It's the USA :). That's the way dressage got started in the late 50's early 60's and it's still true that many many Intro and Training level riders don't have much real knowledge of dressage when they start showing. They take lessons to get better at showing, and only later discover that the show is not the thing. Being a beginner isn't abusing the rules.
The western dressage organizations are just dealing with a reality that dressage didn't have to cope with. How to win over people who have been taught that a horse must go straight into the bridle on a looped rein or go in a totally downhill frame and most of all have to have their horses in a curb by the time the animal is 5 years old. We don't want any of those things for western dressage horses, but if we insist that riders have to retrain before they can enter the ring, they'll never make the effort.
The standards are there. It's up to the judges. When I started out it was unusual for a beginner to make over 55% on a test. Now that same ride gets a 65% - 70%. If the judges are even more lenient for WD, which some seem to be, it's going to be hard for newbies to see what those standards are. But I think this is true across the board. Inflated scores aren't just for WD folks.
I like what you say here about western dressage. :yes:
I had the same reaction you did the first time I ever saw a western pleasure class with horses' noses down around their knees as they troped along. In fact, I think I said, "What the ^%$# is wrong with those horses? :-)
How fair is it then to the people who actually follow a training progression and have properly schooled horses?
I know we live in the age of "don't mess with anyone's self esteem", but showing isn't really just something to do in some people's minds. There are those who actually want to have their good work rewarded.
I have just as little sympathy as you on the age vs headgear issue, though. I think it's ridiculous that most western events limit what bitting you can use based on how old the horse is. Rather then earning the right to move from say a snaffle to a curb through training, the horse and rider simply have to successfully avoid dying to do so instead.
In the vaquero traditions particularly, there's no shame in "stepping down" the equipment based on holes that are discovered, or even merely based on the job being done. Lots of guys I know talk about moving a bridle horses back into the two rein when they know the work will get quicker, or even back into one of the hackamores if the country they're working over is more likely to snag reins etc.
Likewise, if you move from one stage to the next (say bosal to bosalita) and the horse or rider struggle, there's no "shame" in revisiting earlier stages.
I do feel they must retrain to be successful. And please note I called for tighter judging. That means you can go in the ring, but your scores will reflect the weak spots in your training. I'm not saying give 70's to bad rides. I'm saying the opposite. Give 2s and 3s when deserved and 8s when deserved and let people figure out that there's something missing when they get 50's and correctly trained horses get 70s. I am disturbed by seeing rides with no positioning, much less bend, get over 70% at Primary 3. If someone wants to go in the ring and try a test by all means let them do it. But they should see serious deductions if using a curb two handed causes their horse to raise it's head and go hollow even for a stride. They should be able to figure out from the comments that two handed for bend with a shank bit isn't really working for them.
I haven't looked yet, but aren't there bitting rules for this as in any other sport?
I've re-entered the horse universe after a 6-year hiatus.
Former dressage and Western rider, and was a little *horrified* to see pictures of two-handed curb bit riding.
If I had grabbed the bridle with two hands, my old school bridle horse mentor would have physically removed me from the horse and screamed at me! haha
I'm still interested in WD but need to do more investigation.
I also live in Arizona.
My husband is interested in western dressage - I am a classical dressage rider - where is the best place to get info regarding ? And is AQHA recognizing western dressage the same as regular dressage as far as allowing members to obtain points for recognized competitions ?
Why use a curb bit at all? If I have to put so much pressure on my horse's mouth to get her to stop, how is that dressagy? If you want to, and don't have any cows that you need to rope, why not use a direct rein?
Circle Y now makes a Western Dressage saddle. (They moved the bucking rolls down to the side to keep the leg in place.) I think that along with the Mounted Shooting Saddle and 15 types of barrel racing saddles, the Western Dressage movement may be yet another marketing opportunity for the Tack industry.
The best place for information is the Western Dressage Association of America web site and a tour of WDAA state affiliate web sites on Facebook. WDAA is recognized and shows run under their rules by AMHA, AHA, Pinto Horse Assc., ASA, Appaloosa Horse Club, IFSHA, AA Andalusian and Lusitano HSA and USEF. Many USDF GMOs are also offering WD tests at their schooling shows along with HOY awards. Currently the AQHA has not developed a program for western dressage but there has been talk between the two organizations.
What about upper level dressage horses being shown in a double bridle? Do you think that is about putting more pressure on a horse's mouth and that it is not dressagy?
However, I agree that there is no reason not to use a snaffle if you want to.
You need to learn what leverage bits (and the horses who wear them) were made for.
Look, there's no need for a horse to trot in place or skip, either. But dressagists care about those movements and I admire a horse strong and broke enough to do them.
In other news: Thanks for the history of dressage in America before my time. It might be very educational to learn what that discipline looked like in it's infancy here as an instructive comparison for WD.
"Properly" seems to be the key word here, right? Imo, leverage hasn't much to do with dressage. Or shouldn't. "Leverage" is a means to increase pressure--given that once you have a tool that increases pressure, you don't need to exert as much force.Quote:
Proper use of a curb bit has nothing whatsoever to do with putting more pressure on a horse's mouth. Properly used on a properly trained horse, a curb is about less pressure and more subtle cues.
