Do I just go Western?

My post disappeared when I tried to edit it…hit the wrong key or something.

Anyway, I thought western was just ‘sit there’ and let them do all the work. Nuh-uh! Keeping them collected at just the right speed, just the right cues…it’s as hard as anything else is to do right.

And I bought a horse who is trained to the hilt. Learning all those ‘buttons’, which ones to push when, how much push, when to quit pushing…YIKES…I’m lucky he’s so easy going!

Paula, I’ve been following your struggles for a while now, and I say go for it. Really, like ezduzit said, no one cares what you ride. IMHO, the people I respect are the people who put the horse first, people who try their darndest to work with their horse and develop a positive and trusting relationship, people who work through the struggle and learn something about themselves and their horses. I see good riding in all disciplines and I see bad riding in all disciplines. As long as you always strive to be one of the good ones, people will respect you, regardless of your tack or bling (or lack thereof).

Don’t think of it as quitting one thing, think of it as expanding your knowledge and learning a new thing. I personally love learning - what could be more fun?

You don’t need to wear glitter at all. I made this jacket with a soft brown plaid. A cream/off white light weight sweater underneath and a turquoise pin at the throat. Brown chaps. I made the jacket shorter. I have a turquoise concho at the back of the chaps that matches the pin. I think it’s elegant and lady like for a grown up woman.

ezduzit that looks lovely! I wish I could sew :-/

I’m going to try to pick up a bright yellow “ranch shirt” and a bright bue scarf. His pad is a bright royal blue pattern…but I also need chaps…eek!

Stick with a basic color for chaps…black is best to start out. Then you can change tops and accessories and not have to buy new chaps.

I make my chaps. Just ultra suede; it’s what Morgan people wear. I made black and then decided that neither he nor I looked good in black. So I made navy and chocolate brown pairs. I have promised myself a plum pair if I get comfortable with showing and all the work that goes with it.

Paula, I think that the the way you’ve described Fella’s happy way of being, and yours with him (ref. jog vs. forward trot) leads to a decision to either:

A - Jam your helmet down, hike up your britches, set your chin, and resolve to work every day towards the immediate goals of the dressage scale and on to Training level. No nonsense, clear goals in mind, more scrimping for dressage lessons and a show-legal saddle, etc.

B - Go with what your horse tells you he enjoys and is good at and what is physically and monetarily feasible at this time for you. Enjoy your horse, keep learning and enjoying the journey.

I say go for what brings you and your horse the most joy. All the ribbons we won meant nothing compared to the fun things I did with my horse - my fondest memories are all of glorious goofy trailrides, great gallops in fields, the best piaffe and passage I ever had from him thanks to a herd of deer…

ENJOY is my advice. They don’t live forever:sadsmile:

Just do whatever makes you happy. You’ll never make ‘COTH’ happy, quit worrying about it.

Like Equibrit, I tire easily of the navel picking endless me me me let’s talk about me threads; from a few posters- the threads are frequent and small in topic- now I don’t race around stomping on them but I do recall when this forum was visited by fairly significant horse peeps with wisdom to share and fun stories about horses- and it’s not nearly what it once was, several years ago. Things evolve and change and I get that…but one more ‘my girl is so naughty’ thread or ‘look, i gots some gravel in my hall everybody!!’- oy.

So I DO appreciate Paula’s enthusiasm- I do. But I too am ready for her to pick something and just do it.

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Cross posting from the UDBB -I’ll edit so it makes sense.

Well I’m back. I spoke to my trainer about this and she said let’s just give it a try! So for kicks I rode “Western” this evening.

Now, I’m about to explain things that I know nothing about -Western riding, Western aids, etc.

  1. He neck reins. If you give an indirect(?) rein -this means to go right you lay the left rein against his neck -he goes right.

  2. He does not curl with Western contact,and in fact I got such a nice forward marching walk that I put away my stick.

  3. The basic dressage training he has had and my equitation type training probably are making this easier, but his jog was nice and forward and animated. It was not flat and sucked back as I was concerned. In fact we will have to spend more time learning to sit his jog.

Okay, now here’s the cool part. Just for kicks as I was marching forward in that nice walk I picked up the reins (I am riding one handed here), laid the right rein against his neck and we spun. Now, we’re not talking super fast, plant your feet and see the world go by in a blur. I mean we essentially did a turn on the haunches for 360 degrees. Of course his back feet moved, but my trainer said, “well he’s done that before”.

It was so cool. We did it a few times and he was better going right than left. The cool sensation was his haunches sinking (my butt just slotted into the cantle) and his front end just floating around the circle. And remember this is at a walk.

LOL, the first time we tried it I held the pommel with my right hand just in case he went, “Hey I know this!”. :lol:

I’m going to try to get some video. It won’t be be pretty because I know nothing about Western so some English aids keep trying to sneak in, but I’ll try to get some video.

