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Cheap(er) horses successful in upper levels

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    I think it very much depends on what success looks like to you. I think many decent enougg riders on average but willing horses can work their way through the levels.

    I do not think those pairings will be world beaters, but if you have the work ethic and both stay sound and happy, and dont mind slow progress, I think you'll go as far as you want to.
    Let me apologize in advance.


      I think a lot also depends on your definition of “successful.” If you mean “earn qualifying scores sufficient to advance into those levels and/or earn scores sufficient to get your medals, sure, there’s all sorts of cheap off the beaten track horses who have done so and there’s no real reason you can’t find one. There have even been Mustangs in FEI dressage, Cobra being the most recently famed. If you mean “win ribbons in classes where I will be directly competing with purpose bred Very Expensive Horses,” that’s a lot tougher bill to fill. But probably not *entirely* impossible. I mean, Valegro was reportedly purchased as a prospect for 4000 pounds.


        I think it can be done. If you don’t mind taking a risk on a baby you can buy a nice youngster that is a good mover for the 10k range. You just a) have to have an eye for it. B) have to know what you’re doing starting and bringing up unbroke/ green horses and c) you have to get lucky.


          They are definitely out there. I think you have to develop your eye for a good horse and develop your riding/training (like others have said) and be lucky enough to stumble upon them. I got my bronze and a Regional 3rd championship and reserve at 4th and was schooling FEI on a horse (Trakehner) that I got for free and was originally purchased for $500. However, everyone knew each other. Also, I did lessons through training/ first and lots of clinics with GP trainers/judges after that. I worked hard to develop the horse I had and my own riding.

          My old trainer trained and campaigned a Bashkur Curly Pinto Stallion to GP, originally went through 4th on her OTTB, another friend went to GP with her QH, another went to GP with her fresian-paint cross. I knew a trainer in the Houston area that was/is very successful taking a line of Welsh cobs to FEI. My friend sent her home-bred Arabian (out of her stallion) to Hilda Gurney, who brought him to FEI. There are so many examples of well-ridden, well-trained "cheap" horses making it to FEI.

          Like all horses, even warmbloods, they have to have mental and physical aptitude to make it without going lame/breaking down. I'm not sure if you can know if most horses can make it to FEI until they are going FEI.
          Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


            Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
            How good of a rider are you, how hard are you willing to work, and do you have access to a quality FEI trainer? Those three factors are all more important than how much you paid for the horse and whether it's purpose bred.

            If you can pick a horse with three clean gaits, reasonable conformation, and some athleticism, and keep it sound, (combined with the factors above), you can get it around a rated PSG.

            You do have to have reasonable expectations though. If your horse doesn't blossom into a diamond and develop his gaits in a way that no one anticipated, you may be in the crowd that has to ride a darn near perfect, accurate, clean, test to break 60%.

            I know someone who did this at GP: took her two years and many rides to get those 2 above 60% - she rode a lot of 58s in between those clean, accurate tests that broke 60.
            This is spot on!

            I showed to third on a free Tb, schooled him up the levels but did not show above third because of things in my life, not the horse.
            Now I am riding a very nice warmblood ( showed 4th last year), however She was not a very expensive horse.
            My horse was dirt cheap for such a nice and talented horse.
            The reason I got her is that she is a small15.3, red mare,with no white markings, barely green broke and very hot and sensitive.
            Me I like all those things I just mentioned, but they put off most buyers so her price kept dropping until she ended up on the clearance rack!


              Originally posted by Equkelly View Post
              I think it can be done. If you don’t mind taking a risk on a baby you can buy a nice youngster that is a good mover for the 10k range. You just a) have to have an eye for it. B) have to know what you’re doing starting and bringing up unbroke/ green horses and c) you have to get lucky.
              It seems the horse market is a bit down now, too. When I was looking for a prospect or lightly started horse in the $5-10K range two years ago, there was almost nothing out there (noting that I'm in Idaho, so the market is mostly stock horses, and with my height, I prefer something 16+ hands). Recently I've been browsing for fun and I've seen some several horses in my region that I would have jumped to go look at when I was in the market last time. Most have been full or half Andalusian, Andy crosses, or WB crosses. Most of the WBs still seem to be advertised at about the same prices.


                my friend rides a $500 craigslist part-arab. SHe just came out at I-1 this month and has earned bronze and silver on him, now working on Gold and SIlver MFS bar..... Oh, he's also a pinto.....


                  10 years ago I purchased a 10-year-old, 15 hand, registered palomino Paint for $4000. He had absolutely no Dressage training when I got him- he was doing Hunters, Western Pleasure and breed shows. Last year together we got our Bronze medal. This year we have already earned out 4th Level scores toward our Silver and will be going out at PSG late this season! He's 20 this year!


                    Very interesting list of horses....and their riders.

                    Which just goes to prove what I believe was a COTH aphorism that went something like this......"Most people don't need a $30,000 horse....they need $30,000 worth of lessons."

                    In my ~50 years of riding I definitely left that $$$ figure in the rear view mirror.
                    Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
                    Alfred A. Montapert


                      Originally posted by pluvinel View Post
                      Very interesting list of horses....and their riders.

                      Which just goes to prove what I believe was a COTH aphorism that went something like this......"Most people don't need a $30,000 horse....they need $30,000 worth of lessons."

                      In my ~50 years of riding I definitely left that $$$ figure in the rear view mirror.
                      I've been enjoying this thread also, Pluvinel. I'm on a little restful holiday so have time to catch up in COTH. And yes my 30k on lessons is well in the rear view! Don't know if I'll make PSG on this mare I have but the journey sure is fun.


