Quarter Horses are our YourDressage Breed of the Month for April! This breed originated in America, and is known for its athleticism and its ability to excel in everything from horse racing, to western sports, to ranch work, to the dressage arena.
Dressage enthusiasts who ride Quarter Horses have the opportunity to earn special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) is a Participating Organization.
We recently asked our social media followers to share stories of what makes this breed so special to them. Here, a para-equestrian shares about her horse Blue, a versatile and hardworking ambassador for his breed.
By Courtney Anderson
If there were a single breed of horse that defines the word “versatility,” that’s pretty easy; it doesn’t get more versatile than the American Quarter Horse.
Some of my earliest memories were made on the back of a horse. I was blessed to have been brought up in an equestrian lifestyle and over the course of my life, I have had the opportunity to ride for some pretty incredible outfits across the United States. Originally aspiring to be a large animal veterinarian, my goals and aspirations were turned on their head in 2010, when a ranching accident resulted in the loss of my left hand. At the age of eighteen, this was a huge adaptation, but it did not slow me down. Three months after my accident, I weaned myself off all medication so that I could ride out with my crew to work bulls in the fall. I have been riding and starting colts ever since, never looking back.
In 2014, I decided to continue pursuing my education at the University of Montana Western and was drawn to their Natural Horsemanship Program. However, at the time, I did not own my own horse. As this was a requirement of the program, I had just started looking at prospects. With my budget, I knew I was looking for a project, and I had yet to see anything that overly interested me when a friend of mine posted a photo that immediately caught my attention. His name was BC Cats Royal, and he was a 2010 AQHA grey gelding out of Pretty Lady Leslie and by Little Blue Catty. He had just turned four and stood at 15.3hh, and he had a look that stopped you in your tracks. I knew that this was the one, so I messaged her immediately and wired a deposit. I traveled over 819 miles from Williston, ND to Clatonia, NE to meet him. As I stood there with him, his presence was captivating; this horse was something special. After trying him, I knew his potential was endless, and I wanted to be part of his journey. He was a little over green broke and still needed to be finished out, but that was just fine. I had been starting colts for nearly three years at this point and had phenomenal mentors, so I was excited to have a prospect of my own. It took a few months to get him home, as we were in the middle of moving to Montana from North Dakota, but BC Cats Royal, otherwise known as “Blue,” and I started our journey together in October 2014.
We never actually enrolled in the program, as I decided to major in Molecular Bioscience instead.
I had no idea at the time that our journey would look nothing like what I had mapped out in my head. One thing is for certain, I have learned more on this journey with Blue than I ever imagined. He has taught me countless invaluable lessons and has been instrumental in developing me into the horsewoman I am today. The road was not always easy, and Blue sustained three challenging injuries early into our journey that by all accounts should have ended his career before it even began. He recovered stronger than ever and showed the world that he would defy the odds.
I had always dreamed of owning a horse from the High Brow Cat line, and Blue is a great-grandson of this iconic stallion. Not only are these horses naturally gifted cutters, but they are also incredibly intelligent. I am convinced a horse does not need fancy papers to be great, but it was just icing on the cake. He has never once refused to do anything I asked of him; he would cross water, work a cow, trek into the mountains, clear deadfall, ride out in a storm, he did it all. I never had to worry with him, and I have trusted him since day one, as he never gave me a reason not to. Blue has the most incredible mind and that is one thing I have always admired about this horse. He might be completely out of his element, but if you tell him it is alright, he will give it his all. He also has a one-of-a-kind finesse when working cattle, he almost exudes a calming effect that instantly relaxes the cattle, yet when needed, can ramp up the energy to get the job done, then dial it back down. This makes him extremely handy in high-energy, high-stress situations and he is invaluable as I know I can count on him to be steadfast and think through the situation before reacting.
In 2019, I started riding dressage as part of learning to event on Blue. A friend of mine competes in the upper levels of dressage and had invited me along to take some photos at an eventing show she was riding in. I ended up really enjoying the environment and it looked extremely fun, so I decided it was something I wanted to learn. Little did I know just how much Blue would love to jump. In the spring of 2020, my husband and I lost our small restaurant and catering service as a result of the lockdowns and restrictions with COVID-19, so I redirected that lost time to start intensively training with Blue with the intention of competing. Despite the challenges of showing during Covid, Blue rose to the occasion and excelled at his first dressage show, placing first out of five and second out of fifteen in Training Level. For our first show and having just started dressage three months prior, I was ecstatic. Within six months we made our debut in First Level and earned scores of 68.5 and 73 on our first two tests! If anything, he is exceptionally consistent in his scores and has a naturally beautiful way of going that is highly remarked on in his scores as “looks very enjoyable to ride”. We attended our first ever clinic in October last year and we got some incredible feedback, and from there I was put in contact with the United States Para-Equestrian Association. We became involved shortly after and in January I became officially classified as a Grade V Para-Equestrian with the aspirations of competing on the US Paralympic Team. I am ecstatic Blue has been selected as my para-mount, meeting all the requirements to safely compete at these levels. We have our eyes set on competing heavily this year to make it to Wellington, FL, this January.
Blue captures attention everywhere we go and is always highly praised for his talent and agility. He loves being around young children and has been in hundreds of photographs over the years, more than happy to parade little ones around to squeals of delight from downtown city streets to remote mountain tops. It is hard not to fall in love with his beautiful soul.
On top of being my classical dressage partner, Blue rides competitive drill, team sorting, cutting, working cow horse, reining, stadium jumping, cross country, western dressage, and is a trail boss. If that is not versatility, I am not sure what is. I have really enjoyed watching as this powerhouse of a horse transforms into elegance and grace in the dressage arena, light as a feather. Learning dressage has had such a transformative effect in every aspect of his training. Blue is better balanced and more confident in himself as he has become stronger and better able to utilize his body. It has also helped me to become a better rider with improved balance and more effective use of my aids. Dressage has made a huge difference in his performance, and I would highly recommend a cross-training program to anyone!
As a proud member of AQHA, USDF, USPEA, CAF, USEF, NCHA, BDS, MTSDTA, NWMTTPA, MTTSA, and several other great organizations; I am so very excited to see the American Quarter Horse become more prevalent in the dressage ring. They truly are capable of excelling through the levels with the proper training and development. I am proud to ride an American Quarter Horse and appreciate the opportunity to share our story with the readers on YourDressage!
Go see our Quarter Horse Gallery.