BioStar's Happy Horse Award

BioStar’s Happy Horse Award

Recently there’s been plenty of controversy in the dressage community over horse welfare, particularly as it pertains to the horse’s health in competition: extremely tight nosebands, blood in the mouth, open mouth, blue tongues, tension in the back and body.

Show stress is common for both rider and horse. It can be stressful, whether you ride at training level or grand prix. Other elite athletes experience stress too, from track and field, to swimming or gymnastics. The obvious difference is that these other sports don’t include an animal.

Klimke’s memorable words

Many years ago, legendary German equestrian Reiner Klimke was judging a dressage show at Commonwealth Horse Park in Culpepper, Virginia. When asked about American dressage, he said,

“I don’t think your horses look like very happy dance partners.”

That comment has always stuck with me.

So what does makes a happy equine dance partner?

Harmony is the key

dressage horse

Each of us is going to have a slightly different interpretation, since “happiness” is subjective. To me, a happy competition horse is in harmony with the rider, and the rider is in harmony with the horse. The back is soft, the horse is willing, maybe even eager. The horse looks like he/she is enjoying themselves.

The horse may give the impression of “I’ve got this.

The spectators watching the horse may get the feeling of “I’d love to sit on that horse.”

Harmony of horse and rider is the foundation for every equestrian activity. Whether it be jumping, endurance, trail riding, barrel racing, eventing or dressage.

Sometimes competition stress is overwhelming. Riders get tense, horses get tense. None of us are robots. To be sure, there are miscommunications and misunderstandings between horse and rider. Horses get frustrated sometimes, as do riders. But I think most of us seek harmony with our horses, a level of understanding and respect.

BioStar’s 2024 Happy Horse Awards

This year, in recognition and honor of horse-and-rider harmony, BioStar will be presenting three Happy Horse Awards.

An award recipient could be the winning horse with the highest score. OR, it may be a horse that places below the winning ride. It may have made a few mistakes in the ring, or not been quite as brilliant as the winning horse, but still best exemplifies those happy, harmonious qualities we’re looking for.

  • The first Happy Horse Award will be awarded at the MADfest CDI 3* at the Virginia Horse Center, May 16-19, 2024. The winning horse will be chosen by the judge at “C”, and the award will be given at the conclusion of the FEI-CDI Grand Prix test. The Happy Horse Award at MADfest includes an embroidered stable sheet, a neck sash, $200.00, and a gift certificate for BioStar products.
  • BioStar will also sponsor the Happy Horse Award at the National Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park in November, 2024.
  • The third Happy Horse Award venue will be announced soon.

BioStar's Happy Horse Award 2024

With these awards, we aim to help the dressage community get out of the negative dialogue of faults and criticism, and into a more positive framework of acknowledging and honoring the horses and riders who are able to maintain harmony even at the highest level of the sport.

Good luck, and may the happiest horse win!


  • Dressage horse (iStock)
  • Artist’s representation of BioStar’s Happy Horse Award (BioStar)
  • Jim Koford and Adiah (2020, Phelps Media Group)



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