You don't see many 3 yr old dressage horses working in a double bridle. Thank heavens. It seems to me that western riding is always in a hurry--rushing to get the babies ready for the futurities; and giving spurs to a novice rider, expecting her (who isn't sure what her feet are doing) to use them properly.Quote:
You need to learn what leverage bits (and the horses who wear them) were made for.
If I've missed something, please enlighten me.
Hermein, you've missed everything about how Western horses are supposed to be developed in the bridle. All of it.
people who use them as a crutch should receive scores that reflect that problem, because it most assuredly IS a problem.
I don't understand the AQHA's "all horses 5 and up should be out of the snaffle" thing for the show ring. I think that's where your stereotype of young horses being ridden in leverage/signal bits comes from.
It's not so in non-showing WesternWorld. It makes sense to me to spend a long time riding a horse in a snaffle. You should be able to get *everything* you'll eventually want from the horse in that bit.
A little detour here:
There is a question in my mind about how the horse should relate to the snaffle. Dressagers don't think of a snaffle as a signal bit. Any signal given to the horse comes from the rider's body. So the horse should push right up into that contact. IME, Western folks want the horse to be "behind the bit." What I think that really means is that the Western horse-- often bitted up in a thin and unstable bit as a young horse-- should keep a loop in the reins and look for slight changes in the reins before a hand ever actually pulls on his mouth.
So (and still on the detour), I don't give a rat's a$$ which way you use the snaffle, but I want the same end results. Those are:
1. The horse engages his hind end and lifts his shoulders.
2. He flexes laterally and longitudinally. Usually the horse learns those two in that order. To my mind, that's the reason for the snaffle (as opposed to a bosal or leverage bit).
3. I eventually do less and less with my hand and give more and more of any signal for turn, squat, extend, collect, change gait and all from my body.
Back to the main topic:
So from VaqueroWorld, which I take to be the more-or-less starting point for WesternShowWorld, the leverage bit means the horse as successfully come through all these earlier stages of training.
Now, does the average 5-year-old in a shanked bit in the show ring have all that? I dunno. But I'll bet that folks are settling for apparent ridability in those young horses and don't have the Vaquero's thoroughness.
Can trainers produce a horse that does? Maybe if everything were absolutely right-- you began at 2 with a great-minded, well-balanced horse and your were a very skilled trainer, you might be able to take a horse from snaffle to leverage bit in 3 years.
My point is that there is a whole lot of pretty decent horsemanship connected to a training system that ends in a leverage bit. Lots of it *does* pursue the same biomechanics goals that classical dressage does. And, IMO, the idea of riding a horse with aids that involve signals is psychologically kind.
You don't see many dressage horses making it to Grand Prix; and usually they're not the youngsters--which signifies (maybe correctly or maybe not) that they've been in training, level by level.
You do see a lot of reiners, cutters, ropers and wp-ers competing hard as two and three year olds. If someone wants to show in Western Dressage, what are the odds that the particular horse will have been trained level by level?
IF Western Dressage should lead to more concern for the horse among traditional western riders, I'm all for it. And if that works out that way, the next thing I want is to put off starting race horses until they're 3 or 4. Heresy.
All you can say is that both are kind of round.
Racers, reiners and cutters are working on being bred with talent for something they can do better than none as a given talent.
Nothing like a client bringing you a horse to train that has that talent and you already see that the first few times you get on them, don't have to spend years getting there.
Just like a gymnast, that starts at five and six and if talented, is at the top of it's game in mid teens, after years of training that brings that talent out, those horses are at their best early in their lives, later they confirm and learn to be steady, but that brilliance is either there right off, or you just won't have it
If you wait until later to train them, you lose those years where they are the most trainable, just as you would a gymnast trying to start training at 15 and trying to compete with those that have grown into the sport and have all those formative years of motor memory practice perfecting their talent.
There are some studies showing that colts started early do have higher parameters of physical and mental fitness than those started a year later and stay more sound all along, because they are training for that from that early start.
It is a few years before that early start advantage evens out.
I grew up with the idea that you never started any horse under saddle until four, it just was not done.
If you had a three year old you wanted to work with, you drove it to a lighter wagon with an old horse as wheeler.
When I came to the USA and saw so many twos being started and competing, I didn't know what to think.
After years of starting and training them, I can say, it is wonderful for the horses.
Why lose those early formative years with them?
Critics of starting colts early bring up injuries that may happen when you train for performance.
Injuries happen at any age you train for any performance and is a different topic, that is HOW to train, not WHEN.
A bad trainer will have more injuries at any age it trains it's horses, a good one won't have hardly any.
FWIW, an old school bridle horse guy told me (many years ago) that he often wouldn't have a horse "straight up" in the bridle (ie cathedral port) until the horse was 8 or 9. His horses lived long and useful lives, working well into their late-20s.
I do think the structure of showing in Western World-- that run by the AQHA meaning that shows exist to support breeders has caused futurities…. which has caused a huge emphasis on what young horses can do…. which has caused folks to discover that athletic young, kind-minded horses *can* be made to do a lot.
Were the USEF similarly so focused on supporting breeders with shows as opposed to shows in general, I think we'd see the same kind of thing.