What is the difference between Western and English Dressage?
Actually, the two disciplines are very similar. Both seek to get the horse and rider to progress with structured and focused training, and physical and mental development of the pair. Both seek balance, carriage and even cadence in their tests. There will be many similarities, the rings are the same, either a 20×40 or 20×60 meter dressage ring. The scoring is the same, a one through ten scale with the same definitions for each number.
There are some differences in the execution of some of the fundamental elements. The Western Dressage horse is evaluated with the conformation and movement of today’s Western horses in mind.
Western Dressage is performed in western tack and clothing. A curb bit is allowed in Western Dressage because so many people use curb bits in western riding. A snaffle is ok at all levels but must be ridden with two hands. The snaffle is not designed to be used with one hand; it doesn’t have the same sensitivity as a curb so the small movements required for one handed riding don’t transfer to the horse as effectively. Depending on what bit you have you may use one or two hands on your reins. However, you may not switch hands during the test and if you start the test two handed, you must finish that way.
Helmets may be worn in Western Dressage. There may be some resistance for riders to change, but it is a matter of safety.
“English and Western dressage have exactly the same requirements for circles and corners. The horse should be bent in the direction he is going. The bend should be through the whole horse, nose to tail.
There are some differences. Western dressage tests can include a turn on the forehand 360 degrees as well as a turn on the haunches, which the English tests do not include. There are also gait differences, with the jog replacing the trot and the lope replacing the canter.
The training pyramid applies to both disciplines,
Western Dressage rules may be found here http://www.westerndressageassociation.org/documents/WDAARulesFinal-Rev.07-01-2013_51d1f97810133_e.pdf