Monday, September 29, 2008

Are Dressage horses spookier?

Dressage horses, and frankly their riders, have a reputation of being highly strung hot-house tomatoes. To some extent, it seems like their environment reinforces it. The horses are often kept confined for long periods, the sport is subjective, the demanding training means that less time can be spent cross-training.

Armani and I go outside for a short trail ride every day in good weather; we go on hour long rides on weekends. We do a lot of cavaletti. He's turned out to pasture 24-7 in good weather. I try to expose him to scary stimuli, "Oh look, let's go eat supper standing on that tarp." Despite all of our work, he can still be reactive and argumentative when he is uncertain. Our instructor says he's "hot like a Trakehner, but bullheaded like a Morgan".

I stumbled on an interesting study Fear reactions in riding horses : a comparison between dressage and jumping horses (2005). If you'd like the spoiler, the dressage horses scored consistently as more reactive. The study brought up a few interesting points, for which, it's hard to really objectively answer. Is it the training, the riders, the horse-keeping, or the breeding? Or perhaps a combination?

I also found this practical article on how to handle a spooky situation on the trail and this more general article on spooky horses.


chelsea said...

Hi - I have just started horse riding but a few of my friends have shows that they partake in in the UK, i must admit i agree with your summation of them :) even their specialist equine wear seems OTT in my opinion (although i know there is tradition in this!)

Armani is a lovely name by the way for your trusty steed!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I wouldn't be an authority on whether dressage horses are spookier. I think if they are it is probably from a combination like you mentioned of their training, turnout, and just their general treatment. I feel that all horses regardless of what discipline they participate in should experience all they can via cross-training,trail rides, a little light jumping etc. I feel a well rounded horse is not as spooky if they are exposed to more stimuli on a regular basis. Just my opinion.

Five O'Clock Somewhere said...

I have a very spooky jumper, that I compete with. She doesn't mind jumping over the scarey jumps, it is going by them that she finds traumatizing. Her worst fear comes when a chair is on its side. That just isn't right to her. Some days are worse than others, I have stopped trying to understand it.