Robert Dover Talks “Freakishly Talented” Horses

EQuine AMerica: In your opinion, is there a big difference between elite dressage when you competed at this level and what it’s like for riders today?

Robert Dover: Certainly, there are many, many big differences. The biggest is that the horses are much better, and because the horses are much better, the riding is much more sophisticated and of a higher quality. There’s more good riding because there are many more really top—freakishly talented—animals, and that’s also why you see the scores getting much higher across the world.

There’s more good riding because there are more really top—freakishly talented—animals.

Robert Dover
Robert Dover (front left) with his team of “freakishly talented” horses.

The ways that it’s the same are that the pressures are the same and the striving for excellence is the same. The need to compete and learn your craft and learn how to win is the same. I think the need to master both the art and the sport is the same.

Do you think this generation of horses is genetically better? Or are they just being trained, pushed, and tested farther than they used to be?

They’re being genetically produced to be far more athletic. Horse breeding over the last couple of decades has produced much more specialized, amazing athletes. So, what once was the one amazing horse in a generation of horses is suddenly three or four. You never would see more than one Totilas, and all of a sudden now you have three or four horses that are just incredible who can get 80% or higher, and we just never had that before. That’s how great the breeding has become, and also the sophistication and knowing what genes.

People used to think that if you’re not a German, you must not know how to train.

Robert Dover

And then the training of those horses, there are many more people that know how to train and know how to produce. People used to think that if you’re not a German, you must not know how to train, or there was the one Swede or an individual Dane and one else in those countries. Now we certainly have incredibly great American trainers and there are great trainers in many countries around the world. I’ve seen a beautiful rider from Portugal now, and I’ve seen beautiful riders from France, and really just beautiful riders that are doing amazing things from all over. It keeps it interesting because the competition is always getting harder.

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