Western Dressage “What Fun”

Western Dressage – What Fun!
By Pat Van Buskirk

Years ago, I had the pleasure of taking Dressage lessons on my friend’s Trakehner stallion. He was magnificently trained and a thrill to ride. I actually bought a pair of breeches and English riding boots, then let this horse teach me what he already knew. It was absolutely exhilarating!

So, what exactly is Dressage? According to the USDF (United States Dressage Federation), “Dressage is a French term meaning ‘training’ and its purpose is to develop the horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work making him calm, supple and attentive to his rider.”

Having been a cowgirl all my life, I didn’t last long in those skinny pants and high-topped boots. But it was fun and I learned a lot working with that stallion. His name was Always and he was always perfect.

More recently, we’ve been hearing a lot about Western Dressage. One of my good friends has been attending the local clinics and events, so I decided to explore for myself. What I found was the perfect place to take our four year old filly where we can work in a comfortable environment while having a job to do.

In 2010, the Founding Directors of WDAA (Western Dressage Association of America) gathered together to discuss training issues throughout the horse industry. This led to the building of the Western Dressage community and a new aspect to the sport which I believe will benefit all of us.

Earlier in August, our filly, Katie, and I attended Cliff Swanson’s Level I training clinic in Castle Rock, she in her western saddle and bosal, me in my Wranglers and ropers. I was a little nervous, to say the least. Katie’s still pretty green and I was remembering the exacting maneuvers I was asked to make with Always. To my pleasant surprise, I found a supportive environment with an instructor who was kind and patient with both of us.

There are so many advantages to this new program that I don’t have room here to explain them all. The best is that they are focused on the horse and his well being. Next, it’s affordable. No fancy show equipment and the clinics are very reasonably priced. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, everyone is welcomed into the fold. By the end of the clinic, we all knew everyone’s name and were clapping for each other. The atmosphere was wonderful!

Speaking of the horse, Katie certainly isn’t a fancy Dressage horse. She’s a little Quarter Horse, only 14’3”, and bred from a line of cutting horses with low-slung heads and a short back. How would she fit into this program? Just fine, I found out.

Western Dressage welcomes all breeds. If your horse can walk, trot and canter, he’s eligible for their program. If your horse is gaited, he can gait instead of trotting. There is a difference in terminology here – the trot is called a jog and for now, it’s done seated. Cliff believes posting will be added in later rules.

The mission statement of Western Dressage says it all:

Our mission is to build an equine community that combines the Western traditions of horse and rider with Classical Dressage.

We honor the horse.

We value the partnership between horse and rider.

We celebrate the legacy of the American West.

Visit the WDAA web page at www.westerndressageassociation.org or the Colorado Affiliate at www.wdaco.org for a full explanation of Western Dressage, listings of upcoming events and demo videos.

As Jack Brainard says, “Why not join our association at its beginning? Five years from now you will be glad you did, and we assure you that you will ride better horses, and have fun doing it. We have confidence in our endeavors. Try us for satisfaction, accomplishment, enjoyment, and achievement with your horses. We are for real!”

Pat Van Buskirk is an avid horse enthusiast and has been writing for various horse and auto magazines since 1994. She is an Associate Broker at Coldwell Banker Residential in Parker and may be reached at pat@patvanbuskirk.com.