The inspiration for Dressage in Working Equitation is derived from the ranching experience and skills needed to handle cattle in the Iberian region. This is a departure from the genesis of Traditional Dressage which was training for warfare, or FEI Dressage, which has evolved into its own style and discipline.
When you read the definition of Working Equitation you frequently see the following: “a discipline created with the objective of enhancing the equestrian techniques developed in countries whose riders use horses in different aspects of “fieldwork” or “in the field”. Let there be no confusion, this means one thing. ” In the field” describes “ranching”, or “cattle working”!
Imagine if you will, you are working Iberian cattle, which nearly wild, or at least feral. These cattle are very different than what we are accustomed to in the Americas. They are as likely to charge at you, as to run from you! With that in mind you will readily see that impulsion would be your horses most valuable asset. It requires an athletic, nimble “handy” horse to excel in this often dangerous line of work.
Initially you might not see a significant difference between WE Dressage tests and that which you currently practice. But by the time you reach the Masters Level, the tests demand your mount to demonstrate the ideal qualities needed by a horse capable of successfully negotiating a pasture with these amazing semi-wild cattle.
As you and your horse rise through the levels of WE Dressage, you will find suspension is less important than impulsion and the point of balance of the horse is lower as the horse needs to be prepared for rapid departures.
It does not matter what your previous experience is, you and your horse will enjoy and benefit from dressage time through WE. After all, Dressage simply means, training!
If you are already involved in traditional dressage you may want to skip the following introduction to dressage, and view the Dressage Tests from three different Organizations.
For our readers who have been intimidated by the very concept of dressage, take heart. It isn’t really scary at all. Dressage instruction is available for the uninitiated in a number of ways. Simply finding a local dressage instructor for lessons is likely the easiest. If that isn’t your cup of tea several WE Organizations and groups are active in the US. Those groups offer clinics with Dressage and the other phases of Working Equitation for riders of all levels. Likely there is a group only a short distance away. See our post State and Local WE Groups for more information on how to find those local groups. Working Equitation is just developing in this country, you will find yourself right at home with riders of similar capability.
There is a long history of dressage riding among the great Vaqueros of old. The early Spanish influence on the training and development of the ranch horse is clearly evident in artistic portrayals of the Vaquero at work during the early history of the US. With the exception of our Buckaroo and Californios riders, much of that influence had been lost in the show arena and in training the western horse in general. But it is now returning with significant participation. Two organizations in particular have generated a considerable “re-discovery” of precision riding among western horseman.
If you ride in western tack and attire you will find plenty of wonderful opportunities to develop you skills through Western Dressage or Cowboy Dressage. Both of these great organizations have state affiliates who will welcome you and offer many opportunities to improve your riding skills.
Here is a nice example of a Western Dressage test with Randy Beyers on his Quarter Horse. This video offers nice captions of the upcoming movement and the judges notes on the ride”. Randy also trains and competes in Working Equitation. We use this and the next video to encourage riders to become acquainted with and involved in dressage with the western horse.
This is a nice example of a Cowboy Dressage test from YouTube. This type of a horse and rider would excel in Working Equitation as well.
In Working Equitation Dressage you and your horse are judge with the breed and conformation of your horse in mind. It is well understood that the types of horses used in the American ranching heritage are not going to move the same as European breeds. Whatever you ride, Iberian, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Morgan etc. you and your horse will be accepted for the movement characteristic for your breed or horse type.
Be sure to contact one of the dressage organizations listed above, or your local Working Equitation Group to get involved with Working Equitation.