I am so excited to do this series on western dressage. I am positive this new discipline following classical dressage with a western horse is going to give the western industry its next step in developing better horsemen. Dressage promotes “Riding Well” and “Being the Rider Your Horse Deserves!”
When I was a young rider, it did not take me long to learn that if I wanted to participate in the sport of riding, I had to learn to become a good rider. I was in the dressage saddle learning this. Learning to become a good rider was not only necessary in the dressage saddle but is required in any saddle on any breed of horse. As a young rider I felt so fortunate to learn dressage because it was a new discipline in the U.S. at the time. I recognized that I rode NO differently in the dressage saddle than I did in a western saddle or hunt saddle.
I found it very interesting that the training I was learning with dressage worked on any kind of horse. Breed didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now. Dressage gave me the best foundation possible as well as a solid understanding of correct fundamentals about riding. It also helped me understand correct training according to the horse’s conformation, instincts, behaviors, temperament, and personality.
Most importantly, I learned that it takes TIME to train horses naturally. The goal is to teach the horse to do tasks with manners, obedience, and willingness to perform. Learning dressage has taught me that a balanced rider, communication through the rider’s natural aids, and a balanced horse will give you willing and confident responses that will last the horse’s lifetime. The key here is that it is training with understanding, not training through submission.
By using dressage principles, I have been able to achieve success as a competitor and trainer of horses for more than four decades. As a top competitor in AQHA for many years, I showed numerous horses that performed in multiple western and English events. Dressage can be done with western horses and in the western saddle. I am so excited to be a part of western dressage as it starts! I encourage you to follow their tests and levels because this will lead to a more controlled and responsive horse, whether you are on the trails or in the show ring.
You may be wondering what horse is best for western dressage. If you’ve watched traditional English dressage on television or gone to an event, you have no doubt noticed that many of the horses are warmbloods. As wonderful as those horses may be (and they are), don’t worry…you don’t need a warmblood to participate in western dressage. The beauty of this hot new discipline is that any horse and all breeds are suited for it.
This includes all the stock horse breeds, such as Quarter Horses, Paints, Appaloosas, Palominos, and Buckskins. You’ll also see many “non-stock” breeds, including Morgans, Arabians, Saddlebreds, even draft horses, and ponies. If you are happy with the horse you are currently riding and have a good bond with him, that’s all you need to get started. You certainly don’t have to go buy a different horse.
If you have an interest in western dressage, please send me a photo of you and your horse so we can put this up on our web site, QuarterHorsesInDressage.com. Despite the name, we welcome all breeds!
I hope many of you reading this will decide to join the Western Dressage Association of America and get involved. If you are an “English only” rider, be careful… once you get in a good western saddle and ride a test, you may get hooked. Why not? Give it a try!
Meanwhile, if you have any questions or would like me to address a particular aspect of western dressage in a future training article, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love seeing your comments or questions.
For more information about training courses, educational materials and much more, please visit www.lynnpalm.com or call 800-503-2824.