Beginning something new always starts with the first step – learning!
Read as much as you can, become familiar with the big and small arenas and the letters, read the rules and equipment guide, and begin working your horse at the walk-trot tests (Intro Western Dressage). It is very important that your geometry is perfect – the 20 meter circle is harder than it looks! Practice stopping with your shoulder AT each letter, so you get used to seeing the letters out of your peripheral vision.
Dressage (Western or English) is designed to be a training tool. So even if your horse is way past walk-trot – it is a good idea to start at the very beginning with Intro Test 1-4. It will take a good season of riding daily until you are ready for the schooling shows. When you are consistently getting over 65% on your test scores, start training at the next walk-trot-canter level (Basic Tests 1 – 4), but continue to test at Intro. When you are confident your horse is ready, test at Basic 1, and if you consistently get over 65%, test all of the Basic tests 1-4, yet start training at Level 1 Test 1. Continue this way through all of the levels. It is important not to skip a level or a test, because missed training will show up later in your horse’s performance. You will be amazed at how well your horse and you communicate after just a short time!
English or Western trainers can be valuable in your progress, because developing the movements are very similar in both. Schooling shows throughout Michigan are offering live show and/or virtual show western dressage classes. Check all of the schooling shows in your area.
There are people from judges to trainers across Michigan willing to help. These trainers are part of an elite group of equine professionals who have dedicated their time to completing a Train the Trainers clinic, established by the Western Dressage Association of America (WDAA) in early 2012. They earn a Certificate of Completion and have the unique ability to help riders reach new levels of skill and enjoyment. WDAA also provides Judges Clinics specifically designed for judging western dressage classes. To obtain a list of those with a western dressage certification, contact the national organization, Western Dressage Association® of America(WDAA).
When going to a schooling show to be eligible for the WDAMI Year-End awards, Scores must come from judges who are USDF “L-grad” or USEF “r”, “R”, “S” or FEI judge or a USEF Western Dressage “r” or “R” judge.
The WDAA and WDAMI do not endorse or certify any trainer or judge.