Top 21 of ’21 – Recapping the Best Stories of the Year!

This photo, from one of YourDressage’s Regional Championship galleries, was submitted by Alexis C., and features Melissa Peck aboard Bianca and Andrea Balas aboard FHF Raecharee enjoying a walk back to the barn together.

By Chelsey Burris

2021 was a year unlike any other!  The COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact our lives, but many dressage shows were back and thriving.  YourDressage was there with you all year providing your daily dose of dressage by sharing stories from riders, trainers, breeders, and dressage enthusiasts across the country, as well as photo galleries, videos, and more.  From inspiring stories about the Tokyo Olympic team, to informative horse health features, and articles highlighting unique and interesting breeds, here were the top 21 trending stories from 2021.

This photo, submitted by Margaret K., features her 7-year-old Mustang mare, BB Valiente (Vali).

Throughout the year, YourDressage highlighted different breeds through our Breed of the Month Series.  In July, Mustangs were featured.  Known for their wild and majestic spirit, these free-roaming horses are rounded up periodically to be sold to new homes where they will be tamed.  These unique equines are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West. We asked our social media followers to share photos of their Mustangs, and let us know what makes these horses so special. In this gallery, you can see the photos they shared.

Severe case of Kissing Spines seen by x-ray.  Overriding dorsal spinous processes. X-ray courtesy of Virginia Equine Imaging.

20. Enigma: Kissing Spines in Horses: Part 1 – Defining Kissing Spines in Horses

Kissing Spines, more scientifically known as impingement of the dorsal spinous processes, is a condition that has grown in relevance and impact throughout the last two decades with improved diagnostics and education. In this horse health feature from Platinum Performance, read about Kissing Spines and what a diagnosis can mean for you and your horse.  Read it here.

This photo, submitted by Ashley C., features her 12-year-old Arabian partner AM Hamlet.

In July, Arabians were featured as the YourDressage Breed of the Month. One of the oldest horse breeds on earth, and the influence for many other breeds, these elegant horses are easily recognizable with their delicate faces and high tail carriage.  They excel in many sports, particularly endurance riding.  Enjoy the full gallery of photos shared by our social media followers here.

18. VIDEO: Equine Sleep with Dr. Sandy Venneman, PhD

You spend a third of your life doing it, so it must be important. Sleep is vital to athletes and their performance. Learn why sleep is important, how much you need, and how much your horse needs in this featured video. Dr. Venneman will cover the importance of “sleep hygiene” and how to be better prepared for success in your dressage test.  This excerpt is from Dr. Venneman’s Sleep for Success Featured Education Presentation at the 2020 Adequan®/USDF Virtual Convention.

This photo, submitted by Keely, features her Quarter Horse, Happy Hour (barn name Bodie)

Continuing with our spotlight on breeds, Quarter Horses took center stage as the 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, and even in the dressage arena. See the full gallery of photos shared by our social media followers of this breed.

This photo was submitted by Emma S. of her Irish Sport Horse/Draft Guinness (show name Guinness On Draft)

16. Celebrating Draft Horses

The mighty Draft! In August, YourDressage celebrated Draft Horses and Draft Crosses of all kinds.  Dressage riders who choose Drafts as their mounts are eligible for many Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as there are several Draft organizations on our Participating Organization list. See the full gallery of photos, shared by our social media followers, here.

Jamie R. submitted this photo of Beatrix WS, a 2018 Hanoverian filly at an awards ceremony at the USDF Breeders Series Championships.

March was the launch of our Breed of the Month Series on YourDressage, and it started with a bang when we asked Hanoverian enthusiasts to share photos of their horses and let us know what makes them special.  This breed originated in Germany, and is one of the oldest and most numerous of the Warmblood breeds.  Hanoverians are known for their good temperament, athleticism, beauty, and grace. Check out the full gallery of photos, shared by our social media followers, here.

Region 2’s Training Level Jr/YR Champion – Fiona Cotter and Gallagher. Photo by John Borys  Photography

14. 2021 Great American/USDF Regional Dressage Championships Updates and Reminders

Many riders make the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Dressage Championships a goal each fall.  This article, published right before riders from all nine regions headed down centerline, featured important updates and reminders as we headed into the 2021 championship season.  Check it out here.

This photo was submitted by Claudia A. and features 13.2 hand Welsh stallion Winterlake Tristan, schooling Grand Prix.

13. Pony Power Part 2

May was #PonyPower month on YourDressage, where we shared photo galleries and exclusive stories from pony enthusiasts across the country.  Adorable, feisty, and lovable, check out a full gallery of dressage pony photos here!

This photo was submitted by Julie F. and features Valencia, a 14.1 hand Sulphur Mustang. Photo by Joanna Jodko

12. Pony Power Part 1

Coming in just on the wire ahead of the Pony Power Part 2 gallery, was the first gallery we shared featuring our smaller equine partners.  See the full gallery here.

This photo was submitted by Suzanne E. who was Region 1 Champion at Training Level Adult Amateur and First Level Freestyle with her mare Supergirl KS, pictured here with her trainer Donna Gatchell.

