‘If you can improve a horse, that’s a great skill to have’: how to make it in dressage without a horsey background

  • Equestrian sports are known for being tricky to succeed in, especially for those who don’t come from an experienced horsey family, and/or have deep pockets. But it’s far from impossible, as dressage rider Dannie Morgan has proven.

    Dannie started off his professional career in horses as an event rider, before taking up dressage in 2016 and switching discipline completely in 2021.

    He’s had enormous success since, competing up to grand prix level, and mostly recently claiming four titles at the Winter Dressage Championships with the exciting young horses Vive La Reinne VH and his own Fever Tree. And he has achieved it all without having come from money or having horses in the family.

    “As a kid I was obsessed with horses and I begged for a lesson at the local riding school for my birthday,” explains Dannie, who grew up near Southampton, on episode 138 of The Horse & Hound Podcast.

    “I ended up hooked, helping out at the riding school at weekends in exchange for free rides. I was pony-mad but it seemed like a dream to be able to do this as a career; I didn’t think it was possible.”

    Dannie Morgan: ‘I knew I had to prove myself’

    Dannie quickly worked out at a young age that, without financial backing, the only way he could hope to pursue his dream of riding for a living was to work harder than everybody else, and to prove to other people that he should be the one entrusted to ride their horses. And that attitude, combined with a healthy dollop of talent, has paid off.

    “I knew I had to prove myself so I could get opportunities. I started working for an event rider and just worked really, really hard until I was given the opportunity to ride. And then I rode everything I had the opportunity to,” says Dannie.

    “I realised that if you can prove to people you can improve a horse, that’s a really good skill to have, and starting off in a riding school definitely helps with that as you sit on so many different types of horses. It can be a great start, and a good way into the sport if you don’t have financial backing.”

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