Quick Home Search

Western Dressage

Western Dressage

For centuries before most of us were a part of the American west, Europeans had been refining their horse training techniques in Dressage, a French term meaning ‘training’.  The purpose of Dressage (quoted according to the United States Dressage Federation) is to “develop the horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work making him calm, supple and attentive to his rider.”

Then as the American west was settled, Western Horsemanship was practiced on the ranches of the American West and earlier still through the Spanish vaqueros.  This better way of training rose to the top and became known to the horse world first through trainers like Tom and Bill Dorrance.  True Western Horsemanship simply put is where people learn to communicate with the horse in their language with patience and understanding creating a willing partner in the horse.

While the methods came from two sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the core values and the value of the horse stood true – inevitably, Dressage and Western Horsemanship, East and West came together to create Western Dressage.

As a result, in 2010 the Western Dressage Association of America (WDAA) was created. Plus, with many local roots at the national level, the Western Dressage Association of Colorado (WDACO) was the first affiliate to be established.

The mission statement of WDAA says it well:

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.

Western Dressage brings together the skilled horsemanship, history and techniques of the American west with the art, ancient traditions and systematic training of the European institutions of riding.

Why is it the discipline you have been waiting for?  Over the years, it is evident to me that many people feel intimidated by training, skills, showing, and clinics; but most everyone I know would like to be a better rider and partner to their horse.  As a non-profit 501(c)3, volunteer run, educational organization, WDAA’s focus is the horse.  They have created affordable ways for anyone, with any kind of horse, with basic western tack to improve their riding and communication with their horse through affordable clinics, training and even showing opportunities with clear and concise skill sets for any level of rider.

The training world can seem overwhelming at times in any discipline and it can also seem like trainers have all been to some exclusive mysterious school where they hold the secrets hidden and only certain people can know or even understand them.  Western Dressage breaks principles of riding into “skill sets”, giving an organized method of breaking skills down, all while laying the foundation to result in better communication between horse and rider.

There is an entry point for all levels of riders in Western Dressage.  Beginners will find an inviting, non-intimidating environment to learn in, while more advanced riders will find a supportive place to hone their skills.  Skill sets are taught in a sequential manner and build upon one another. As the riders develop their skills, their horses learn to carry themselves in a more balanced, cadenced manner.  Horses develop and are looked at as individuals according to their type.

For the past year, Evergreen resident Chris Sletten has been serving on the board and helping with the foundation of WDACO.  In a recent interview regarding finding Western Dressage to add to her current riding program Chris stated, “ I feel like I have the best of all areas of horsemanship…  And I still get to dress like a cowgirl!!”

Kelly Hendricks of Pikes View Ranch in Conifer is another local that was invited with 30 other riding instructors from across the nation to be a part of the first “Train The Trainers” seminar this past month in order to learn the rules, tests and methods of the WDAA.

With such a strong membership and presence in the organization of WDAA, Colorado will have many opportunities for horse people in our area to participate.  My research for this article convinced me to join and I look forward to my first chance to get involved.  If you have been hesitant to get involved with an organization, training or clinics in the past, I challenge you to give this one a try.  Andrew McWilliams of MtnHomes4Horses.com wants to pay for an introductory lesson to Western Dressage with Kelly Hendricks for two area riders.  Submit a short email about your horse journey to [email protected] to be considered.

Visit WDAA 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.

Heather McWilliams © 2012 MtnHomes4Horses.com

 

Speak Your Mind

*