of Europe's top dressage ponies. So whether you have bought a native for the sole purpose of dressage, have decided to change disciplines or you simply enjoy the versatility of the native breeds, dressage has become more popular amongst the owners of these much sought after British natives.
I hear so often that the stress of owning a big moving, sharp and tricky warmblood or sport horse, the desire for a more simple, easy to look after horse that frankly won't break the bank, themself or their benefactor became so appealing that the next horse was a large breed native and these once warmblood fanatics have never looked back! I'm told by my friends and colleagues as well as having first-hand experience (I own warmbloods) that where a warmblood/sport horse needs constant attention and management, the native can be picked up and put down and rarely ever changes in attitude. Now I'm not saying that natives are a dope on a rope (I've had the pleasure of owning several natives) but they are on the whole a much more manageable type of horse than most warmbloods or sport horses.
In my opinion, for what it's worth, the misguided belief that natives won't do as well at dressage as these extravagant and, let's be honest, mostly mentally unstable warmbloods doesn't hold so true today. Having trained as a judge I can honestly say that British Dressage aims for judges to judge what they see on the day, with marks awarded for accuracy, way of going, rhythm, submission etc. and yes of course the gaits. However, having owned and competed a lovely 14.2 Highland cross at affiliated competitions, to his credit he normally beat the extravagant warmbloods due to his rarely losing marks on his accuracy, submission, harmony and rhythm. He was such a compliant and trainable character that everything asked of him, he tried his best and as I've reached middle age, I really relish the appeal of easy! His attitude meant that we had fun out hacking, Jumping and schooling. He was always fun, so much so that the first time I asked for a change he gave me a perfect one and it wasn't long before he was showing me his moves at 2 times changes, beautiful half passes and we even taught him to piaffe! It just goes to show that natives and native crosses can hold their own in the dressage arena.
British Dressage has also recognised that more people are discovering the virtues of pure bred and part bred natives and introduced the "Native Breeds Championships." These championships are open to eleven British breeds with classes from Intro to Prix St George. If you are lucky enough to own a British native, please share your experiences and photos with us here at Equetech. Just post in the comments of this blog on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
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