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  • Erin Long

Cowboy And Western Dressage - What The Heck Is The Difference


Several of you have asked me to make this post, as I show in Cowboy Dressage, but usually not Western Dressage. So today I am finally writing about the difference between the two! 

Western Dressage drew its original inspiration from Eitan Beth-Halachmy, much like Cowboy Dressage, and also shares similarity in that it focuses on partnership with the horse. Tests may be performed on a traditional 20x60, or a shortened 20x40 court. Many of its rules are adapted from traditional dressage, as are its tests and judging/scoring. The gaits and equipment rules are changed to better suit a horse competing in western tack, describing a jog, lope, and western attire. Horses of any age may be competed bitless in a bosal, and it is open to all breeds of horse. However, the gait requirements and suggestions are consistent no matter the breed of horse. Western Dressage is sanctioned by USEF. 

Cowboy Dressage was founded by Eitan Beth-Halachmy and his wife Debbie. It has three types of tests currently: Open Court/Traditional, Challenge, and Partnership on the Ground. Liberty tests will be added to the discipline soon. It is performed on a 20x40 court, and for the Challenge tests there are poles, cones, and a gate in the arena that horse and rider must maneuver around and through. Cowboy Dressage places a very heavy emphasis on kindness, both to your horse and to your fellow competitor. Members take what is called a “handshake” - our code of conduct and horsemanship that we strive to abide by and uphold. For Horsemanship, one of our largest goals is Soft Feel, which is defined as “a wordless, intimate and for some a spiritual communication within the partnership between horse and rider. Soft feel is not only sending messages but having the sensitivity and awareness to feel and receive the message the horse sends back.”

Our judging is unique to each and every horse - an aged Saddlebred will have a very different working jog from a spry young quarter horse. So long as rider and horse are demonstrating harmony, partnership, and soft feel, and the horse is traveling as uphill and softly as he is able, they are likely to do well. Horses may be ridden at any age bitless, and horses under the age of 6 may not be shown as a “bridle horse” in our Vaquero division. Cowboy Dressage World is it’s own governing organization.

Hopefully that helps clear up the differences, and let me know if you have any questions below!

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