Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Snaffles and Western Dressage

Because of the issues I was having with Lilly yesterday, I switched her over to the snaffle bit today. It seemed like she was evading the bit, which is something she doesn't do nearly as much with the snaffle. When she evades in the snaffle, I don't feel as bad about working her to get her soft again, so I think we'll stick with the snaffle for the next few rides.

Initially we had a few moments where she wanted to push her own agenda, but then she decided it just wasn't worth it. After that, we had an outstanding ride.

We did a lot of trot circles and serpentines today. I used the two jumps in the arena to make my 8 and used nothing but leg to keep her in the circle. At first she wanted to speed up rather than just circle, but I was able to keep the circles small enough that she could only go so fast. Once she figured out the leg wasn't telling her to speed up, she settled in to a nice jog and worked the circles like a pro. I had to keep bumping the inside rein to keep her shoulder up and keep her bending, but that should improve with time. The exercise seemed to be a good one for her.

As always, we worked on canter circles too. Just like yesterday I worked her on circles to the right and then worked on something else before going back and working the circles again. Then we switched and did the same thing going to the left. I'm seeing a lot of progress with her canter and she's being much more consistent and staying off her forehand. Like with the circles, I have to help keep her shoulder up, but it's just a bump here and there.

She switched behind once going to the right today, but I've really been paying attention and I can feel when she's going to switch. So today when we were cantering, once I felt her start thinking about switching, I pushed her forward and she stayed correct.

We rode barefoot again today and she was fabulous. :)

In other news, I'm finally getting around to reading Cross Train Your Horse by Jan Savoie. There's a western dressage clinic not far from me in May that I'm thinking about auditing, so it inspired me to take the book off the shelf and get to reading.

So far, so good!
There are some pretty cool western dressage videos online, but comments in the forums about it aren't so nice. I guess a lot of the dressage riders think it's icky to see dressage done in a western saddle. Anyone have any experience with it?

There are quite a few shows in the area with western dressage classes, but apparently there's usually only one rider in the class. It has already been defined by the USEF as a discipline for Morgans, and they even have their own rules and tests. The parent organization, the Western Dressage Association of America, will recognize shows and offer awards with the goal of USEF recognition. I think it might be something fun to try!


  1. I'm seeing more about western dressage in print, but haven't seen any live. Since dressage is good for all disciplines it seems like a good idea. I'm not sure what the difference is except the saddle, but maybe that's the only difference?

  2. ! : ) Jane Savoie's books are awesome! : ) As for western dressage, why not?! Last year at our regular sactioned dressage show there was a freestyle and a whole bunch of riders went in english tack. Some even placed! : )

  3. From the little I've seen of the western dressage it looks like a collected western horse ridden with two hands instead of the long low strung out western we see in our breed shows. Search for "Dressage vs Western, horses" on Youtube. I love how the cowboy looks better on the warmblood than the dressage rider looks on the reiner!

  4. From what I've seen the 'dressage' people seem the most upset about the use of shank bits with contact.

    I think its a great idea, and Dressage can be used by every discipline. Most WP horses that Ive ridden are as well trained as many of the upper level dressage horses. If anything the lack of contact with a Western horse lends to a higher degree of difficulty.

    PS - Lucas has always had front shoes on which is why I'm thinking long and hard about the change to barefoot.

  5. I say go for the Western dressage! As for dressage being done in a western saddle, I think dressage has a really bad name (sometimes well-deserved). However, I think any riding that encourages your horse keep a steady rhythm, carry itself in a balanced manner, and be willing and able to perform transitions, circles, and maybe some laterals, regardless of what kind of tack you ride in, is a good thing. If that's called dressage, well okay then! If doing it in a western saddle makes it western dressage... well heck, I'd watch it! ;)

  6. Glad to hear that things are improving.

    I think Western Dressage would be fun. There was some talk about getting a couple of shows set up here, I will have to follow up on that and see if we can make that happen.

  7. hi, hope this isn't a duplicate. with google you can't always tell.

    i came across your blog while searching for western dressage, and thought i could provide you with some information about it.

    i am the vice president for the Western Dressage Association of Minnesota, a registered affiliate of WDAA, the national association. their web address is http://westerndressageassociation.org/. i often do outreach and information for the national organization.

    there is also an affiliate in north carolina, and the contact name there is barbara long at westerndressagenc@gmail.com

    we all have facebook pages, if you do a search for Western Dressage Association of America, that will lead you to the local affiliates.

    i would love to see you get involved, it's a sport that is growing fast and anyone can do it.

    laurie with
    central minnesota

  8. Carol, I've read over the rules and I think they're quite similar. There are some differences, like using one hand and the gaits are slower, but it sounds like they want the horse's head up and slight contact with the mouth. Lilly would hate that if I was riding in a shank bit!

    Sand, I love watching freestyle classes!

    SillyPony, that has to be one of the coolest videos I've ever seen!! The cowboy was definitely better than the dressage guy!! :)

    Sam, you said what I've been thinking all along! When I mentioned the western dressage stuff to some people at the barn (my barn is nothing but dressage people) they kind of scoffed at the idea. I'd like to see them ride their horse with zero contact like we do our western horses and see what happens. :)

    Jen, Lilly does a lot of dressage-y things already and we've even taken some dressage lessons. It's definitely a good foundation for any horse and I think it would be so much fun to do it in western tack!

    Cowgirl, you should definitely look into it! Make sure you let me know what you find out too... I think it's really catching on around here.

    Hi Laurie! Thanks for stopping by and for all the great information! I did check out the NC Western Dressage affiliate and liked the page. There are a lot more shows around here with western dressage than I originally thought. Hopefully I can attend the May clinic and see it first hand. I must admit I'm a bit excited about it!

    I think Lilly would do really well in western dressage. She definitely has the mind for it, and since we'd be doing it western, I won't feel so intimidated by the giant warmbloods we ride with!

  9. OK, this sounds REALLY interesting. I AM learning english dressage (have a cheap, but OK Wintec dressage saddle) and have a very nice Parelli Natural Performer Western saddle (it is probably not suitable for showing as the skirt is short and rounded).

    Oberon is truly more suited for western and I'd LOVE to check this out to. I see a comment from Laurie above, and will check her links out. If you don't mind, though,
    where exactly is the show you are referring to? I live in NC as well and I might hop over and check it out too!

  10. ..I read what "Into Paints" said and my Friesian/QH cross would have NO problem keeping his head up! ha ha. If you find anything out about this, please throw me a comment. I am not really prepared to show for another year or two, (if at all) but I do practice at the barn and I would love to go and watch.

  11. Margaret, definitely check out the Facebook page! There is also some information posted about it on NCHorseNews.com and there's an event calendar there with a few of the events posted. I'm going to see what else I can find out about it, and maybe I'll see you at one of the shows or clinics!!

    The Western Dressage Association website has a calendar also, and a few of the dressage shows with western classes are posted there. I think they're in Williamston, though, which might be a bit far for you. I think there's a clinic in May near Jonesville and I think I might go audit.