dressage horse breeds

A Guide To The Best Dressage Horse Breeds In The World

When you think of a dressage horse, you might be thinking about warmbloods. And you’re not wrong – these horses are often raking in the ribbons at high-level dressage events.

But that doesn’t mean they’re the only horses that excel at dressage. In fact, there are many unlikely dressage horse breeds that perform exceptionally well in the arena.

Although athleticism plays a big role in how well a horse can do dressage, temperament and willingness to learn are equally important.

So, saddle up and let’s get into the best dressage horse breeds in the world.

Best Dressage Horse Overall: Dutch Warmblood

  • Country of origin: Netherlands
  • Height: 16 – 17 hands
  • Known for: Stamina, intelligence, grace, athleticism

Dutch Warmblood horses are undoubtedly the very best dressage horses out there. They are consistently the best scorers in dressage competitions, and many other horse breeds just simply can’t compete.

Dutch Warmbloods have several Olympic gold medals associated with them, which proves my point!

You’re unlikely to find a fussy or difficult Dutch Warmblood. This breed is agreeable, friendly and eager to learn. Couple their lovely demeanour with a strong yet graceful horse and you have the perfect recipe for a dressage star.

Best Horse for Beginner Riders: Friesian

  • Country of origin: Netherlands
  • Height: 14 – 17 hands
  • Known for: Strength, elegance, friendliness

Friesians are a sight to behold with their lovely black coats, flowing manes and tails and feathering around their hooves.

Their elegant way of moving and their strong bodies make them amazing, stylish dressage horses.

Friesians are very calm and love working with their owners, which is why they’re good for beginner riders who are only just getting started with dressage and want to work together to level up.

Dressage Horse For Intermediate Riders: Danish Warmblood

  • Country of origin: Denmark
  • Height: 15.2 – 17 hands
  • Known for: Exceptional athleticism, style, being hard-working

Danish Warmbloods can be spirited, but their friendly demeanours mean they work well with their owners when training for dressage.

Although these horses need a firmer hand and a more experienced rider, they excel at dressage competitions because of their natural athletic abilities.

You will often see a Danish Warmblood parading around the Olympic dressage arena and even bringing home some medals.

This breed has a flowing gait, strong muscles and an easy-going personality, making them great dressage horses for riders with basic dressage skills.

Best Dressage Horse For Experienced Riders: Hanoverian Horse

  • Country of origin: Germany
  • Height: 15.7 – 18.2 hands
  • Known for: Athleticism, stamina and competitive ability

If you’re looking for athletic horses, look no further than Hanoverians.

Warmblood breeds have dominated the dressage world for many years, and the Hanoverian is no exception.

These tall and slender horses absolutely rule dressage events at high levels. Their lively nature means they need an experienced rider holding their reins.

They are perfectly built to compete in a variety of equestrian sports, including showjumping and mounted games, but they really are exceptional dressage horses with the right training.

Most Popular Dressage Horse: Oldenburg

  • Country of origin: Germany
  • Height: 16 – 17.2 hands
  • Known for: Courageous, sporty, expressive gaits

The Oldenburg horse was originally bred as a heavy warmblood to pull carriages. But their carriage pulling days are far behind (for the most part) as today, 60% of all dressage horses are Oldenburgs.

Their popularity in this sport is due to their likeable temperament. They are very intelligent and easy to train and take well to working hard. Coupled with their smooth stride and how well they carry themselves, you have the perfect dressage horse breed.

Most Powerful Dressage Horse: Thoroughbred

  • Country of origin: England
  • Height: 15.2 – 17 hands
  • Known for: Strength, spirit, speed

Thoroughbreds are most commonly associated with horse racing, but these UK natives are no strangers to the world of dressage.

Their conformation (i.e. body type) is lean and slender with powerful hindquarters that benefit them in sporting events.

Thoroughbreds, and Thoroughbred crosses, make excellent dressage horses. Their stamina means they do well during training, and their intelligence translates to them quickly learning new moves.

Best All-Rounder: Trakehner

  • Country of origin: Trakehnen,East Prussia
  • Height: 15.1 – 16.2 hands
  • Known for: Athletic, springy trot, hardworking, intelligent

Some of you may not have heard of the noble Trakehner. These horses are good all-rounders, excelling at dressage, trail riding, companionship or even doing heavy work around a farm.

They have a strong and elegant build. Their springy trot is a distinctive feature that serves them well in dressage.

