American Quarter Horses in Dressage

Five owners discuss how the American Quarter Horse's unique qualities brought them success in the dressage ring.

Pamela Harper on her 6-year-old Quarter Horse mare Lil Quincy Candy | Photo courtesy of Pamela Harper

The American Quarter Horse’s capability as a lower level dressage mount has long been praised. These five riders went beyond the basics to achieve upper level goals. For those aiming higher, check out what these determined women have to say about their successes, and the horses that brought them to it.

I Knew That

Sandra Perez-Meseroll has shown in almost every aspect of the Quarter Horse industry, from halter to western pleasure. She’s now campaigning the Quarter Horse I Knew That, owned by Maryann Mancino, in dressage.

Since he had a successful career in the Western world learning a variety of skills, including reining spins and collection, he adapted to dressage easily. The 12-year-old palomino has done quite well in the sport, showing up to Fourth Level with scores in the 60s. Perez-Meseroll now believes he can do Grand Prix with his ability and temperament.

When it comes to Quarter Horses competing in dressage, she has found them to be “highly intelligent and quick learners.” With their history as range horses, they had to be able to think for themselves, so they tend to be independent and have a mind of their own. That can be a disadvantage when they decide they don’t want to do something, but it also means they’re self-assured and less spooky.

Perez-Meseroll said some of the biggest accomplishments she has had occurred while schooling at home. “They include figuring out the correct body position to achieve a perfect flying lead change, understanding why a particular horse performs half pass better in one direction and achieving that connection with a youngster for the first time.”

Mr Jet Time Leo

Mr Jet Time Leo, another successful Quarter Horse, is shown by Pamela Harper. He was at Training Level when she earned her U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) Training Level Riders Award and qualified for the USDF Regional Championships in Region 6.

Harper recently gave Jet to her daughters (Samantha and Rachel) and is now riding a 6-year-old Quarter Horse mare named Lil Quincy Candy. When speaking of the breed, she said, “They are willing to please and very forgiving of our mistakes.” She adds that Jet will try anything.

Mary Butler and her Appendix Quarter Horse gelding, RC Just Too Clever | Photo courtesy of Mary Butler

RC Just Too Clever

Mary Butler has been riding her Appendix Quarter Horse gelding, RC Just Too Clever, for seven years and has done jumping, western, driving and dressage with him. Butler said, “I learned that we already have the tools we need to make our horses better such as transitions between and within gaits, lateral movements and correct body position.”

Also, for Butler, the movements like leg yield and shoulder in have helped to strengthen her horse’s hindquarters and improve his self-carriage. She said, “Nothing is more inspiring to watch then a horse moving correctly in his gaits with a harmonizing rider aboard!”

Run DMC Rap

Oscar and Marcia Hopp have been showing in Training Level, receiving a 69 percent in Test 4 in 2004. For her, Quarter Horses are good for dressage not only because of their temperament, but for their conformation as well. “Even though their compact body is well suited for the intricate and speedy maneuvers required in the western disciplines, this body style pays dividends in the dressage arena.”

Her training in dressage has paid off in other ways. “By learning how to put my horse in balance, he is so much more fun to ride and compete successfully,” said Hopp. “My horse’s longevity and soundness problems have been improved because of riding him correctly and knowing how to condition him for the work he needs to do.”

Dressage training has helped Hopp be successful and happy with her horse’s work. She said that her biggest success is “seeing my horse happy and healthy in his work!”

Arctic Lark

Another Quarter Horse that has found success in the dressage ring is Artic Lark. Her owner, Julie Cain, has made it her goal to build a better rapport and communication with her horse. Competing in dressage has helped that goal in an all-around manner.

“The discipline required when competing in dressage, I believe, has improved my riding position and aids miraculously,” said Cain. “I believe it has improved my horse, both physically and psychologically. Dressage has helped me structure my riding, develop a ‘learning or practice’ plan for my horse, a warm up and a plan for what we will work on that evening. Almost daily when I finish riding for the evening I feel that my horse Katie and I have improved our communication.”

Her goals have changed as well. “As I have ridden more tests, I find that keeping focused on the test itself, as well as my body position and that of my horse, requires more concentration and sometimes I try too hard,” said Cain. “Prior to competing, I try to focus on at least one element that I want to improve in the test.”

All the women share a common bond felt by many–the adoration and respect for their talented dressage partner, the Quarter Horse.

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