Differences and Similarities between Traditional Dressage and Western Dressage

I am often asked, what is Western Dressage and how does it compare to Traditional Dressage?  Dressage training is based on using The Dressage Training Scale , Rhythm , Relaxation , Connection , Impulsion , Straightness ,  and Collection .  Both Traditional and Western Dressage use the same dressage ring and placement of the letters .  They also use both sizes of the dressage ring according to what tests are being ridden , the large ring is 66 x 190 , the small ring is 66 x 120 . In the lower level tests for each may be performed in the smaller ring ,  but at  higher level tests must be in the large ring.  Besides the difference in the saddles and tack the core of the training is based on the Dressage Training Scale.  These are the similarities you will find in both dressage disciplines.

The differences are the tests , the movements , the gaits , and the tack. In western dressage we do not expect or ask the western horse to look like a traditional Warmblood in its gaits or movements .  The western dressage horse is a stock type , working ranch horse , and dressage helps to marry the principles of The Training Scale to the working western horse by improving their overall suppleness , impulsion,  and harmony with their rider.   In fact any and all disciplines will benefit from dressage training as it improves the overall health of the horses too .  One of the main reasons I am saying this is because of the slow , steady progression of the training scale , and the actual way the tests are written .  When the horse learns to engage from behind and lighten it’s forehand taking much of the weight off the front legs it helps with front end soundness issues as the hind quarters become stronger and stronger .  The back and topline develop slowly and the result is a lovely round , forward moving , and balanced horse.  Dressage promotes health , welfare , and correct humane training .

Dressage is for everyone to enjoy no matter what discipline you ride we all want happy , healthy horses who enjoy being with us , and working together in partnership and harmony !

Coeli Netsky

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NAWD Licensed Judge in Western and Traditional Dressage

ARIA Certified Instructor