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Photo by: Braymere Custom Saddlery……

The terms western dressage and cowboy dressage were used interchangeably for a long time. It was only when the Western Dressage Association of America was formed that the disciplines became separate. Both can be enjoyed by western riders and their horses though.

What is Western dressage?

Except for the notable difference in tack, Western dressage is very similar to English dressage. They share the fundamentals of balance, rhythm and carriage. Horse and rider progress through a series of levels and are judged on various movements. The arena will be marked with a collection of letters.

Western dressage requires the use of traditional stock tack and clothing. The goal is create a horse that is handy, willing and safe. The test requirements may include a 360 degree turn on the haunches, jogging and loping, unlike its English counterpart.

What is cowboy dressage?

This form of dressage consists of three areas of competition, according to Cowboy Dressage World.

  1. Rider and horse will perform a test by completing a series of movements at various letters throughout the arena.
  2. The 2nd part takes place in the same arena, but with the addition of ground poles strategically placed.
  3. The last is a freestyle, which includes music over a 4-minute period of time. The rider has a required list of maneuvers, but may also do optional ones.

How do they vary?

Western dressage has its roots in traditional dressage movements with the use of western tack. On the other hand, cowboy dressage is more about the Western lifestyle and culture. The judge’s expectations will vary by breed. There are even options for gaited horses in cowboy dressage.

The arena and tests are also different in many ways.

Both are a fun way to improve your communication with your horse. If you’re looking to try a new discipline, why not give one a chance!