Monday, April 11, 2011

Dressage for the Model Horse, Part Three

Dressage for the Model Horse: A Gait-By-Gait Analysis

by Jamie Stine

The Canter

Whew! The Canter! Yay!

So, I am of the firm belief that it’s much easier to show a cantering horse well (and in lots of classes) than a trotting one!  The first time I heard this was from a veteran performance shower who I greatly respect, but the more I thought about it, the truer it is.  There are lots of ways to show a cantering horse, and they are quite easy to show in dressage, because every dressage test (except Intro Level) has at least some canter in it.  Indeed, the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special tests seem to be mostly canter to those who haven’t seen the test sheets.  That being said, let’s proceed.

Cantering OFs that are suitable for dressage include: the Moody Andalusian Stallion, who is cantering along somewhere between a collected and medium canter.
Breyer Andalusian owned & photographed by Kellye Bussey
Alboroso is sitting on his haunches turning – you can make the case for a pirouette quite easily.
Breyer Alborozo owned & photographed by Kellye Bussey
Roxy is not really collected or on the bit, so if you choose to show her in dressage, it would be a good idea to include some sort of info card explaining this.  I’d probably leave her out of the dressage arena if it were me, but lots of people try to stick their OF performance horses in every class, so you can put her in a training level or pony club dressage test with a good explanation card if you’re creative about it.  
Breyer Roxy owned & photographed by Erin Corbett
The same is also true for Flash and the Showjumping Warmblood.  
Breyer Flash photographed by Erin Corbett
Gem Twist is cantering nicely forward and is close to on the bit.  He can be shown in training or first level dressage as well. 
Breyer Gem Twist photographed by Jennifer Buxton
If you’re a mini shower, the G3 Cantering Warmblood Mare is a lovely dressage entry!  She’s on the bit, cantering freely forward, and looks very happy to be doing what she’s doing. 
Breyer G3 Cantering Warmblood mare photographed by Kim
The G2 Warmblood Stallion is cantering on a turn.  He is more collected than the G3 mare, and as such can be shown at a higher level.  He could be seen as going into a pirouette or about to make a turn into a volte (small circle) or perhaps turning to make a half pass.  He is not as quiet in the tail as the G3 mare, but he’s a bit more dynamic of a sculpture, so this can be forgiven.
Breyer G2 Warmblood photographed by Kim
And, as usual, there are many many cantering AR’s that can also be used in dressage classes.  For lower level dressage you have Sommer Prosser’s nice hunter gelding Windfall, who is cantering in a nice, calm, working canter, not collected, but connected with a light contact to the bit and a nicely high poll, even though his neck set is a touch low.  He can be used in a Training or First level setup quite easily; I’d especially like to see him with a youth rider doll because he looks so honest.  So can the BHR Cantering Hunter, if you can get your hands on one.  
Windfall painted by Sommer Prosser and owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
You can also use Knightly Cadence in Training, First, or possibly Second Level dressage tests.  He’s a bit more elevated, but isn’t quite stepping underneath himself enough to be considered in a highly collected canter like you’d like to see in a Fourth level or higher test.  
Knightly Cadence painted by Carol Williams and owned & photographed by Erin Corbett
Another model that you could possibly consider showing in dressage is Hazel by Morgen Kilbourn.  Hazel is cantering QUITE forwardly, some would probably say too forwardly, but you can possibly fenagle her into either an FEI young horse class, where brilliance is rewarded, or possibly show her in Second Level or so, where medium canter is first requested.  Personally, I probably wouldn’t put my Hazel in a dressage class because of the other models out there that can do it better, but it is possible to do it if you’re creative. 
Hazel painted by Jennifer Scott and owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
The same is true of Jasmine the mule.  Jasmine is cantering, but her canter isn’t particularly forward.  She’d probably do decently if she was shown at Training Level or in a pony club or eventing dressage setup, but if she were shown in a level higher than that, her gait would probably penalize her.  She’s just kind of chugging along, listening to her rider but not quite brilliant in her movement. 
Jasmine painted by Tiffany Purdy and owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
Transitional models, which could be shown from Second to Fourth level or so, are guys like Vigil and Deseoso.  Both of these horses are cantering forward with their inside hindleg reaching almost under the seat of the rider.  This is the sign of a collected canter.  Vigil is not quite as collected as Deseoso, while Dese is moving with a larger stride than Vigil, which gives him a bit more brilliance.  Some judges will say that Deseoso is not in a collected canter because of how forward he is moving, but as a real dressage rider, I find that this is a typical collected canter for a Spanish Bred horse. 
Vigil painted by Karen Gerhardt and owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
Deseoso painted by Cathy Wallden and owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
I also really like Arista by Tracie Caller.  Arista is a lovely mare, up, forward, and powerful.  She’s probably just about to start an extended canter down the long side, or else she IS extended cantering, and this is the “up” phase of the stride.  She’s not quite compressed enough to be shown in the upper levels, but she makes a very lovely 3rd or 4th level horse if shown correctly.  Some judges will disagree with me, I’m sure, but I think Arista looks like she’d be a really fun ride, with her power just contained beneath the rider’s seat and her outlook going “whee!”

