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General height of top level dressage horses?

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  • General height of top level dressage horses?

    How big is too big?

    What would you say is the perfect height for top level dressage?
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  • #2
    I'd say height has very little to do with it. It's how the horse is built, how they carry themselves, and how well they're able to use their hind end. Add that WOWZA movement and you've got yourself a top upper level horse (well... with great training of course). The only height issue that I might be concerned about is having a freakishly huge horse - that can present challenges, although Paragon pulls it off pretty dang well

    With the above said, most top level horses are probably fall in a fairly small height range but that has much more to do with being of similar breeding. Warmbloods tend to be in the 16h - 17h range in general and that range tends to fit most riders. The ability itself has little to do with height (take a look at some of the GRPs), it's more that the above height range fits the majority of riders, whether male or female.

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    • Original Poster

      #3
      The only height issue that I might be concerned about is having a freakishly huge horse
      Yes, this is my point exactly. When it comes to collect, the bigger the horse, the bigger the challenge. I was just trying to figure out the point where it becomes to hard for us riders to work with the horse.
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      • #4
        Depends on the rider. Paragon is something like 18hh, but Heather Blitz is also super tall (>6') and super accomplished. Clearly he's not too big for her. However, an 18hh horse with my short stubby 5'4" self would be a tough sell.

        My FEI guy is 17.3hh, and that's at the tiptop upper limit for me size-wise. I honestly would prefer 16-17hh but it turns out that particular height range is quite expensive.

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Ok, so I'm 5'8" and my 4 year old mare is currently 17'. I am planning on breeding her next year to a stallion who has a reputation to put an extra 3" on the foals.

          Is it a bad idea?
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          • #6
            Depends on what you want. An 18+hh horse is a harder sell than the 16-17hh range because for the most part the dressage demographic is middle-aged women, who tend not to be very tall. If the horse turns out to be a superstar, you've got a different audience (pros) and the possibility of a different outcome.

            I personally would not buy an 18hh horse, although I'm by no means a national-level or international-level rider.

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            • #7
              As a judgmental busybody, I hate seeing people in the warmup arena who are clearly not strong enough for their horses. Yes, there are professional riders on the smaller size who can handle big, expressive warmbloods. But I love the trend of ammy riders going for appropriately sized horses.

              Of course, I'm pushing six feet and was struggling to sit the trot of a 16.1 mare in a clinic last weekend, so I'm not really one to talk.

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              • #8
                This is a little aside, but I have a 16.2 oldenburg who will be showing PSG/I1 next year. I'm already wondering how I am going to fit the 5 4-tempe changes on a diagonal. Generally, coming out of the corner, I need 2 strides to set her up then the 5-4 times are 20 strides then a stride to the corner so that is 23 strides, if I canter in the nice forward jumping canter to get the best expression in the changes......I recall a dressage radio interview where Heather Blitz was talking about this problem with Paragon.

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                • #9
                  To be fair, 5 4tempis = 16 strides (changes on the 0th, 4th, 8th, 12th, and 16th stride, respectively). It does highlight the need to have these bigger moving (not always correlating with taller) horses "set up" immediately coming out of the corner just so you can squeeze in the required number.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by dudleyc View Post
                    This is a little aside, but I have a 16.2 oldenburg who will be showing PSG/I1 next year. I'm already wondering how I am going to fit the 5 4-tempe changes on a diagonal. Generally, coming out of the corner, I need 2 strides to set her up then the 5-4 times are 20 strides then a stride to the corner so that is 23 strides, if I canter in the nice forward jumping canter to get the best expression in the changes......I recall a dressage radio interview where Heather Blitz was talking about this problem with Paragon.
                    That can be an issue with bigger (moving) horses - riding a volte, fitting the tempis in, riding a well balanced corner and immediately coming out of that corner to do a movement. The smaller horses have an advantage in certain movements. But OTOH - the smaller (moving) horses have to maintain medium and extended work a lot longer - there are more steps for them in that diagonal, so more strength and balance required for those movements.

                    Another thing that makes it tough with a BIG horse - people don't think about this until they get to a show - stabling! Many shows use 10x10 portable stalls - your 18 hand horse will be less comfortable in such a stall.

                    I understand the court was originally designed around a "16 handish" horse. That was a big horse way back when.

                    Personally, I think the "right size" is one that an individual rider feels most comfortable with. There are smaller horses doing quite well and there are bigger horses doing quite well. A small horse with big movement is just as eye catching as a big horse with flashy movement.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by cnm161 View Post
                      Depends on the rider. Paragon is something like 18hh, but Heather Blitz is also super tall (>6') and super accomplished. Clearly he's not too big for her. However, an 18hh horse with my short stubby 5'4" self would be a tough sell.

                      My FEI guy is 17.3hh, and that's at the tiptop upper limit for me size-wise. I honestly would prefer 16-17hh but it turns out that particular height range is quite expensive.
                      I'd have a hard time at 5'3" even getting on a horse like that with a mounting block.

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        That can be an issue with bigger (moving) horses - riding a volte, fitting the tempis in, riding a well balanced corner and immediately coming out of that corner to do a movement
                        This is my point exactly. The exercise I found most hard with my previous PSG horse was actually the 10m circles! But he was a 17"2 Oldenburg stallion and it was really hard to keep his hind end engaged.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SCMSL View Post
                          Ok, so I'm 5'8" and my 4 year old mare is currently 17'. I am planning on breeding her next year to a stallion who has a reputation to put an extra 3" on the foals.

                          Is it a bad idea?
                          I bred my 17+ mare to a stallion that is 16.1 and I did not know at the time he tended to add height and thought he would tone down her height. The resulting foal is pushing 18hh (except for height the foal was exactly what I wanted). So depends if you want or want to risk ending up with an 18hh horse
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SnicklefritzG View Post
                            I'd have a hard time at 5'3" even getting on a horse like that with a mounting block.
                            Thank God for 3-step mounting blocks.

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                            • #15
                              At the Olympics there were more small horses than tall ones. Several medallists were in the 15.2-16hh range. I don't think any were 17.2-18hh. The majority were 16hh-17hh.

                              The only classes where height is an advantage is the young horse classes as a big horse fills the eye better. At Grand Prix soundness and expression are the most important things and it's easier to keep a smaller horse sound. It's also easier to keep a smaller horse balanced. Once the horse is balanced and doing the movements then you can add in the flash.

                              If I had a choice between a 15.2 and a 17.2 of equal quality I'd choose the smaller horse.

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