The IaDCTA Seminar on Western Dressage
Submitted by Pat Foley
On Monday, August 18, PJ Koehler gave an interesting presentation on Western dressage. PJ is a graduate of the Western Dressage Association of America (WDAA) Train the Trainer program and shows in both traditional and Western dressage classes. She is well-suited to describe the differences between classical and Western dressage, and their similarities. Western dressage test requirements and equipment guidelines were also presented.
I was curious to learn about the combining of classical emphasis on cadence, balance, and carriage with the lightness and subtle aids desired for Western dressage (as presented in the WDAA pamphlet, “Your Guide to Western Dressage”). The similarities of the two disciplines are to improve both horse and rider using structured development that is evaluated in defined USEF test elements. Western dressage has tests that range from Introductory through 4thLevel. In both disciplines, the gaits are to be pure with recognized rhythm and there are variations in execution; for Western tests there are 4 variations each for the walk, jog, and lope. Gaited horses have additional gaits that are judged separately. As with classical dressage, any breed of horse is welcomed to Western dressage, because it is recognized as beneficial training to develop a willing, safe, and calm mount.
The differences include (but are not limited to) the type of tack and clothing used, approval of readers and whips even in Championships, and turns on the haunches and forehand required in Level 1 tests. Various bits are accepted but there are restrictions regarding width and severity. For snaffle bits, the rider is required to use two hands. For leverage bits (e.g., with shank and curb chain), the rider may use either one or two hands but cannot change that use during a test. The reins may be split or continuous, cotton rope or leather. We were advised that the WDAA and USEF rules are still undergoing development and that specific rules may change for this new emerging field of equestrian activity. The best resource is the WDAA website to keep up with the latest developments (www.westerndressageassociation.org). Thanks to PJ for preparing and presenting her information, although I could not relate it all in this brief article. She is an excellent resource on this timely topic.
Thank You Pat for the article.
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