The PRE is a Common Sight at the Wellington Classic Dressage

By Lynndee Kemmet for

Lisa McDowell is on a mission to bring the Pure Spanish Horse (PRE) to the American dressage ring and her first efforts were looking good at this weekend’s Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge II. Her Cartucho VII won his First Level Test One class with a score of 68.00 percent.

McDowell of Plantation, Florida got her first PRE in 1996 and fell in love. “I just started reading and studying and doing as much as I could with them. I was attracted to the breed because of the temperament. It was a good match for me starting out with my first horse as an amateur.” Initially, McDowell was looking for a nice horse for her to enjoy as a hobby, but then she started competing in dressage. “And then it became very competitive because once I got showing in my blood, I kept wanting to get a higher-level horse.”


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Once on the path searching for the right higher-level PRE, McDowell got drawn into the business of buying, breeding and developing the PRE for the American market. “I’ve been searching ever since, being sure to do the right thing and pick very carefully and methodically.” She’s been getting some help from a super source – Juan Rubio, a head trainer at Spain’s prestigious National Riding School in Jerez. “He’s been helping me select horses and has been influential in my final decisions as far as my purchases go,” McDowell said.

Rubio has also kept tabs on the training of the horses that McDowell has imported, by making trips to the U.S., the most recent being during the Gold Coast Opener Revisited in Loxahatchee, Florida in February. The lucky rider working with these horses is Lena Wedenmark. “It’s an incredible opportunity,” she said. Wedenmark, who’s based in Wellington, Florida, rode several of the horses during the Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge II – Cartucho VII (by Binguero) at Training and First levels, Aire V at Third Level Hielo MOR (by Elche) at Training Level.


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These horses are the cream of the crop. Cartucho, a six-year-old stallion, was the 2005 Young Dressage Horse reserve champion in Spain before coming over in November. Aire V, a seven-year-old stallion, was a Young Dressage Horse champion in Spain. Hielo MOR was imported from Mexico and in 2003 was the breed National Champion in the U.S. In addition to these three stallions, McDowell has a four-year-old mare that was imported from Mexico in 2004 and that is in training with Sharon Knight in South Carolina. The mare is being shown in-hand and was a national Andalusian champion last year.

McDowell clearly has plans for these horses. “I’m going to start a small breeding program. I’m bringing in a few horses that will be kept, a few that will eventually sell and others for breeding.” McDowell is certain there is a market for the PRE and she’s planning to tap it. She recognizes that judges are still getting used to the breed, but if the right horses are chosen, they can do well. “As long as they’re forward moving and have three good gaits, they do well. My horses do and I’m extremely happy and that’s what I bought all of them for.”


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Wedenmark said it’s clear that judges do appreciate a good Iberian breed noting that at the recent Palm Beach Dressage Derby, she competed in a class judged by Uwe Mechlem where the top four finishers were Iberians – two Lusitanos and two Andalusians. And she feels McDowell’s horses have a bright future ahead. “I don’t feel that they have anything that would hold them back from going Grand Prix. When I ride, I try to preserve a bigger, more swinging gait in them. I don’t really shut them off. And I notice that they are responding very well to that type of riding. That’s the road I’m going to stay on because it’s working.”

PhelpsPhoto: Aire V, a seven-year-old stallion, was a Young Dressage Horse champion in Spain

For her part, McDowell is quite happy to be the owner of such beautiful horses and she’s confident that with the help of Wedenmark and Rubio, her breeding program is off to a good start. “These horses are extremely sensitive and it takes finesse and if you get the wrong rider on these horses, it doesn’t work. We keep bringing Juan over to help us to make sure we’re riding the horses to the best of their ability,” she said. “And I’m enjoying watching other people ride my horses. I’m happy to have them here. This is the first year that I’ve come out to the shows with horses since I last showed one myself. I’m glad to be back.”