The mighty Irish Draught Horse! We are celebrating them as our January Breed of the Month on YourDressage!
Dressage riders who choose Irish Draughts as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America is a participating organization.
Here, a rider shares about the Irish Draught Sport Horse mare Kerry, her “unicorn” partner, and what shines through from her Irish genetics that makes her a wonderful dressage mount.
By Amanda Pierce
Dunton’s Irish Magnum is a 2007 Irish Draught Sport Horse. Her bloodlines are considered to be that of a traditional Irish horse. She is a mix of Irish Draught, Connemara pony, and Thoroughbred. A traditional bred horse is any combination of those three breeds, but with no warmblood influence in any way. Her barn name is Kerry, named after the county Kerry in Ireland. She was bred and born in northeastern Ohio by Kathy Caldwell. I thank Kathy annually for selling her to me. She’s 15.1 hands with shoes on, round, and has substantial bone. Her sire is O’Learys Irish Diamond, an Irish Draught that competed through the Prix St. Georges Level, and her dam is Rocking Horse Magnum, a Connemara/Thoroughbred cross that evented. I bought her sight unseen, off of an internet ad, and I feel strongly that buying her was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Kerry is a unicorn. I started her as a three-year-old, and I was the first person on her. I produced her myself, with lessons from my coach, Brad Cutshall, from Landmark Farm in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had never competed above Second Level at schooling shows when I set my sights on earning my USDF Rider Medals. My goal was to train Kerry from the start, and to get all of my scores towards my bronze. I have a solid background in working with horses, but in our journey it has been the blind leading the blind. Progress is not linear, and she was forgiving of all of my rider mistakes as we were both learning. Kerry’s canter was great from day one, she has a clear walk, and her trot is even, although not brillant or scopey in any way. Brad always commented on how clever she was with her hind legs, and that her canter was above average. Training the changes were a challenge for me, but they have become one of her highlights. I credit her Irish genetics in her lead change ability. Through the last 12 years of showing her, I have earned my USDF Bronze and Silver Medals. She earned me my scores for the USDF L program. Kerry also achieved her USDF Horse Performance Certificate at Third Level. We are planning on showing I-1 in 2023. Her success would not have been possible without Brad’s expert advice. He has never once doubted her ability or mine, and has always pushed us towards moving up the levels.
What makes Kerry special though is all of her achievements outside of showing. She has taught numerous little ones to post the trot. She can pack a green beginner around, as well as taking a more advanced rider through lateral work and lead changes. I had a student that was preparing to take a PATH course assessment and she needed to learn how to canter and pick up leads. After 12 sessions on Kerry, that young lady learned how to ride well enough she passed her exam. She is my number one go-to mount to take green horses out trail riding. Kerry hates to lead on trails, but will gladly follow all day long. At shows, she’s darned near bombproof. My wonder horse travels alone to competitions. Kerry might get a little looky at times, but I have never had an issue with her in any tests. Her mistakes are always piloting errors. She has taught me to execute near perfect “ringmanship” to break 60 percent on her due to her average gaits. The one area I have to fault her on though is mud – Kerry despises mud. If the rings are wet, splashing her big Irish hooves in any sort of slop is beneath her, and our scores suffer. Kerry’s bad days are better than most horses’ good days, and I appreciate every part of her.
I have turned down numerous offers from people wanting to buy Kerry as she is priceless to me. My husband jokes that my mental health is worth more than anything I would receive for her. I can ride her bareback, and she always feels safe. The two times I have had to recover my confidence from other horse related accidents, Kerry is the one that I always ride first. I have been fortunate to have worked with a handful of Irish bred horses and ponies, and they can be these amazing partners. I think as dressage horses, Irish-bred mounts can be overlooked. If given the proper training and time to develop, they can be fantastic show horses as well in traditional dressage. I always tell people about Kerry’s Irish heritage, and I know she has inspired those on the non-traditional breeds to keep progressing through the dressage levels on their horses.
Kerry has amassed a small fan club of Irish Draught and Connemara pony enthusiasts on my social media account. She’s known as the short, round, Irish mare to her many fans! Kerry is capable of so much more, but time constraints and finances have kept her outings limited and local. At this point in her life, she owes me nothing. I am incredibly blessed to have her, and I do not take her time here for granted. I would love to get her to Grand Prix. Only time and training will tell, though I would not put it past this traditional bred Irish Draught Sport Horse mare, as she has a heart bigger than her 15.1 hand stature.