                        Originally posted by DressageD1va View Post
                        The real expense to get to FEI is the cost of training imho.
                        but something that is sound a at least has 3 clear and balanced gaits which can be found at a reasonable price. The regularity and frequency of training will be the most important factor.
                        This is true. And the work involved.

                        If you start with good basic conformation and trainability in the horse, you can get to PSG. I got my Bronze and 3 out of 4 scores for my Silver on a $7K Welsh Cob/TB who had washed out of combined driving at the age of 10.
                        Here Be Dragons: My blog about venturing beyond the lower levels as a dressage amateur.


                          Originally posted by Chestnut_Mare View Post
                          I'm not in the market yet but will be in 3-5 years as my girl is doing great but is older. Have any of you spent in the $10k range and made it to PSG successfully? Was it an older schoolmaster or a greenie that you brought along yourself or with a trainer? Obviously professionals can bring a horse up the levels but I'm curious as an adult ammy riding 3rd with aspirations of more.
                          Valegro was bought for $8500...


                            Loving this thread. Totally agree that money spent on training is much more important than money spent on the horse.


                              There are lots of reasons horses can be cheap I have a freebie right now who I am pretty sure is a total superstar/diamond in the rough underneath the many layers of... stuff we're working through. He's a well bred, very good looking guy who's just... seen some stuff. So that's one route to go! (Results very much pending! )Assuming he remains sound (ha, knock on every piece of wood available!!) I suspect he will not be the barrier to reaching the upper levels so much as yours truly.

                              I feel like everyone else here is pretty well bang on. Dressage is good for horses - it's physical and athletic development that, when done appropriately for the horse, can really help even plain-jane types move to the best of their ability, and develop musculature and fitness that can overcome less than breathtaking confirmation. Obviously that might not apply to a horse that has major physical defects and/or soundness issues, but 4 working legs and 3 clean gaits? You can do a lot with that!

                              Is the Heinz 57 / little QH / Morgan / OTTB / insert your accessible horse of choice here likely to upstage the purpose bred Donnerhall get when it comes to gaits? No, and likely it'll have to work harder at some things - maybe extensions, maybe the "sit" of collected work, maybe the coordination of a clean change - but it's a 100% level playing field when it comes to things like accuracy and obedience.

                              The barn where I board is a dressage-specific training barn. Very little focus on competition, but big emphasis on training and development and progress nonetheless. Non purpose-bred horses outnumber the purpose-bred ones significantly: we have Morgans, TBs, a couple Friesians, QH and crosses, ISH, Canadians and crosses, Arab cross - etc. The breed does not correlate at all to the level of work they do - Morgans doing 3rd and 4th, CanadianX solid at 2nd (and not stopped by his own potential). We had a really cool QH who was super talented and could have kept on moving up. These horses are "limited" mostly by owner desire/skill/dedication (which sounds judgemental, but I just mean in the sense that there are lots of amateur riders who don't actually want to put the energy and time in that it would take to be able to progress with the horse above 1st or 2nd, and they are happy finessing their skills at that level, hacking out, etc.).


                                Everyone who has said most ammies need a good mind, decent conformation, clean gaits (particularly in the walk - you give a lot of points away if your walk is not good) and $30k worth of training way more than you need $30k worth of horse is dead on.

                                Then toss in the desire of the rider to put the hours in to get there. There was a girl in my barn who was starting out with a non-purpose bred horse at the same time I was. We both qualified for regionals at the same time. I placed, she didn't. I inadvertently heard her whining to our trainer after the class. Trainer flat out told her - among other things, "she works harder than anyone else in the barn. She rides every day - hot, cold, raining, snowing. Yeah, she'd like to go straight to the bar after work, but she doesn't. It's fine that you do other things, but you can't compare the time she puts in to the time you put in."


                                  Bought a 3 year old $600 OTTB. Multiple wins at 4th, high scores of shows in the mid 70”s and PSG In the 60’s.


                                    Original Poster

                                    Originally posted by elizabeth Callahan View Post
                                    Bought a 3 year old $600 OTTB. Multiple wins at 4th, high scores of shows in the mid 70”s and PSG In the 60’s.
                                    Wow! That's wonderful! You must have a very good eye. I am a personal fan of TB/TB crosses and hope that my next one can be at lease 1/4 TB.


                                      Originally posted by Sancudo View Post
                                      My $1 old man won his PSG debut at age 20 this month!
                                      Please do a separate post about him, with photos. Please. I believe in older horses


                                        Free oldenburg, he won't go to third with hock changes, but he got his trainer her bronze. Now with a new lessor, spent their first three shows this summer getting 70's at first level, and mid 60's at second, and she's working on her bronze.
                                        My warmbloods have actually drunk mulled wine in the past. Not today though. A drunk warmblood is a surly warmblood. - WildandWickedWarmbloods


                                          Originally posted by Annie Burton View Post

                                          Please do a separate post about him, with photos. Please. I believe in older horses
                                          Sure! Here are some pics from his show last month! I’ve had him 4 years, since he was 16, brought him from 3rd level with difficult changes to showing PSG and schooling I-1 with solid passage and half steps. We lost two of those years to rehab a hock fracture and ligament tear, and my only hope was he’d come back trail sound, as he’s a bombproof guy on the trails (and anywhere, really). He feels much better now at 20 than he did at 16! We take it day by day. Today he was struggling with some pirouette work so we jumped some cross rails instead I figure at his age he deserves to mix it up. Last week we did a half day mountain trail ride!