What is Western Dressage?

Western Dressage is an emerging discipline that marries western traditions (such as tack, attire and smooth, supple stock horses) with the principles of classical dressage. The idea of Western Dressage is to create a uniquely American horse: strong, athletic and responsive enough to move any given body part this way or that— skills that are handy for whatever you wish to do, be it working cattle, safely navigating trails or smoothly negotiating a dressage test.

Why should I try Western or Cowboy Dressage™?

These styles of riding help a rider to improve the horse’s balance, cadence and carriage. Whether your horse competes in reining, roping, cutting, western pleasure, or enjoys the trail with you, using dressage in your training regimen will improve your partnership and keep your horse happier and more sound far longer than it would otherwise be.

What breeds of horses can participate in Western or Cowboy Dressage™?

Any breed of horse can participate in Western Dressage and Cowboy Dressage™ as long as it can walk, trot (or gait) and canter.  ORCWDA encourages all breeds to become involved in this discipline which causes the horse to become more balanced and athletic and the rider to become more skilled and light.

What is the difference between Western Dressage and Classical Dressage?

The goals of Western Dressage and Classical Dressage are similar.  Both want to see balance, cadence and self carriage and promote the communication between horse and rider. The biggest difference in Western Dressage is that the  horse will be evaluated with the conformation and movement of today’s western horses in mind. The Western Dressage horse will usually have less suspension in his gaits than a Classical Dressage horse (a generality–don’t hold me to that) and the Western Dressage horse will be asked to walk, jog and lope as opposed to walk, trot and canter.  In keeping with the tradition of the Western horse and rider they will be shown in Western tack and clothing. These are just a few examples of the differences.

It is not the goal of Western Dressage to create western horses that compete in open dressage but to create better western horses and riders through the use and principles of dressage.

What is the difference between Western Dressage and Cowboy Dressage™?

Here is a short article that may clarify this question more for you: What is The Difference Between Cowboy Dressage

The riding emphasis for both is on lightness between horse and rider. Both are aimed towards giving the western horse and rider a fresh and very successful way to work together that will develop athleticism, balance, coordination and a light feel in both horse and rider.  Both can be ridden by beginner and experienced riders alike, even if they don’t have any dressage experience in their backgrounds.  And any horse is a WD/CD candidate, from your loveable but un-pedigreed backyard “mutt” to second career Thoroughbreds to mules and ponies.  If you can find a western saddle to fit your horse, you’re on your way.

What kind of tack and clothing is required for Western or Cowboy Dressage™?

Briefly, your attire can either be the show attire you commonly see in western pleasure classes, or if you prefer, a simple western style outfit without bling.  Bling and silver on either clothing or tack will not net you any extra points in your competition classes.  Spurs, chinks and chaps are allowed, and any western or stock type saddle.  Bits may be either a snaffle or curb type.  Helmets are encouraged but optional in Cowboy Dressage™. Most Western Dressage shows now require helmets.

For full details, please review the Western Dressage and Cowboy Dressage™ rules for details (you should go on either the national WD website or the Cowboy Dressage™ website, depending on which one you will ride).

Where do I find the rules and tests for Western Dressage and Cowboy Dressage™?

For Western Dressage, see the Education section at  www.westerndressageassociation.org .

For Cowboy Dressage™, see www.cowboydressage.com/competition

Who teaches Western or Cowboy Dressage™?

We are finding that a lot of established western trainers have been using classical dressage principles for many years to educate their equine and human students–it just wasn’t talked about.  So, your first foray into finding an instructor for either of our methods of riding should be to check with your local western trainers and talk to them about their methods.

Any classical dressage instructor can teach Western Dressage as long as they are receptive to the idea of schooling western horses and riders in western tack, and are familiar with the Western Dressage rules and tests as posted.

Cowboy Dressage™ is in the process of training professionals on the West Coast to the nuances of this very western style of riding.  They already have quite a few posted on their website to choose from.

There are differences in the rules and the styles so you should ask the instructors you contact which style they are proficient in.

See our Trainers and Instructors list for a professional in your area.  We will endeavor to update the listing frequently and with more details as we get them.

Are there any Western or Cowboy Dressage™ shows in my area?

See our Events page here on this website, or check our Facebook page for events, clinics and shows in your area.

Do I have to join an organization to participate in Western or Cowboy Dressage™?

No.  You don’t have to be a member of a breed organization, the US Dressage Federation or any other group to participate in Cowboy Dressage™ shows.  Cowboy Dressage has a free “Members With A Handshake” program that we recommend you check out.

If Western Dressage is your flavor, you will be required to be a member of the WDAA ($25/year) if you wish to ride in a sanctioned show.  Most schooling shows will not require a membership to ride in a Western Dressage class.

Of course, we’d like you to be a member of ORCWDA but you are not required to join in order to participate in any of our events.  If you are a member, you will have first priority in notification for and sign ups for rides, and we will offer you member discounts for those events whenever possible.