By Amanda Ciejko
Most competitors at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® showcase a variety of warmbloods, sport horses, and popular versatile breeds, but there have been a few nontypical dressage breeds competing during these prestigious events as well. Here are 5 interesting and unique breeds that have strutted their stuff at the Kentucky Horse Park since the show’s inception.
1. Mules. Mules are the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, and often bred as working horses. In 2014, the first mule to compete at the US Dressage Finals was Heart B Dyna, ridden by Laura Hermanson. Hermanson then returned in 2016 and 2018 with another mule, Behold the Desert. In 2018, Isabella Rodwig also competed with a mule named Assassin.
2. Chincoteague Pony. Also known as the Assateague horse, these horses were considered a feral breed that developed on Assateague Island off the coast of Virginia and Maryland. There are around 300 of these horses on the island, and they are managed by two federal agencies (depending on which part of the island they are on). In addition, there are around 1,000 that have been captured, purchased, and bred within the United States. Hayley Jonkman competed her Chincoteague Pony, Love Bug, at the 2017 and 2018 editions of the US Dressage Finals.
3. Georgian Grande. A relatively new breed (since 1994), these horses are a cross between Friesian, Saddlebred, and draft horse bloodlines. The goal of the International Georgian Grand Horse Registry (IGGHR) is to create a Saddlebred-like horse that includes the best qualities of the heavier Friesian and draft horse breeds, recreating the heavier, stockier Saddlebreds of the past. Jonni Allen competed her Georgian Grande mount, FWF Princess Juliana, at the US Dressage Finals in 2013, 2015, and 2016.
4. American Bashkir Curly Cross. There are many discrepancies about the origins of the Curly horse, but the main theory is that they were an Iberian breed that passed along the unique, hypoallergenic, curly coat genetics. They are a versatile, stocky, reliable mounts most commonly seen as beginner mounts or combined driving teams, though they are starting to become popular in upper level dressage and show jumping. Denise Waszak competed her Curly mount, Kyff, at the 2016 US Dressage Finals.
5. Hackney Horse. Developed in Great Britain, the Hackney Horse was bred to be the ideal carriage horse. They are known for their stamina, quick trot, and high step. Lisa Pierson competed the Hackney named Baryshnikov at the 2014 US Dressage Finals.