Western Dressage

When a trail buddy of mine showed up at the barn as I was getting Austin ready to ride, I decided to join her for a western ride, even though rainy weather was going to keep us in the indoor. As usual, in that kind of weather it can be hard to get motivated, but getting on the horse is always the hardest part, and once I get going, I get into it, and luckily Sarah was there with her phone in hand to grab a little video for me, and my newly discovered Western Dressage horse, Austin!

I know Western Dressage always seems to either be the hot new thing everyone wants to try, or else the newest “false dressage” and much despised, depending on which message board you are on. Somehow I just can’t fall into either the “love” or the “hate” category. To me, it’s like anything else. Done right, it’s just dressage, done in a western saddle (I know, I know, they are still working on the rules and it may or may not “officially” end up being actual dressage at all, time with tell… but my fingers are crossed!!!), and done wrong, it’s just like any other type of “dressage done wrong”, which includes plenty of stuff we see in the show ring (er, not starting a rollkur debate here, but I know you’ve all seen “questionable” riding that sure doesn’t look like it’s based on any classical theory with the good of the horse in mind!). The “rightness” of the new Western Dressage, in my opinion, will depend more on who is doing it, than anything else.

I believe that dressage done well is of benefit to every horse and every rider, regardless of what discipline they ultimately hope to do, whether or not they compete, or the type of saddle they ride in. (Speaking of dressage used in other disciplines, have you guys watched George Morris teach? It’s worth a look!! The dressage he teaches is only very thinly veiled because his riders are in jump saddles, but there it is!)

I also think it’s good for the rider’s seat to ride not only many different horses, but also in different types of tack. Each different position challenges the rider’s balance (muscles) slightly differently, making the rider more adjustable and teaching her how to use her body more effectively. And of course I’m a big believer in cross training, and having the right tack for different types of riding can be a benefit there as well.

So, what started out as a lazy Sunday ride turned into a nice, productive schooling session, despite the western saddle.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sl55YnSUJoU]

Of course, my favorite reason to give Western Dressage a try is because I need a reason to get some cute cowboy boots!!!

3 thoughts on “Western Dressage

  1. My biggest issue with the western dressage is the fact that they are doing in in a shanked bit. I always thought that the point of a shanked bit was to go on loose or no contact, where as in dressage you want them on the bit. In western dressage I see them having contact on the shank bit which just irks me.

    • I’m with you there Sarah! I’ve seen that too. I think it’s something they are working on, and trying to find a compromise by either requiring lower level horses to go in a snaffle, or for anyone riding with a shanked bit to use only one hand. But even in traditional dressage, there are LOTS of riders riding with LOTS of contact on the curb of their double bridle… so again, it’s the person in the saddle, not the sport as a whole…

  2. I think Western Dressage is just a Western Riding class without cones and poles. Either way, I’m pro people learning to ride their horses properly regardless of what tack they use.

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