Conformation-wise Fella is a nice all-purpose horse. He’s level to uphill, he has a decent backside (often draft crosses come out light in the back end like their drafty parent), he’s got leg and he’s got neck and it’s stuck in a nice place. So he could do dressage -he doesn’t have to fight gravity or anything like that.


Ride the discipline that makes you and your horse happy. Don’t worry about what other’s think. Don’t ride a discipline because it’s cool, or everything thinks its makes you “seem” elite or what ever people think. Too many people ride a certain discipline because of reasons that have little to do with riding and more to do with appearances. Ride what you are comfortable with, do it because you have fun and it makes you want to get out and ride.

Fella definitely prefers Western contact. Had some nice forward, lengthened trot yesterday. My hands are confused though. How do you ride straight in Western? In English you visualize a track between your hands and use your legs to emphasize that straight track. How do you do that with your reins in one hand in Western?

For the time being I may ride two handed I guess.

BTW any good Youtube resources? I have some ideas of DVDs I want but I’ll be too broke 'til next month.


I was a working student to a trainer (the extremely ethical Mr. Scot MacGregor) with this same philosophy. Good horsemanship is good horsemanship, regardless of discipline. The rest is just marketing and branding.

As long as your horse is being treated ethically, the rest is entirely immaterial.

I was trained that you are supposed to pick the discipline that your horse enjoys the most, that is is the responsibility of the rider to adapt to the discipline that best suits his or her horse.

On her website, Dr. Deb has an article entitled True Collection; reading this article will ease your mind quite a bit.

IMHO, with equestrians, just like with religion, I’m very wary of those who believe that their discipline is the One True Way.

Don’t allow the sheeple to make you doubt yourself.

If you are anything like me, I tend to get so caught up in the details that I sometimes paralyze myself. Yoga really helps -that which you seek is within you and all that. :wink:

I see what you’re saying. I don’t actually have to “pick” anything. As Dr Deb says in your article -there’s value to experimenting and the goal for me (when I see real rewards) has been to get out of my horse’s way. So I noticed, along these lines, that he’s much freer with Western contact -longer reins, ask and release. He seems really able to stretch. Dropping my stirrups a hole (because I feel like Western riders ride with a longer leg?) seems to have helped my balance alot too. I didn’t lose my stirrups and am not (at least it doesn’t feel) like I’m rooting for my stirrups when I post.

Oh epiphany! I have been having issues with posting, with forward, etc. because Fella wasn’t relaxed and using his core and I was blocking him with my contact which apparently was too much for him. DUH. No wonder it all seems to be coming together. When I first got him he curled terribly I rode him on very loose reins with the plan that we should take up contact later. Now I ask myself why? Why is it important for him to ride with English contact? Answer: It isn’t at all important. He seems to do better with Western contact so Western it is.

Now whether we’ll go to indirect reining is another story and that has alot to do with me. I bet you some/all those issues will resolve themselves now. Hmm…

LOL as for the people who find my process tiresome -they exist out here in the real world too. But it’s my process. And I’m not the only one who’s like this! :slight_smile:


I was trained that you are supposed to pick the discipline that your horse enjoys the most, that is is the responsibility of the rider to adapt to the discipline that best suits his or her horse.


It is the responsibility of the rider to select a horse suitable for their pursuit.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA My dear, man plans, God laughs. BTW I thought you were fed up with my process. Not sure why you’re still reading this tiresome thread. Notice I even put it in the Western forum so as not to darken the threshold of your precious Dressage forum.

Please tell me, what else can I do to make your life easier?


There is no god. Fortunately you are not privvy to my thoughts, nor my pursuits, (as witnessed by your ignorance) and my life needs no help from you. Thanks anyway.

Re by Equibrit: There is no god. Fortunately you are not privvy to my thoughts, nor my pursuits, (as witnessed by your ignorance) and my life needs no help from you. Thanks anyway.

My ignorance? You’re the one who found it necessary to open this thread and make snide, not-useful comments. I’m thoroughly confused -maybe that’s my ignorance showing.


Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I’ve decided to study the WDAA Basic Level Test 1

I started looking at some Youtube videos of regular people taking the test. I do this because I have a hard time visualizing tests by just reading them. So I read them, draw my Charles Manson Really Behaved Poorly Friday Afternoon King Victor Even Said Ho boxes, chase the course with a pen and then go looking for video of the actual test being ridden. It’s nice when the rider has a caller because I don’t get lost. So far I’ve found 2:

This one (the test starts at about 2:45) I like more. The jog is nice and forward I think, at least not sucked back. She isn’t holding on to his face too much -I see a few times he tugs, but not often. I think I’d ride on a longer rein. She sits fine even though her toes turn out (I am not sure why). I’d post at this stage I think. The horse seems to be using himself. Her canter is not as tidy and I wonder about the horse’s tail action on the 20 meter circles, but I don’t have the chops to gauge that.