11. Sights from the Championships – Regions 1, 2, 3, and 9

Fall means Regional Championship time! Once the 2021 Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Dressage Championships started, we asked competitors, trainers, and spectators to share sights from the shows.  This gallery gives you a taste of what the 2021 Regionals were like in Regions 1, 2, 3, and 9, which kicked off the championship season last year.

Laura Graves and Verdades on their way to the Grand Prix Special silver medal at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games. Photo by Jennifer Bryant photo.

10. The Fairy-Tale Horse

The chances of an unknown and relatively green rider making it to the world stage aboard a famously difficult horse that her mother purchased as a foal are practically nil. But that’s exactly what Laura Graves accomplished with Verdades, and that’s why the pair’s story captivated the dressage world from the time of their out-of-nowhere international debut in 2014. Read their inspiring story.

9. Consider a Thoroughbred as Your Next Dressage Horse

What breed of horse is right for you?  Adult amateur Sally O’Dwyer shares about the chestnut ex-racehorse George, and a few of the reasons why an off-track Thoroughbred could be the perfect dressage partner for you!  Read it here.

Lucy Tidd and Ellert HB cantered to victory in the Grand Prix Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship at the 2021 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Photo by Susan J. Stickle.

8. 2021 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®: Recap and Results

The official recap of the 2021 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® is a must-read!  Find out who was awarded the perpetual trophies, the results from the Regions Cup, see photo galleries from the competition, and check out our full coverage from the event, all in one place!  Relive all the unforgettable and inspiring moments here.

Charlie with her mom Stacie Jarvis, two dogs (Maggie and Jack), and Quarter Horses Clever Move Rosie (chestnut) and Tricky Hair Connie (gray). Photo by Brecca Wheaton

7. The Stock Horse at X: The American Quarter Horse in Dressage

Quarter Horses proved popular with our readers, with stories about this breed reaching #7 and #6 on the trending list.  From a young age, Region 9 rider Charlie S. found herself drawn to Quarter Horses. Her AQHA mare Rosie taught her that dressage isn’t just for “big fancy warmbloods.” Read her story.

Katherine Abrams and her Quarter Horse, Blue, at Dressage at Devon.

6. A Lesson in Courage

As part of our Breed of the Month celebration of Quarter Horses in April, we shared the story of Katherine Abrams and her horse Blue.  You won’t wait to miss this story about a Region 1 rider and her feisty and fiery Quarter Horse, who went from a ranch horse reject to a dressage champion.  Read it here.

Shoulder-in is fundamental in dressage because it’s the first movement in a horse’s training that requires actual collection. Megan Fischer-Graham rides Elian, owned by Amanda Stapleton, at the 2020 Adequan®/USDF FEI-Level Trainers Conference. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

5. A Way to Ride the Shoulder-In

The shoulder-in. It may look simple, but it can be one of the most difficult movements to teach to students of dressage. The movement may be clear in your mind when you read about it, and it looks so easy when someone performs it correctly, but when you try to ride it yourself, you may run into multiple problems.  In this YourDressage exclusive, multiple time Adequan®/USDF Breeder award recipient Maurine “Mo” Swanson shares the secrets of this movement, complete with helpful diagrams.  Read it here.

4. Five Ways to Impress a Judge

Everyone knows that the best way to get a very good score on a movement is to perform that movement very well. But, as we all well know, and have experienced, sometimes that doesn’t work out. Maybe our horse was feeling a bit ‘off’, or there were external distractions, or it was our error in not preparing for the movement – mistakes happen. There are, however, some simple things you can do to impress the judges that will help you earn that extra half point, even on a movement that isn’t quite right.  Read on here.

3. Bronze Medal in Action

Did you know, each week on YourDressage, we publish a Photo of the Week?  You can submit your own photo to for your chance to be featured.  The most popular Photo of the Week in 2021, coming in at #3 on our trending list, is “Bronze Medal in Action”.  The photo was taken by Yvette Karriker and features 12-year-old rider Taylor Karriker, earning her USDF Bronze Medal.

Suppenkasper and Steffen Peters.  Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

2. Fun Facts About Suppenkasper, the “Rave Horse” Who Went Viral at the Olympics

Much to the delight of everyone in the dressage world, an unexpected star from the Tokyo Olympics was our sport’s very own Suppenkasper (aka Mopsie), the reigning Adequan®/USDF Grand Prix Horse of the Year.  Suppenkasper went viral online for his unique freestyle with Steffen Peters, complete with electronic dance music.  Dubbed “The Rave Horse” online, clips of his freestyle took the world by storm, gaining millions of views on social media. Read some fun facts about “The Rave Horse” in this YourDressage exclusive.

1. Get to Know the 2021 US Olympic Dressage Team

Drumroll please!  The most popular article on YourDressage in 2021 was…our feature on the Tokyo Olympic team!  Get to know the equestrians and horses who represented Team USA at the Olympics, bringing home a team silver medal for the first time since 1948!  The article introduces Adrienne Lyle and Salvino, Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper, Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo, and alternate pair Nick Wagman and Don John, as well as the shortlisted horses Harmony’s Duval and Ferano.  Read it here.

What was your favorite YourDressage story, gallery, or video of the year?  Let us know in the comments below.

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