The dapper Dutch Harness Horse! We are celebrating them as our May Breed of the Month on YourDressage! We recently asked our social media followers to post a photo of their favorite American Dutch Harness Horse or cross to be featured in a gallery on YourDressage! We will be sharing stories from folks who love this breed all through the month of May.
Did you know that dressage riders who choose American Dutch Harness Horses as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the American Dutch Harness Horse Association and KWPN of North America are both participating organizations?
Here, a Region 2 Adult Amateur shares the versatile mare who made her fall in love with the breed and secured her forever home, and the flashy gelding who is her latest project!
By Colleen Felton
Since I can remember, I have always found a way to make a little extra cash by working with horses. Whether I was mucking stalls and lunging horses throughout high school, breaking and training yearling thoroughbreds for racing after college, or grooming horses at the racetrack for a living, I already felt like I was winning. While being physically exhausting at times, and having to work in the elements, not a day’s work went by without me feeling completely fulfilled, looking at a nice clean barn, filled with fat and happy horses, and with a big smile on my face.
However, a life full of long days, and fewer days off, resulted in two things. On one hand, I was able to save money…fast. On the other hand, I was always so physically spent, I never had the means to do what I love and what ignited my passion for horses in the first place – riding them.
During COVID, by nature, I switched gears to working at a small animal hospital, where I still work today. The better work schedule allowed me to actually rest and enjoy my hobbies again… the only thing I needed now, after a life full of caring for other people’s horses, was to find my very own first horse!
I had my sights set on several gelding Thoroughbreds I had connections to but, of course, due to my quality taste in horses, these guys kept performing well, had a healthy race career, and were clearly not yet looking for a second career. Without searching too hard, a sales video came through on my Facebook newsfeed from some acquaintances of mine. The video showed a stunning, well built, unique 5-year-old black Dutch Harness Horse mare, with a white blaze and four socks, flying over jumps…and loving it!
I had been exposed to many horses by this time in my life, but something really stood out to me about this horse, and I absolutely HAD to go meet her…and boy, am I glad I did! To be honest, I had never heard of a Dutch Harness Horse until I met Luna, but that didn’t matter to me. All I knew was that I needed to make her mine. Due to working as a groom on the racetrack for two years, I hadn’t spent many hours in the saddle, but my test ride on Luna could not have been better! She took care of me over a jump course… the fact that I could barely walk the next day is irrelevant.
The seller of Luna could not have been more compassionate and sweet. She could have sold her for much more to some FEI dressage trainers, sight unseen and out of state – but chose to sell her modestly, to me locally, an adult amateur with stars in my eyes, wanting nothing more than for her to be my forever horse. I could not be more grateful!
Luna, shown fondly under the name “Starry Night”, has been my best bud since 2020. She is now an 8-year-old and we accomplished so much together. To say she has made my dreams come true is an understatement. We have competed in three phase event mini trials, combined tests, and dressage. In 2022, she won Reserve Champion for Adult Amateur at Intro Level with the Kentucky Dressage Association. Her high point score was 77% in a Training Level test. We are developing slowly and correctly under the guidance of Miguel Latimer at Infinity Dressage/Alexandra Stables, based out of Georgetown, KY. It feels amazing to be supported by trainers and a barn family who truly want to see us succeed. Luna has also recently been a part of the University of Kentucky Dressage Team as a (popular) lesson horse!
So what could be more exciting than one versatile, gorgeous, and successful Dutch Harness Horse? TWO! But this time, he is a gelding and is chestnut with all the chrome. Again, when I saw Mavericks’s sale advertisement last summer, my heart stopped and I immediately knew I had to go meet him. I saw a lot of the same qualities as Luna in him – great confirmation, a kind eye, and three expressive gaits. Maverick has been in our barn since last year, is registered with the KWPN as “Dynamite Vic”, and is proudly offered for sale at this time and searching for his very own person.
Nevertheless, both my ‘Dutchies’ are schooling First Level, are happy barefoot or with shoes, and are safe enough for any of my friends or family to ride. Believe it or not, they are both Amish-bred, and were initially intended to be working cart horses. I’m so thankful that I have been able to get to know this breed. They have so much to offer and it is really exciting to see them making their way into the dressage world, even at the higher levels. One day, I aspire to earn my USDF Bronze Medal with Luna. But for now, it is one day at a time, and I can’t wait to see where the future takes us!