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YOUR FIRST

WESTERN DRESSAGE SHOW ….A DIY EXPERIENCE

If you are reading this you are probably at the same point my husband and I were three years ago. It was at this time that we wanted to try something different with our horses. Something that would complement our trail riding as well as the ranch riding classes we were showing. We wanted something that would build on the training we have always done with our horses here on our farm. We also wanted something to stimulate our senior brains; a challenge for both memory and learning. We wanted something that was, like our trail riding and ranch shows, an event where the class or activity was warm up the horse and go. We also wanted something a two hour or less drive from our home so that it was not an overnight trip. Yes, even retired people still have responsibilities at home. Most importantly we wanted something that was good for the horse; awards and ‘being the winner’ was never the objective. Western Dressage has proven to be all of the above for us and more!

If you are thinking of trying a competition which is known as a test (free on the WDAA site) here are some things that we have learned along the way. Things that we like to call “you don’t know what you don’t know.” If you have a trainer or coach that is experienced with dressage you can probably stop right here. A true professional will tell you all this information and much more. But if you DIY, like the two of us, perhaps our lessons learned will help you get started and cut through some of the ‘unwritten’ procedures and lingo that stumped us from the start. Before Showing: • Go watch a show even if it is a classical event with no western classes. Search for a show with local or state dressage groups. About five days before the event ‘ride times’ will be posted. Each test takes about five minutes and tests are grouped together by level and the tests within that level. • Watch and take notes as to what people are doing both before and after they do a test. You will notice a high degree of concentration on the part of the exhibitors. Therefore if you want to ask questions talk to someone not competing. You will notice the absence of announcing both before, during, and after each test as well as the calmness of the show. Riders know and are held accountable for reporting to the warm up ring and when to ride their test. Scoresheets and results are available at the entry booth about 20 minutes after all of the horses in the same level and test have ridden. You will also notice that unlike some ‘western horse shows’ you will not hear whistling, hooting, and cheering. Dressage events are ‘proper’ like having tea with the Queen. •Observe the warm-up (outside the show arena) and schooling areas. This will help you learn the etiquette. Learn what is meant by ‘left to left’ in the schooling arena. To put it simply go the same direction as the other horses, circle if you need to pass, and if you are going the opposite directions pass left shoulder to left shoulder. The track is the ‘lane’ along the boards or the edge of the arena. You will see people that are riding their horse at the walk staying off the track. If they are trotting or cantering they stay on the track. . If they need to adjust equipment, talk to someone, etc. they exit the arena. If you need to lunge DO NOT do it near the show arena and try and avoid the schooling area. Above all you will see people being polite, courteous, focused on riding their horse and not on their phones. Preparing For Your First Show: • Have yourself and your horse in great physical condition. It takes a great deal of energy to ride a dressage test. • Buy a Dressage Illustrated book (under educational material on 62

WDAA) for the level you are interested in trying (Intro is walk/ trot, Basic is walk/trot /canter/lope). A Fat Black Mother • Educate yourself. Yes it is Cat Had Eight Kittens possible to do this yourself. However don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek help. • Free articles on the web, clinics and demonstrations are some of the resources but nothing will ever replace talking face to face with a highly trained, experienced professional. One of the reasons we had the courage to try western dressage was because of Lynn Palm. We saw her presentation on western dressage at a trade show. After the presentation we went to her booth. Lynn was willing to answer our many questions. She is an amazing horsewoman and generous with her knowledge. If you ever need a source for information on properly training your horse, I highly recommend her book The Rider’s Guide to Real Collection: Achieve Willingness, Balance and the Perfect Frame with Performance Horses as well as any of her other resources. • Read the rule book (link on WDAA website). Know if your equipment is legal. • Learn your test. You may have a caller. If you choose to have a caller make sure you understand that process. It is your responsibility not that of the show management. • Practice drawing the test. Paper and dry erase boards work equally as well. • Find a place to practice both on and off the horse. Walking the tests on foot is very eye opening for learning your spacing and is also good exercise for the rider. • You don’t need a fancy arena. We ride in our fields and use laundry bottles and milk jugs for markers. I use the saying All Fat Pretty Black Red Mother Cats Have Seven Eight Vicious Kittens to remember where the letters are located the large 20 x 60 court AFPBRMCHSEVK. For the small court, 20 x 40, try the mnemonic A Fat Black Mother Cat Had Eight Kittens for AFBMCHEK. Going the other direction AKEHCMBF All King Edward’s Horses Can Make Big Fences. You can also make up your own. Do what suits your learning style. We also don’t have the dressage boards (rail/fence) as we ride out in the open and do things like weave the markers as well as trotting, cantering, and backing around them. We also put poles for ranch riding and trail class close to them on the outside. There is so much you can do when you are not ‘fenced in’!

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Elite Equestrian magazine July August 2019 issue  

Elite Equestrian magazine July August 2019 issue Celebrating the Equestrian Lifestyle #eliteequestrian #equestrian @equestrian

Elite Equestrian magazine July August 2019 issue  

Elite Equestrian magazine July August 2019 issue Celebrating the Equestrian Lifestyle #eliteequestrian #equestrian @equestrian

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