California Riding Magazine • January, 2009

The Irish Draught Horse
Renowned sporthorse breed adds
dressage to its resume

by Kate Justet Triplett

Nearly everyone knows that the Irish Draught, or RID, the progenitor of the Irish Sporthorse, is responsible for some of the most spectacularly successful jumpers, hunters and event horses of the past century. The native horse of Ireland has made a name for himself by producing the likes of Cruising, Cagney, Ado Annie, Carling King and Hopes Are High, just a few of the shining stars of the Grand Prix show jumping circuit. Others like Custom Made, Supreme Rock, Giltedge and Sailing have thrilled the eventing world, with the most recent highlight being McKinlaigh, an Irish Draught Sporthorse who carried Gina Miles to her individual silver medal in the 2008 Hong Kong Olympics.

Now, though, the Irish Draught is gaining recognition as more than an eventer or jumper. Irish-breds are excelling in dressage as well!
In 2007, California rider Oryla Ramey and her Irish Draught Sporthorse gelding Galanta proved it by winning the California Dressage Society’s Fourth Level AA CDS Horse of the Year Championship. The icing on the cake came during the subsequent months. Galanta won many other Fourth Level and PSG Horse of the Year awards, from USDF, DASC and the LA Chapter of CDS. In December, Oryla and her ever-supportive husband traveled to Florida to receive Galanta’s USDF/ Irish Draught Horse Society of North America All Breed Awards. In 2008, they competed in several CDI competitions at Intermediare I and are poised to continue on to Intermediare II and Grand Prix in the future.

In 2008 another stellar Irish Draught Sporthorse, the stunningly gorgeous mare Granite’s Picadilly, owned by Cheryl Anderson of Nepean, Ontario, Canada, won her two Training Level Classes (68 % and 70 %) with the even 70 % in Training 4 at the big Dressage in the Park Show at the Nepean National Equestrian Centre in Ottawa. Ridden by Paula Baxter, Picadilly ended up champion of the Amateur Training division. This was only her second time away from home at the age of 5! Since that show, she has been champion or reserve champion at every show, won the Ottawa Area Dressage Group Trillium (Silver) Training level championship and she is currently ranked #2 in all of Ontario for Training Level on the Trillium (Silver) circuit.

Photo: Cheryl Ogilvie, Pixyourthis

Purebred Power

Lest you think that these successes are isolated results of lucky crossbreeding, and that it is the Thoroughbred or other “lighter” blood that makes these Irish-breds such a pleasant and willing companion for dressage—let’s take a look at a few purebreds:

First, the young purebred Irish Draught stallion Steeped In Luck RID, another Canadian resident. Known at home as Eamon, Steeped In Luck RID began his formal dressage show career at an Equine Canada Gold (National) Level show with renowned FEI dressage rider Tom Dvorak aboard, at the May 2008 KLDA Spring Fling - Results: 5 first places and Second Level Dressage Champion.

One of his owners’ primary goals for this 6 year old stallion’s 2008 show year was to obtain his Canadian Sport Horse Stallion Bronze Premium status. The criteria for Bronze Premium status in dressage are: five placings over 65% at Second Level from an Equine Canada/USEF recognized dressage show. The scores must be obtained from at least three different judges. Spring Fling judges Stephen Clarke (FEI O – Great Britain), Lorraine MacDonald (FEI I – Canada) and Brenda Minor (FEI C – Canada) provided Steeped In Luck with the following scores: 68.33%, 68.03%, 67.84%, 67.67%, 66.49%.

Steeped in Luck RID.
Photo: Owner, Elizabeth Douglas

As a result, Steeped In Luck had completed his requirements for Bronze Premium status in one weekend! In addition, Eamon and Tom placed first across the board (five tests) and were awarded the Second Level Championship at this Gold (national) show.

Summary comments from the judges included: “Looks very trainable with good attitude and ability…a very Steady-Eddie horse…consistent test…makes it look easy…interesting in a couple of years.”

Not Just Luck

Steeped In Luck qualified for and entered the Ontario Provincial Dressage Championships on Sept. 14-15 in Bethany, Ontario. He competed against eight other riders in the Open division and was awarded the Ontario Provincial Second Level Championship. His combined dressage scores over the two days were the highest of all 19 horses competing in this division.