Trakehners have good conformation and temperaments, and since they don’t shy away from hard work, you will have a horse that is always willing to learn and work with its owners.

Riders who are not yet certain about which discipline they want to partake in will enjoy the versatility of the Trakehner.

Best Versatile Dressage Horse: Andalusian Horses

  • Country of origin: Spain
  • Height: 15 – 16.2 hands
  • Known for: Versatility, athleticism, intelligence, flowing manes and tails

Yet another versatile horse on our list: the Andalusian.

These horses are also called the Real Spanish Horse or pura raza española because of their Spanish roots.

One standout feature of an Andalusian is its flowing mane and tail which are often intricately braided for dressage events. Their smaller, compact size and strong legs make them ideal dressage partners.

Andalusians have been used for dressage for many years, as well as bullfighting and driving. So if you want a good dressage horse breed that is versatile enough to use in other events too, look no further!

Best For Agility: Holsteiner

  • Country of origin: Germany
  • Height: 16 – 17 hands
  • Known for: Being eager to please, agility, athleticism

It would appear that Germany sure knows how to breed horses for dressage!

The Holsteiner is the perfect sport horse. Their natural agility and athleticism allow them to compete in a variety of events, dressage being just one of them.

They are highly trainable and have competed (and medalled) at the Olympics. They also have lovely dispositions, making them great for riders of all skill levels.

Holsteiners were one of the very first warmblood breed registries in 1935 and today this breed still continues to impress riders and spectators at equine sporting events.

Friendliest Dressage Horse: Gypsy Vanner

  • Country of origin: Ireland
  • Height: 14 – 15 hands
  • Known for: Friendly nature, powerful build

The stocky Gypsy Vanner might not be the first horse you think about when you consider dressage horse breeds, but they have certain attributes that make them worthy contenders.

These horses are incredibly friendly and love to interact with people. This friendly disposition means they are relatively easy to train, especially for novice dressage riders.

Their reliable gait, gorgeous coat patterns and flowy feathering make them a sight to behold in the arena.

Best Prancers: Lipizzan

  • Country of origin: Spain, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia
  • Height: 14.2 – 15.2 hands
  • Known for: Mostly grey, muscular withers, arched neck, elegant gait

The Lippizan is genetically Spanish but originated in the Lippizan region of Austria.

These elegant horses are a striking sight at dressage events. They have a prancing gait, and their white-grey colouring makes them stand out from the other competitors.

Lippizans are used in the Spanish Riding School of Vienna where they are trained to demonstrate haute école (high school) movements. These moves included raised leg trots and stylised jumps called “airs above ground” – some seriously advanced dressage movements if you ask me!

They are amazingly talented horses and a popular choice for dressage riders.

Best Athletic Breed: Westphalian Horses

  • Country of origin: Germany
  • Height: 15.2 – 17.2 hands
  • Known for: Lovely personalities, agile, athletic

Most of the horses on our list are athletic, but Westphalian horses need a special mention. These horses are muscular and incredibly agile, allowing them to excel at equine sports.

Whether you’re just starting out in dressage or competing at the Olympic level, a Westphalian horse won’t disappoint you. Their lovely nature, athleticism and willingness to please make them one of the most successful horse breeds in dressage.

Best UK Native Breed: Cob Horse

  • Country of origin: Ireland
  • Height: 14.2 – 15.2 hands
  • Known for: Gentle nature, strong build

Apart from the English Thoroughbred, Cob horses stand out as the UK’s most successful dressage horse.

This may come as a surprise as Cobs are typically used for hacking or load-pulling. But, if you stumble upon a Cob with a happy attitude and good conformation, you can easily train it to compete in dressage.

Their smaller size makes them a good option for young dressage riders who are just learning the skills.


How much does a dressage horse cost?

A young, well-bred horse with dressage abilities will set you back around £5,500. If you’re looking for top-level warmblood or talented dressage horses with proper training, then you will be looking at spending upwards of £10,000.

Can any horse breed do dressage?

Yes! You can train almost any agreeable horse to do dressage with just a bit of patience and positive reinforcement. However, not every horse will perform at top-level dressage competitions – best to leave that to the pros like the Danish Warmblood, Dutch Warmbloods or Oldenburgs.

At what age can I start training my horse for dressage?

You can start dressage training when your horse is around three or four years old. This is just an estimation, as the age you start training will depend on the character of the individual horse and its willingness to learn.

Similar Posts