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Can an Icelandic horse do dressage? Nils Christian Larsen clarifies the myth

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Dressage on an Icelandic horse? Nils tells us how. Photo: Private

The equestrian world is diverse, with various disciplines and breeds. This might lead to assumptions that these disciplines can't be mixed and matched, but is that truly so? In the following text, Icelandic horse rider Nils Christian Larsen gives his perspective on Icelandic horses and dressage riding.

Also read: Conflict Behaviour in Icelandic Horses

Nils Christian Larsen is renowned as one of the best Icelandic horse riders, with numerous competitions under his belt. He's been the Norwegian champion in multiple disciplines, a repeated European champion on ice, twice the Nordic Champion and World Champion. In addition, he's a trained equestrian trainer and riding instructor with years of experience from his time as an Icelandic horse rider.

Nils Christian runs his farm Kronholt, located in Herning, primarily for breeding, but it also functions as a training center. Throughout the year, stallion shows, clinics, and courses are held at Kronholt, attracting people from the equestrian world and offering excellent opportunities for learning and drawing inspiration. You can visit their website Kronholt.dk to learn more about them, and see when their events are scheduled.

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Icelandic horses and dressage

Addressing the both relevant and hotly debated question of whether an Icelandic horse can do dressage, Nils Christian is quite clear: Dressage is for all horses, regardless of discipline.

In his view, there's a broad misunderstanding about dressage, which he finds truly unfortunate, and he believes there's a need to clarify this myth that only dressage horses do dressage.

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"It's such a pity it's misunderstood, as dressage forms the foundation of the training for every horse."

He emphasizes that dressage contributes to a horse's development, and without the right muscles, no horse can be sustainable or operate at optimal quality. He also stresses that a horse has the same physical structure regardless of size, colour or specification. Therefore, all horses require basic training before they specialize in the discipline they will be ridden in, whether that's an Icelandic horse, dressage horse, jumping horse, driving horse, or others.

He also refers to the training pyramid, which applies to all horse breeds, and all levels - whether you want to ride in international competitions or just focus on developing yourself and the horse at home. The training pyramid thus charts a course through a tense horse, rhythm, tempo, suppleness, energy and collection, by focusing on exercises that help you and your horse through each point in the training.

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