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variety in classes, she notes. Plus with more and more amateurs riding, there was a demand for horses specialized in specific events. America’s dressage industry evolved with its own breeding for example, and show hunter classes and horses became a specialty of its own. Today, conformation and movement standards vary widely by discipline. “Foals are labeled as ’jumpers’ or ’dressage’ or ’hunters’ or ’event prospects’ well before their first birthday and often in utero,” she remarks. “A foal’s destiny is sealed before anyone has time to see how the youngster develops!” In specialization, we are also stretching a general sport horse

type into a myriad of shapes, temperaments, and movements. “But by going to the edge of extremes in movement or jumping scope with our breeding choices, are we breeding better horses overall? Do these disciplines really require such extreme and early specialization?” Kc wonders. She then adds, “I’m not sure this trend is positive or that it won’t reverse itself eventually. In the meantime, I’d like to think the same qualities that made for a horse that could ‘do it all’ twenty or thirty years ago will find their way back into American-bred Warmbloods and that they will all have a foundation of soundness, intelligence, willingness to please, and athleticism.”

TEMPERAMENTS Susan B. Cooper, dressage trainer at Impulsion Unlimited in Huddleston, Virginia, has a slightly different perspective since she sells trained dressage horses to primarily adult amateurs and young riders. Sue comments, “I have noticed a trend in today’s Warmbloods as being a bit hotter and spookier. In a conversation I had just the other day I mentioned that dressage used to be for ‘every horse.’ Now, you need a really good mover to be competitive.” “I do think the U.S. breeders

Jeff Johnson and Susan Cooper

are doing a great job of staying true to breeding horses with good temperaments. However, with more extreme movement comes more athleticism,” Susan remarks. “More athleticism often translates

into a hotter horse. The demand for fancier horses makes it difficult for breeders and trainers to produce amateur-friendly horses. The majority of buyers we see are adult amateurs. Many of these riders have a job and a family, so their riding hours are limited. We hear repeatedly that it is very hard to find horses that are competitive, yet safe and tolerant of rider errors. In our business, we find ourselves seeking out horses with the right temperaments and spending the time to train them to fit the needs of today’s buyers.” When asked what percentage of the horses they turn

away to sell at their farm, Jeff Johnson, Susan’s partner, responds, “We reject 30–40% of the horses people contact

60 September/October 2011

us to sell for them. Primarily, it’s not due to the temperament of the horses; in that regard the horses are usually suitable. The bigger problem we run up against is the quality of training that a six, seven, eight or nine year old has. Susan does a great job of fine tuning and retraining, but often it’s just too much of a project to make it all worthwhile, so we have to turn down the horse. We have found that how well a young horse is started and trained under saddle in the first months and years determines how rideable they will be for amateurs later on.”

CLOSING THOUGHTS Anne Rawle is a dressage ‘S” judge, but has also held judge’s cards for eventing, hunters and jumpers. “I have seen the whole spectrum of Warmbloods in the dressage arena and in eventing and hunters. The heat, i.e. responsiveness to the aids, in the top horses for the top riders at the highest level really hasn't changed much. That being said, every year trainers and riders are more educated and are less likely to choose a horse with poor conformation or clunky phenotype. Plus modern breeders who are market savvy have continued to develop the purpose- bred athlete for today's competitive requirements.” Heather Ray, hunter/jumper

Heather Ray

trainer at Luguna Stables in Alpharetta, Georgia agrees with Anne. “Warmbloods have moved away from the heavier old style and are more athletic, lighter and more responsive, and with more blood and Thoroughbred influence. We wanted horses

which were lighter and more athletic, and the breeders are breeding what we want. It all goes back to the breeders. We're blessed to have the breeders who react to what the market demands and breed accordingly, and we get to benefit from their results.” Top dressage judge, breeder and trainer, Hilda Gurney of

Moorpark, California, sums it up well. “Today’s Warmbloods are hotter, longer legged and are more hot weather tolerant. More Thoroughbred and Trakehner blood has been incorporated into these registries in order to produce more forward thinking, athletic horses. This is a result of the demands of competition. The jumper and event courses are demanding a faster more agile mount.” She adds, “Lazy horses aren't fun for anyone. We need to select for energetic, willing horses that are kind to work around and ride. Most competition horses are nice tempered so I think we are going in the right direction as long as breeders look to breed to stallions that excel in the field that they are breeding for.”

Hilda Gurney

© Brian Dunlap

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