Western Dressage is a hot new discipline being added to shows all over the world. This is an exciting time for western and English riders alike- with a new options for horses and riders to compete in. There are several different “western dressage” methods, associations, and competitions happening now. A few examples are “Cowboy Dressage”, “Western Dressage of North America”, and “Western Dressage Association of America”. Each type of western dressage offers its unique spin for training and competing. The “Cowboy Dressage” is a trademarked term and refers to an outlined way to train and compete specifically- in a round pen type setting, incorporating obstacles. The “Western Dressage of North America” offers a spin on traditional showing, by holding virtual shows for their participants. The “Western Dressage Association of America” offers tests, rail classes, and patterned rail classes. Each of these options are growing at a fast pace and offer something new and different for horse and rider.
* The remainder of this article will be about the experiences I’ve had with Western Dressage Association of America.
Western dressage has given the horse world a face lift, by allowing all skill and age levels to compete on the horse they already own and love. I feel like Western Dressage is providing a new avenue for the horse owner who wants to be educated about their riding, but doesn’t want to be required to put lots of traveling time and money into the process. Some people may feel intimidated by traditional dressage's button up’ed reputation, but don’t let that stop you from checking out a dressage show (western or traditional). Traditional dressage shows are happily allowing western riders to compete at their shows with this new trend of western dressage. You can find a growing list of WDAA approved shows on their website all over the world. WDAA also live streams their world show each year so people can watch from home. If you’re interested in western dressage you can find many YouTube videos of horse and riders teams completing their tests as well.
WDAA has now partnered with USEF to help with the growing demands and to add more validity to the new association. Western dressage starts out like traditional dressage with teaching your horse the basics and progressing into more western type skills. I really value that the WDAA is committed to allowing each horse to perform at their normal speed and type of gait, with equipment and riding guidelines that follow the same type of thinking. With today’s show world being taken over by “peanut pushers”, warmbloods, and etc I’m excited to be able to take my normal stock type horses and compete in western dressage. There are dressage tests ranging from Intro to Level 3, Freestyles (musical and costume) in each level, dressage suitability, equitation, and hack being offered too. Competitors enter into Open, Junior, Amateur, Gaited, and Physically challenged categories. There are no fancy saddles or show clothes required for any level of competitor. Your horse can be shown all natural or like the typical western show horse for western pleasure. Each level of competitor is allowed a caller during the dressage test. The caller yells out the instructions of the dressage pattern while the horse and rider are working in their test. In western dressage there are some encouraged differences than traditional dressage - like using verbal commands to communicate with your horse (in addition to your other aids). Light rein contact is also preferred throughout the western dressage levels.
I hope that you and your horse will enjoy this new addition to the horse world! There are clinics, lessons, and shows happening year round. The WDAA offers a list of graduates from the “Train The Trainer’s” clinics and professionals for assistance in finding a western dressage trainer near you.
*Written by Kyle Keller- proud graduate of the Train The Trainer’s program through the Western Dressage Association of America!