I don't want this to be a debate on the merits (or lack of) Western dressage, there are already a few threads that go in that direction.
I just want to know, for those of you that participate in Western dressage, why do you do it/what got you interested in it? I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm just trying to understand the motivation. I just don't get it. At all. For what it's worth, I would be just as confused if an "English reining" thread popped up in the Western forum.
I started out riding Western, but my focus now is on dressage. If I want to ride Western, I do (and use skills I've learned in my dressage lessons), but I feel like the tack is very restrictive. It dulls my ability to feel my horse and I feel like I don't get as quick of a response.
It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.
I'd never heard of it until COTH. For me I just like trying new things and I'd moved to a barn this past June/July that has been my Balm in Gilead. I'm experiencing a different way of going with regards to me and my horse and it has opened me to trying different things like Barrels, poles, hacking, etc. So when this came to my attention and I looked at videos of it I thought it just looked like fun and approachable.
But that's my personality anyway: I'm happiest doing 4 or 5 things at once. So I guess my answer would be, "why not?"
ETA: I forgot about your tack observation. I feel the same way. I bought an Aussie saddle back when I got Fella, sat in it once and sold it. I felt like I was hovering inches above him and couldn't figure out how to use my legs and seat. I've learned that all Western Saddles aren't like that. My saddle is a treeless endurance style EZ fit and it is very close contact so this isn't an issue for me. I could see that as a challenge for many though -to go from English to Western, but I don't get the impression it's universal.
I know a few people that ride western dressage. They do it because they ride western, and they do a lot of dressage type training on their horses in western tack. They are mostly trail riders with more athletic type horses (Morgans, Arabs, and Appendix type QHs). And by trail riders I mean competitive trail and endurance. They do the "dressage" for fun and to train their horses, but they prefer riding western, have no desire to buy an entire new set of tack and riding gear.
Personally it looks fun. I'm totally confused by the whole controversy.
I don't have much to say about the whole western dressage thing, other than that if a person wants to ride the lower levels (intro, training, first) in western tack under a USDF judge, they should be able to do so, and be scored.
As for the saddles, I've only ridden in one western saddle (handmade, with a Warren Wright tree) that put me in the appropriate position. For what it's worth, the same saddle is the only one I've ever been able to gallop in a secure two point in. It's much easier to be put in the appropriate position, from which you can use your leg and seat well, in a dressage saddle though by no means is every dressage saddle going to be 'right' for everyone.
Two competitors were at our Fall Show and they both are interested in more forward-moving Western horses than you'd find in any WP class. One rides a paint, the other, an Appaloosa. The appy owner also shows a good bit in the Stock Horse Association shows, where more 'naturally/normally' moving Western horse are shown on the rail, in ranch trail, ranch reining, ranch roping, etc...so they are using Western Dressage as another venue to show their horses, get detailed score sheets on their corners, straightness, rhythm, etc, and both ride well, on very crisp-moving, obedient, nice horses.
I enjoy taking my horses (in their English tack) to trail rides, obstacle courses and cow events.
Why? For fun, exposure, cross training, and the ability to learn something new that may help me in the ring.
Having something to go over, through, around, or an obvious purpose can help my horse better understand why he needs to do a leg yield or turn on the haunches. It also improves our relationship. The same way practicing lower level dressage can help western horses improve training and build the necessary muscles and balance to perform in their respective disciplines better.
What is allowed is one thing, but what people use is another. The curb is not mandatory. The snaffle is allowed at all levels. I ride in a snaffle, my trainer rides her western barrel horse, a stallion, in a snaffle.
He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).
You are wrong. What is important is what is allowed or not.
It gives the right to use all kind of bits and that goes against all dressage principles.
What kind of training practices is WD advocating? If those bits are allowed they will be used.
Who cares about one or two people? The rules applies to all. Don't complain later if your horse never wins against those who are following the rule (rules you endorse by joining) and using the high port, lever, spade bits that shouldn't be seen in proper lower level dressage.