WDAA offers opportunity to Celebrate Don Burt’s Life

Don BurtThe Western Dressage Association® of America joins the equine world in mourning the passing of a great horseman, Don Burt.  We would like to offer our members the opportunity to celebrate the life of this remarkable man.  If any of you met Don Burt; attended one of his clinics; showed horses to him; or have any thoughts that you would like to share, please share them with us here.

Don Burt embodied a tradition of horsemanship that is at the same time universal to all breeds and styles of horses and unique to the California style of horsemanship.  Mr. Burt judged many different breeds according to each individual breed standard.  His expert eye never failed to find the horses which best displayed the individual breed standard for both conformation and performance and to reward those horses.  He officiated at USEF shows at a time when the Open Western Division was often the largest at a show with all breeds represented and competing head to head.

Mr. Burt was a consummate equitation judge who would ask for seemingly simple patterns or maneuvers that never failed to test each rider and to show not only the judge but the audience why an individual was the best.  He was respectful to his exhibitors and kind and encouraging to his young riders.  He never failed to tip his hat to his lady riders and to offer every exhibitor his wonderfully warm smile.

We like to think that Don Burt would have been more than comfortable with the concept and the discipline of Western Dressage.  His ability to see each horse as an individual and to judge that horse accordingly was one of the inspirations for WDAA when we wrote our rules and our Judging Guidelines.

WDAA invites each of you to share your Don Burt stories and thoughts by leaving a comment below…



6 Responses to “WDAA offers opportunity to Celebrate Don Burt’s Life

  • While I did have the honor of showing under Mr Burt and found him to be extremely knowledgeable and fair, what stands out the most is a judges seminar that he did many, many years ago. He told everyone that “you’re going to make mistakes. Make them fast and go on.” Being “given permission” to make a mistake took a lot of the anxiety out of judging and is something that has stayed with me all these years. It is, also, something that I pass on every time I work with a young judge. And, yes, I do always tell them where I learned it.

  • Jane Hoxsey
    6 years ago

    I appreciate that Don Burt saw horses as individuals with separate attributes. I will always remember his insight that there are horses which are show horses , horses which are race horses, and horses which are brood stock; and they are not all one in the same horse. Enjoy your horse for its own abilities. And have fun riding.

  • Don was one of most honorable men in the horse industry! I learned so much about judging, developing the hunt seat division by his side with AQHA Show & Contest Committee and reaching for the top in anything you do. Don was always in my mind and a great influence for my career! Thanks to Don for all he did for horses and the people in the horse industry. He will never be forgotten!

    Western dressage, of course he would approve!! Let’s honor him WDAA!

    My love and admiration always!

    Lynn Palm

  • Don Burt was one of my mentors when I first started to judge and his passing really leaves a void. I have known him over forty years and always knew him as a kind, thoughtful friend. We worked together at the Morgan World Championship a number of years ago and had a wonderful time.

  • Don was always a gentleman that put the horse first. He will be greatly missed.
    Our hearts go out to his family,
    Robert M. Miller DVM and Debby MIller

  • At a clinic here in Colorado in 1978, Don Burt answered a silly question from me about head carriage and head set. I had recently purchased a young Morgan mare and wanted her to be a great Western Pleasure horse. This wonderful horseman told me that head set and head carriage would vary with every horse. The goal of every rider was to help the horse achieve balance and the head and neck facilitated that balance. Each horse and its individual conformation would determine where its head and neck should be carried to find that balance. He told me to listen to my horse and to feel for balance.

    Those amazingly insightful words have stayed with me for all these years; I have tried to follow his suggestion to the best of my limited ability. I will be forever grateful to him for his wisdom and his generosity to me. That is my Don Burt story. Won’t you share yours with us.