Western dressage has gained momentum recently as more and more riders have become interested in learning more about the relatively new riding discipline. I sat down with Erin Reid, a western dressage instructor in Arizona, to learn more about this fascinating style of riding and what makes it so unique.

Erin Reid has been teaching horseback riding professionally for 20 years. Erin currently instructs riders in multiple disciplines at Bein Performance Horses, home to a nationally acclaimed western riding program, in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Q: What is western dressage?

A:The best way to explain it is to quote part of the Western Dressage Association’s mission statement:  “Its mission is to celebrate the American West where all these things came to pass.”

I always explain western dressage to people by telling them that the gaits and movements, as the horse moves up the levels, displays the training that the horse needs to be a reiner or working cow horse.  All properly trained working western horses learned to have impulsion, collection, etc. before they could be successful in their division.

Erin Reid instructs students on Western Dressage as part of the Bein Performance Horse program in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Q: What makes western dressage different from “traditional” dressage?  

A: Both disciplines are the same in format; the same arenas are used as well as the same judging system.  The word dressage means “training.”  So with that in mind, western dressage is western training and classical dressage is english training.  Classical dressage was originally created to train horses to be able to maneuver in battle while western dressage was created to highlight the training of a horse for ranch work.

Q: Can any breed of horse compete in western dressage?  

A: Yes! At Bein Performance Horses, I specialize in Arabian and Half-Arabians. I also have enjoyed working with some of our clients who own and show Quarter Horses.

Q: What makes you so passionate about this sport?

A:I really enjoy having student’s truly understand how their horses think and learn. When a rider understands how their horse learns, their sense of timing and feel become heightened and the connection between the horse and rider grows stronger.

Q: What advice do you have for riders interested in trying western dressage?

A: Don’t be intimidated by the word “dressage!”  It is perfect for any level rider to jump right into; I have taught both beginners and advanced riders and I always start with intro level dressage no matter how long the person has been riding. I’m fascinated how everyone can learn from the introductory level no matter how advanced or limited their equestrian background may be.