The buzz over Western dressage continues, with the event's world championships set for November 1-2 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Why the surging interest? Because the sport is not only fun (you compete against yourself--!) but also extremely beneficial for both you and your horse.
Here, in fact, are four reasons you might want to try WD yourself, from clinicians Al Dunning and Lynn Palm:
Credit: © Mandy Lorraine
Here, Lynn Palm uses Western dressage to create a winning frame and to lengthen, then shorten her horse’s strides. WD makes your horse more versatile and helps you excel in other events, too. 1. Horsemanship. As Al observes, “The classical dressage seat is almost identical to the traditional Western seat.” Both make use of a long leg and upright (as opposed to forward-leaning) rider posture. This means that learning WD will fine-tune your basic Western horsemanship. You’ll improve your balance and security in the saddle, plus develop the “following seat” that enables you to move fluidly with your horse’s motion. The result? You’re a more effective and polished rider overall.
2. Control. Lynn Palm notes that WD will eventually enable you to ask your horse to do anything—go slow or fast, put his head down or up, hold his body straight or move his shoulders or hips to the side, gallop calmly up a trail, do a rollback. “You’ll love the control you’ll gain,” she says, adding that it’s all without “bigger-bit, sharper-spur intimidation,” too.
3. Suppleness. WD incorporates a lot of bending and lateral work to supple and relax your horse. “Let’s face it,” says Al, “regardless of the breed we’re riding, a supple, relaxed, responsive horse is what we’re all after.” Amen to that.
4. Versatility. A horse schooled in WD will be more successful in all other endeavors, too, whether on the rail or out on the trail. As Lynn explains, the word dressage simply means “training” in French, and dressage is actually “the original natural training method.”
Sound interesting? For more of Al’s and Lynn’s insights on Western dressage, plus how to get involved, check these links:
• Western Dressage: Ride a Test! (article).
• Western Dressage / Al Dunning (article).
• Western Dressage DVD, with Al Dunning and Lynn Palm.
• Your Complete Guide to Western Dressage: Basics to Your First Show, by Lynn Palm with Sue M. Copeland.
• Find a Western dressage trainer in your state.
• FAQs—Western dressage.
• Western Dressage Association of America.
• North American Western Dressage Association.