Steeped In Luck’s owner, Elizabeth Douglas had these additional end-of-season comments: “One of the highlights of Eamon’s first competition season occurred at the Cornerstone Summer Festival Show. When Tom and Eamon finished one of their dressage tests, the judge stood up and clapped. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to attend the show on that day, but Ellen Dvorak, Tom’s wife told us about the experience. I can’t recall if she said it was the first time she had seen this happen or not. But in any event, it was a rather unique experience. The judge called the duo a ‘very harmonious pair’.”

The following is a horse specific comment, but I think it speaks to the breed overall.

Tom Dvorak: “As a trainer there is much to admire about him: his temperament is amazing, his willingness to work and learn—exceptional, the capability to collect—it’s dead easy for him. He has turned a lot heads this summer.”

Ellen Dvorak: “And look at the expression in his face!”

Consider O’Leary’s Irish Diamond, an impressive, approved RID stallion, who was successfully campaigned in California, Colorado and New Mexico through Third Level by Jutta Heinsohn until 2001 when he returned home to New Mexico and successfully competed in Open Jumpers. In 2003-2004 O’Leary’s Irish Diamond returned to dressage and competed at both Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges in Florida under Stephany Fish.

And, we proudly present KEC Double Diamond, another impressive, approved RID stallion, awarded his RID status in Ireland by successfully completing a thorough testing regime, including performance testing in open shows in 2000. Oisin (pronounced “Ush-een”) was purchased from the Kennedy Equestrian Center and imported from Ireland in 2001 as a 5-year-old by Adsagsona Farm in Southern California (now located in Ocala, Florida,

While he has, from professional necessity, taken a back seat to all of his owner/trainer’s “paying” clients over the past several years, he has successfully competed to Fourth Level dressage, is currently training at FEI levels and already has a superb piaffe. This beautiful chestnut stallion was selected as her personal mount by owner Jutta Heinsohn. His dressage training is periodically interrupted by time away jumping, however, as he wants to do it all. A champion Modified division jumper in his own right under both professional and amateur riders, the only thing keeping Oisin back from going further in his jumping career is, according to his owner, “my level of personal courage over fences (having sustained two broken backs in my 35+ year career) and lack of a great sponsor!” Will Simpson (Oisin’s jumper trainer in California) has described KEC Double Diamond this way: “This horse has plenty of scope. He is so adjustable in his stride, and has a great mind. He is the seeing-eye dog of jumpers, and I mean that as a big compliment.”

K.E.C. Double Diamond (Oisin), RID.
Photo: Paula C. Photography

Jutta says she chose Oisin as her personal horse partly due to being impressed by the trainability and mind of the breed (knowledge gained by working with O’Leary’s Irish Diamond), and partly because when she met him and saw him move, she recognized a lot of potential and was ready to take on a project for herself. “These (Irish) horses can be ridden by professional and amateur alike,” says Jutta. “I am a Bereiter, FN, classically trained in Germany and riding dressage. I have chosen this RID as my own personal horse.

Naturally uphill, he is built to perform. Oisin is flexible, powerful, quick behind and fleet of foot regardless of his bulk, and he is incredibly adjustable and light off the leg.”

Now a resident of Florida, Jutta expected to be able to campaign Oisin during Winter 2008 and Spring of 2009.

For the amateur looking for a horse they can ride, train and care for themselves, and still have expectations for success through the levels, the Irish Draught and Irish Draught Sporthorse can offer an alternative to the hotter Warmbloods. More information on the breed is available from the Irish Draught Horse Society NA, at, or the Irish Draught Horse Society (Canada) at for further details and listings of breeders across North America.

Writer Kate Justet Triplett and her husband Rick Triplett own Homesick Angels Farm in Sultan, WA, where they raise Irish Draught Sporthorses and stand the young purebred stallion Manu Forti’s Touch Down RID. See more Irish horses on their website, Kate is also an editor for the IDHSNA quarterly magazine The Blarney, wherein a few segments of this article have been previously published.