A lipizzan would almost perfect for what you’re looking for, IMO. My mom’s horse is a lipizzan, and if I was at all interested in dressage I’d probably be getting one for myself as well. Obviously all horses are individuals, but, in my experience, lipizzans have been the most cookie-cutter breed I’ve ever met (it helps that the gene pool is small I think). Our neighbour also has an (unrelated) lippi, and he could practically be a brother of our boy, that’s how similar they are. A lipizzan would absolutely be only limited by his rider in dressage.
Our lippi is a bit of an all-rounder. He was a dressage flower for the first 9 years of his life, and when we bought him it was to do light trail riding and bop around in the arena.
He’s lovely to flat, totally soft, supple, and noodle-y. He’s very forward, but not in an intimidating way. More in an ‘every movement and thought is done in a forwards fashion, as dressage horses are meant to do’ way. On the rare occasion he has ‘taken off’ (either from a big scary sound or from being very fresh and ‘misinterpreting’ a trot cue) it’s with a very excited, bouncy canter that doesn’t go anywhere fast, so he’s fairly easy to get under control. My pony, who has a horse stride, can easily out-pace him at a trot while he canters. He has excellent endurance; even when he’s not in shape he’s happy to go go go all day. His gaits are incredibly uphill - I can’t remember the last time I had to give him even a tiny correction for getting heavy on the front end. That, alongside his soft mouth, makes him feel super-light to ride. He’s uber-adjustable as well. You can have your biggest extension down the diagonal and then bring him right back into a bouncy little collected canter no problem.
He is built for collection, not extension. So if you dream of flying across the arena like Valegro - a lipizzan is not for you. He’ll try, and do his own version - it just won’t be a massive, impressive extension like some big warmbloods are capable of (but it sure is fun to ride!). If we were focused on dressage, the upper level movements would be a piece of cake for him. Piaffe would probably be his favourite, followed by tempis and passage. He’d probably be quite good at the pirouettes as well. His laterals aren’t huge and impressive, but he does them nicely. I’ve actually gotten some rudimentary half-steps from him when we’re fit and in the mood. He’s got a butter-soft mouth; he goes fantastic in a very soft rubber Mullen mouth. I’ve even ridden him bridleless a couple of times for fun - he loved it and was totally responsive and supple.
On the trail he’s generally alert, but happy to explore. Where we live it’s mostly hay fields and ditch riding, with occasional jaunts through some trees, so nothing too crazy. He loves to lead, but is content to follow (especially if there’s something he’s unsure of ahead). He can be a little bit of a chicken with some livestock - sheep and llamas and minis, mostly - but he’s better than my pony with cows, which I think comes down to exposure. He hates getting his feet wet, so puddles can be a bit of a battle, but with consistent schooling he’d probably get over himself.
I trained him to jump a couple of years ago, and he LOVES it. One of the keenest horses I’ve ever jumped; he hunts the fences and locks on. He liked to wiggle around and crochet his leads before the fences when he started, but now he happily takes my mom around little courses like an old pro. He’s jumped up to 3’ in a couple of grids (including one with my mom), but I wouldn’t really be comfortable taking him much over 2’9” for a full course, mostly because because the spreads would start to get quite scary if we had anything other than a perfect distance (he’s good at going up, not so much out). When he’s fit he can make the 1 strides, but you need to be GOING, so he either gets the distances shortened to suit his stride or does the add when my mom is riding.
He’s intelligent. I usually ride him only every couple of months, but he remembers everything you’ve done, zero regression. It feels like you got off for a 5 minute break, not a 3 month break. He likes to watch his surroundings too. The neighbour’s dogs, horses jumping in the neighbouring field, He stares at us through the kitchen window to see when we’re going to come out and throw hay. He notices EVERYTHING. Jump moved? New item in corner? Don’t worry, he’s got his rider covered. He’s not the type of horse to spook ‘out of thin air’ but he will take a look (and maybe cut the corner if he can) if, say, the jumps in the corner are re-arranged. If you keep your eyes open you can usually figure out what will be an issue before he sees it. He’s also the only horse I’ve ever met who will look up. If you’re standing in a loft over a barn and call the horses below, most will look confused and will swing their heads around looking at the ground for where the sound is coming from. Our lipizzan will look up to stare at you.
He has the best work ethic. He’s pretty much made of heart and try - I don’t think I’ve ever reached his bottom. Even when he’s dripping in sweat he’s happy to keep going. He’s also the most expressive horse I’ve ever met - there is never a question of what he’s thinking. If he’s happy, annoyed, or hungry, you will know immediately (he actually mimes eating when he thinks he deserves a cookie or needs more hay). He can be a little melodramatic - the other day he got an electric shock while being groomed and had a dramatic little shy away - but he gets over himself pretty quickly. The worst thing he’s ever done in the 6 years we’ve owned him was kick out at the dressage whip once or twice when he didn’t appreciate the request to move his hindquarters. Overall I’d call him ‘happy-go-lucky’.
He’s definitely a one-person horse. He likes his mom, and I think I’m a pretty solid second (of course, I’m usually there to make him work and to make sure he’s running perfectly for my mom, so we have a slightly different relationship). I’d say he’s also a solid intermediate+ horse. Mostly because he’s very soft and has a lot of buttons, and because of the occasional sideways spook he can pull (it’s fairly easy to sit, but I wouldn’t want a beginner to try).
Lipizzans are pretty small - 14.2-15.3 hands, give or take. Nice and close to the ground, so you never feel like you’re ‘way up there’. My grandma, who has seen the stallions of Viena, was actually a little disappointed to find out how small he actually was, lol! Conformation-wise: Farriers love his feet. They were a bit of a mess when we got him - but now they’re nice, strong, and fairly big for his size. He’s naturally a bit weak over his loin, so proper work over his back is essential to keep him in tip-top - it’s probably the #1 thing I see conformationally wrong with lippizans, so do watch out for that if you decide to get one.
You can expect to pay between 10 and 25k for one, depending on training and age. I’ve seen a few 2 year olds come up for under 10, and a couple of schoolmasters for closer to 30. I would not go for a cross, especially not an arab-lippi cross. The exception, for me, would be a lippizan X TB cross. They’re usually bred for eventing and I think they’d be very nice and fun for that job, since the cross would lengthen the stride, add scope, and size - but upper level dressage would probably more difficult for them than for a full lippizan.
A lot of people compare them to lusitanos and Andalusians. In my experience - they neither move nor act like those. There’s some similarities, in talent for collection and keenness mostly, but I wouldn’t really compare them (although, if you liked the Andalusians, I think you’ll probably like the lippizzans).
If you want a horse RIGHT NOW, you might have trouble finding one (it seems in COVID people have snapped a lot of them up). But, if you’re willing to look (and possibly wait a little), or buy a 2 year old - you should be able to find one. Tempel Lipizzans is about 5-6 hours from where you live, I think, and they generally have some young stock available, plus there are a couple of breeders in Canada (although the one that bred our boy has long since closed).
Edited to add: he has great gaits too. Nice swinging 4 beat walk, drop-dead gorgeous trot - looks like he should be on a merry-go-round to be honest. Canter is very pretty and bouncy, but not the massive warmblood canter favoured by dressage currently.
The neighbour’s lipizzan is trained up to GP and has all the buttons, and she’s looking to replace him with another lippi when he retires.