We also can’t forget Valentino by Bridgitte Eberl and Depeche by Jenn (Irwin) Scott.  Both of these guys are incredibly similar, came out at about the same time, and are hard to tell apart at first glance, so I’ll just describe them both together.  They’re in a collected canter, just a touch more forward than the collected canter you’d see from a horse getting ready to do a change or a half pass in a dressage test.  Either of these guys can be shown anywhere from 2nd level to Grand Prix, and both are very very correct.  

Valentino painted by Tom Bainbridge and owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton

If you prefer a Spanish touch, there’s Tenorio, by Kristina Lucas-Francis and Verocchio by Bridgitte.  Both of these guys are fundamentally similar – they’re cantering forward but collectedly, though Verocchio appears to be more collected and Tenorio is slightly more forward.  They can both be shown from 3rd Level up, though I’d like to see them shown probably at PSG, where the pirouettes are first shown in high collection.

There are also a few specialty dressage resins in canter, like Tracie Caller’s Virtual Reality.  You don’t see VR very often anymore, but he’s still a very nice example of a large trad doing a canter pirouette.  (Another, similar example is the china Pour Horse Voltage, by Kristina Lucas-Francis, but since she’s a china, and I’m a klutz, that’s as much as I’ll say about her!)  Virtual Reality can be shown at any level where canter pirouettes are called for, so US Fourth Level and above, and all of the FEI levels from PSG to Grand Prix.    
Virtual Reality painted by Patti Miller with added detail by Jennifer Buxton
owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
For those of you who like minis, there’s Morsel by Kristina Lucas-Francis, who is cantering forward collectedly.  I’d like to see him shown a lot more often than he is, personally.  
Morsel painted and photographed by Karen Beeson and owned by Kellye Bussey
There’s also the lovely Vivaldi by D’arry, who is in a nice, up collected canter.  She looks like she’s having fun for sure.
Vivaldi owned & photographed by Rachel Pierce
So that’s it!  That’s the breakdown of OF’s and ARs by gait!  I hope it was helpful, and I’d be more than happy to answer questions anyone might have, or provide commentary on specific models not mentioned here, or even justify the choices I’ve made.  I’m always pro education, especially when it comes to my favorite sport!  I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together!

Thanks so much to Jamie for writing this article and to everyone who contributed pictures!!


  1. if yo would like photos you can use in these posts of Vivaldi and or Mozart just let me know where to email them to . They are my photos of my horses so I can give permission for use :O) I have most of her ( D'Arry's ) minis .

  2. That would be great! My email address is I still have to add in pictures of Arista. I've got a sick kid and am finishing up taxes today, so no hurries. I won't be able to get to it right away.

  3. How about the Scott model, Darling, she is in trot. Is she a good dressage candidate. She is a sport quarter horse type. Thanks, Mary Butler

  4. The Andalusian must be in a funny place in the canter stride. Then again, he is a Moody.


  5. I have to admit--there aren't very many Moody horses that I like to see in dressage. They have two many biomechanical issues, and it's really hard for me to place them in a discipline where gait quality is a factor. That's just me, though. I know a lot of judges don't have that particular hang-up!


  6. Spanish guys *are* more elaborate/extravagant in front than behind - we have a 4yr old Andy stud who is the epitome of this at my barn.

    Mary - the Darling would be a nice training level entry. She's not on the bit but her neck position is acceptable and her trot is nice.

  7. I'd call the Show Jumping Warmblood a hand gallop, don't you think? Regardless, with his head up like he's looking for a jump it's hard to picture him in dressage.

    1. I agree that he doesn't seem very likely, but could he be put into the same category as Hazel, meaning he could be shown in a young horse class (maybe beginning an extended canter or something)?

      -Kelsey Roe

  8. I've been reading through 'back-issues' of blog posts in date order. This was an excellent tutorial on which model horses to use for what area of dressage.