This one I don’t like much
The horse seems inverted and her hands are popping him in the mouth every stride. I think her working jog is flat and sucked back and the horse is pulling himself along on the forehand instead of pushing from behind. I think her sitting trot is blocking her horse. The canter also seems inverted.

So would you make the same selection? I’m trying to learn to understand what I am seeing.


For the time being I may ride two handed I guess.

Now whether we’ll go to indirect reining is another story and that has alot to do with me.

Paula, there is such a thing as western riding that has a horse in a snaffle for its basic education. For two or three years, or more (or even for the life of the horse) if the rider hasn’t made a bridle horse before.

You do NOT have to lose the nice snaffle bit…EVER if that is your choice.

Dressing the horse in a curb bit when you don’t have the tools to keep him laterally flexible to ‘compete’ in somebody’s vision of Western Pleasure Dressage is foolish at best.

In my opinion, there are WAY too many western horses with a curb bit hung in their mouths, that really need a whole lot more education with two reins- snaffle or even bosal hackamore. The need for lateral softness and flexibility does not go away because you teach the horse to neck rein. The really outstanding riders create that lateral softness, and maintain it through the horse’s life. It is a much older, very well trained horse that is ridden in a curb-only bit.

Buck Brannaman doesn’t even take a horse from a snaffle bit to a bosal hackamore (still using two reins to steer) until he has flying changes, haunches in, half-pass, and a good canter pirouette (a cowhorse spin, which is different from a reining spin) going well and solid.

Paula, I think you’re on to something by going in a more Western direction. But as Buck says, there is nothing to reconcile between ‘English’ and ‘Western’…it’s just the rider’s outfit. Good riding, educating the horse’s mind and body to carry himself and you in the best and most athletic way, is universal to any good horsemanship.

I’d say that for what YOU want to do with Fella, you don’t have to go play Western Dressage, you can just go and pay for judge’s feedback at a regular dressage show- as long as it is in front of a good judge. It may be hors concours (you pay the fees to show but are not eligible for a ribbon, you aren’t ‘competing’) because you are in a western saddle.
But go ride with the GOOD trainers. Spend more on high quality instruction, make the budget work by going less often- you aren’t in trouble with a horse that’s going to hurt you or anything like that.
Whether those instructors are Vaquero Horsemanship types or Working Equitation types or Dressage trainers is immaterial as long as the instructors are teaching their basic horsemanship properly.

And as far as what you SHOULD do?
You are already doing it- you are trying to do right by your horse, you are looking to educate yourself and you are listening to what Fella has to ‘say’ about his participation in the ordeal.

OP, the good news and the bad news is that choosing to switch out your tack won’t really change what you need to teach your horse and what you need to learn as a rider.

IMO, everything you want a western horse to do, even the correct-going WP horse, comes from a horse who is strong and broke. With some variations about contact and pounds of pressure in your hand, you can/should be giving that horse a dressage education.

The later stuff-- how a horse goes in a shanked signal bit-- that’s a whole 'nother kettle of fish. If you thought you’d find “an easier softer way” for you or your horse, you didn’t. Rather, you found a new set of skills to learn. (Me, too.)

My advice? Go and watch anyone you think is a good horseman. Take from them what you like and leave the rest. When you have this large, collective toolbox assembled, you’ll be able to enjoy the long, slow, rather private process of training your horse. You’ll like that every day and you won’t care or think about who is watching.

I have many of the same questions you do and I think I’m at a similar kind of fork in the road (that’s not really a fork). I’ll be interested to here about your progress.

Oh dear, yes Paula, that is a horse that does not understand what the bit means. He is pulling and gapping and the rider is pulling and releasing for I don’t know what reasons, but the tail swatting is a big clue to how the horse feels about things.

I just read a lovely article by Scott Hassler in a Dressage Today article.
He talks about how a person needs to aim to be CLEAR to the horse, not ‘diplomatic’. With other people, being diplomatic is appropriate, but it just confuses the horse.
Dr. Deb Bennett also emphasizes the need to be clear. If a person is fuzzy about what she is asking, either the horse will NOT do what the rider wants, and be mildly upset about it…or a schoolmaster horse might fill in for the rider and do it anyway.

So…in the video it looks to me like the rider thinks the horse should have his nose vertical, or have X kind of contact, or something else misconstrued. I agree that having a looser rein at this stage (until the rider can be clear to the horse what she wants) would be appropriate.

OP, the good news and the bad news is that choosing to switch out your tack won’t really change what you need to teach your horse and what you need to learn as a rider.

Can I vote this as the best answer yet to Paula’s question? :smiley: