Suitability of horses

Dressage horse, Western horse or rather leisure horse? Which horse is suitable for which division of the riding egg?

Not all horses are the same. There are also some differences in the suitability of horses. Some horses are specialists in the dressage arena, others really feel at home in the countryside on cross-country rides and still others are excellent jumpers and complete a full course. But how do you know what a horse is suitable for?

First of all, the breed determines what kind of riding the horse is suitable for. The breed provides important information about the horse's temperament and build. These two factors are important clues to determine the suitability of the horse. Of course, genetics and pedigree also play an important role. If ancestors were successful in a branch of equestrianism in the past, it stands to reason that the younger generations will follow in these "footsteps".

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Which riding styles are there? 

1. Dressage 

In dressage, the horse's natural dispositions are encouraged and refined through gymnastic exercises. The goal of dressage is a rideable horse that responds to minimal aids from the rider and can thus be induced to perform a desired lesson accurately. Dressage training of the horse is the basis for almost all equestrian disciplines. Dressage is also one of the most successful disciplines.

The so-called scale of training is decisive for the training of all horses in dressage. This scale was established by the German Equestrian Federation (FN) and includes the following points:

- Beat
- Looseness
- Lean in
- Swing
- Straightness
- Collection

2. Showjumping

Show jumping is an equestrian discipline in which horse and rider have to complete a course in a certain order and in a limited time. The course consists of several different obstacles which have to be overcome one after the other. The obstacles can be steep jumps, high jumps or terrain obstacles (e.g. ditches, water ditches).

Jumping gymnastics is also part of show jumping. This is mainly done with cavallettis, small jumps and obstacle courses. The emphasis here is on gymnastic work, especially loosening and strengthening the hindquarters and back muscles. Jumping gymnastics is a very good preparation for jumping and supports the confidence building of horse and rider.

Popular breeds for jumping are e.g. Trakehner, Hanoverian, Oldenburg and Holstein.

3. Eventing

Eventing is a discipline that consists of several sub-tests. The three sub-tests include:

- Dressage
- Jumping
- Cross-country
- The winner is the pair that has collected the fewest fault points in all three sub-disciplines.

Most horse breeds and breeding lines are suitable for competitions in the lower classes, as long as they have a suitable level of training and condition. In the higher classes, predominantly warmbloods with a higher percentage of thoroughbreds and pure thoroughbreds are represented. A good eventing horse is characterised by its rideability and reliability. In addition, it must be able to concentrate in the dressage test, for example, and not be distracted. In order to master the cross-country course and the jumping course, an athletic build and a high willingness to perform are required. A ground-covering canter is also of great benefit, as in the cross-country test the obstacles can be several hundred metres away.

Popular breeds for eventing are e.g. Württemberger, Hanoverian, Trakehne.

4. Western

Western riding originated in America and is based on the riding style of the North American cowboys. A cowboy's horse has to know what to do without permanent influence from the rider, so that the cowboy can take care of the cattle, for example, from the saddle. Western horses must also be extremely agile and fast.

There are various disciplines in western riding. These include, for example

- Reining
- Cutting
- Trail
- Western Pleasure
- Working Cowhorse and many more.
- Popular breeds for western riding are e.g. American Quarter Horse, American Paint Horse, Appaloosa.

5. Trail riding/Distance riding

Trail riding is a type of riding on horseback, usually lasting several days, over a variety of terrain. The focus is on experiencing nature, getting to know the landscape and the horse, with whom you spend the whole day and on whose well-being your arrival at the destination depends.

When trekking, you spend the night in the open air, in tents or on horse farms that offer overnight accommodation for horse and rider. The luggage can be transported in large saddle bags, which are attached in front of and behind the saddle. There is also the possibility of carrying a pack horse, which exclusively carries the luggage.

Trail riding requires a trained, obedient and roadworthy horse. Natural riding horse breeds, small horses and Arabians are particularly suitable, but also warm-blooded horses and even mules. Important for the trail horse is above all sufficient load-bearing capacity of the back and a stable foundation as well as healthy legs.

6. Leisure

Horses that are not used in competition are called leisure horses. Leisure horses are often ridden in the countryside and are usually ridden for pleasure. However, a large number of riders also regularly do light exercises in the riding hall or on the arena without specifically training for competitions. Here, the fun of riding is absolutely in the foreground.

In principle, any breed of horse is suitable as a leisure horse. It is often the case that former competition horses are given away as leisure horses because of their age.

7. Breeding horse

If a horse is no longer rideable for health reasons, but also if it is healthy and has a promising pedigree, this horse is often used as a breeding horse (however, this only applies to mares and stallions). Horse breeding is the thoughtful and planned reproduction of horses with the aim of maintaining and/or improving health, performance and certain breed characteristics.

Since only animals that correspond as well as possible to the breeding objective of the respective breed should be used as breeding horses, a selection must first be made. Selection criteria include:

- Pedigree
- Exterior/interior
- Own performance
- Offspring performance
- Health


Any horse breed is suitable for breeding. The decisive factor is that you get as close as possible to the respective breeding objective.