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The “What is the Difference” The Five “Ws” of Western Dressage.

The “What is the Difference?”

"The Five W's of Western Dressage": “What? Why? Who? Where? When?”

donidajune3Do you need an excuse to be with your horse? If you are like me, probably not. Even mucking Carbon's stall is enjoyable; I love every minute I spend with my boy. Have you ever gotten on your horse and asked yourself.  What lesson should I teach him today? Where are the holes in his training? What is the next step? The "Progressive Training Scale" is one of the key concepts of Western Dressage.

 So you like the idea of Dressage, but you want to stay Western, Right? "What are the differences between Modern Dressage and Western Dressage?"  Is it right for you? No doubt there will be some similarities and differences. Let's take a look at the differences. 

At first glance, the obvious difference is the saddle; however, both a snaffle and a curb bit are widely accepted in both disciplines.  In dressage, we see a snaffle at lower levels and progression to a double bridle, which includes both snaffle and curb.  In Western Dressage, we still use a snaffle or hackamore (bosal) at lower levels, but the ultimate goal is to progress to "one-handed" riding in the curb. 

Back in the day, Classical Dressage was a training method used to build war horses. There was a huge need to control the horse "one-handed" so the rider could wield a spear, sword, rope, pole or rifle. Over the years some styles of dressage became competitive events and lost the need to ride with one hand, while other styles continued the tradition of "one-handed" riding. 

Vaquero Style:

"Doma Vaquero" literally translates as "Dressage for the Cowboy" or "Schooling Cowboy" The Doma Vaquero is one such style that maintained integrity to "one-handed" riding throughout the centuries. Doma Vaquera is a Classical style of riding which was especially developed to carry out the daily duties of working with cattle and fighting bulls in Spain. The Vaqueros work with the garrocha pole "one-handed"  which is a Spanish tradition, it actually predates roping.

Modern Doma Vaquera competitions, "Doma de Trabajo" (working equitation) provide a challenging test for both the horse and rider.  Practicality and precision are married together to ride judged tests which are performed in a 60m x 20m arena.  Some tests include all the maneuvers a horse would need to make when facing a fighting bull such as; explosive gallops from a standing start, sliding stops, lateral yielding and canter pirouettes. Doma Vaquero is really, Cowboy or Western Dressage in the true sense!

Western Dressage:

It turns out that Western Dressage has more similarities to the Vaqueros than modern day Dressage. As Eitan Beth-Halachmy says, "Western Dressage is about a Western Horse that is enhanced by Dressagenot ruled by it".. It is not the goal of western dressage to look like "modern dressage". Western Pyramid of trainingDressage uses the progressive training scale of Classical Dressage to develope the working horse for lightness and self carriage. When this happens, the working horse can be ridden "one-handed"  just like it has been done for the last few thousand years. This is the biggest distinction between the "Modern Dressage" and Western Dressage! Why? Because it creates an all new picture of a western horse. This is the future of Western Dressage. 

What have I learned that will help you?

Most western folks say they can ride "one-handed" and they do it all the time. Well, try doing it to the specifications and expectations in front of a dressage judge. I have trained my demonstration horse up to traditional 4th level Dressage with two hands in the snaffle. I thought, "I can do this "one-handed"  at lower levels". Boy! Was I surprised to learn how much more difficult it is to ride to the standards of Dressage. Just because you can ride two handed with a double bridle in Grand Pix, does not mean you can do it "one-handed" (three fingers) at "Training Level" and get a good score. It all comes down to the "Training Scale"! Can you maintain: Rhythm, Relaxation, Connection, Impulsion, Straightness, and Collection all one handed (three fingers) in a curb bit?  


if you think you can do this, then meet me down center-line and lets see what happens..
Article inspired by Patrick King, Jen Johnson, NAWD Group.
For more info contact NAWD www.northamericanwesterndressage.com


0 #3 http://www. 2014-07-28 05:18
I couldn't refrain from commenting. Very well written!
0 #2 Cynthia Koscinch 2013-01-14 09:25
Fantastic article explaining the differences. May I add a link to this on my webpage?
+1 #1 Sindy 2013-01-14 09:06
most excellent

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