Unlike typical western classes, a horse doesn’t need to show in a curb at a certain age, and the development of gaits is done as a progression of training through the levels, rather than requiring collection right from the start. Each level adds new movements that build upon the skills proven in the last level.
Any size, shape, breed, age, color of horse is welcome. Gaited horses too!
You don’t have to braid. No more mane pulling, roaching, or worrying that your horse is rubbing out its braids while you change into show clothes for your class. A neat and tidy groom job is all that is required.No white breeches. If you are like me and can’t help but look like a grubby little kid after a few minutes of holding your horse in sparkling whites, then you will appreciate the dress code of Western Dressage. Competition wear includes a western hat or helmet, long sleeve shirt, boots with a proper heel, and long pants (chaps optional). No restrictions on color or sparkle! Aside from the boots and hat, you can literally buy your show clothes at your local department store.You can go bitless. Or with a snaffle. Or a curb. Western Dressage does have some limits on what type of bits or bitless options you can use, but there are definitely more choices than with English dressage, which makes it a good option for some horses who struggle with a bit, or riders who would just prefer bitless.A jog is easier to sit than a trot. How many riders get stuck at first level because they just can’t sit their big warmblood’s medium trot? In western style dressage the gaits are meant to be easy to sit. They aren’t looking for huge movement, they are looking for “pleasure to ride”.A suitable, competitive horse costs less. If you are getting frustrated that your pleasant-but-very-average-moving little horse can’t compete against the fancy, floating-on-air warmbloods, you may want to consider western dressage. The gaits in western dressage are more within reach of your average horse and only include working, collected, lengthened and free. No more worry about achieving medium and extended gaits. Common breeds such as Quarter Horses, Arabians and Morgans are well suited to the western style, as are many other breeds. A pleasant, trainable horse will take you far.Gaited horses can play. Both Canada and the US have dressage tests and rules specifically for gaited breeds.
Western Dressage is something to consider for riders who like the format and progressive nature of dressage, but appreciate the difference Western Dressage offers, so if you happen to see a western saddle at your next dressage show, maybe take some time to see what it is all about.