Western Dressage as seen in the eyes of Lynn Palm

I feel very fortunate to have grown up in the classical dressage saddle. My mentor Bobbie Steele was an incredibly talented horse trainer/entertainer, a pioneer American Dressage rider. She learned classical training and “high school” Dressage which included tricks and unusual movements for entertainment, such as canter in place! Her career entertaining with horses came from the German Dressage trainers hired by the Ringling Circus. She became their top rider/trainer and later moved out on her own with two horses she developed and traveled the circuit to do exhibitions. Lucky for me, she retired just down the road from where I grew up in Sarasota, Florida. She is the basis of myself as a trainer, competitor, instructor, breeder, and entertainer. I rode/ trained with Bobbie for more than 25 years. At my young age my interest with horses was to try everything. Had I just stuck with Classical Dressage I probably would have had a shot at the FEI league. Little did I know that what I was learning in the Dressage saddle allowed me to have the foundation for multiple disciplines. I loved to jump- hunters and equitation, Western events, Barrels and of course Dressage. I also competed in the first USDF Regional Championships for the Southeast in 1968. This incredible classical training foundation gave me the tools to become a very successful All Around Trainer with American Quarter Horses.

I loved when I showed full time in the 70s, 80s, 90s. I was able to train horses that lasted a long time in the show ring and was best noted for my horse’s expression— they were confident and had their ears forward all the time. I trained and showed in Western disciplines just the same as if I were in the Dressage saddle. I still do the same today!

The birth of Western Dressage was a time that I needed in my life and business. I left the AQHA show world as I could not conform to the harsh and abusive training methods and how horses were rewarded in the show ring. Western Dressage has given me and others who left the western riding world a reason to showcase humane and patient training. Longevity, not the disposal futurity horse, is rewarded. Western Dressage is a successful and valuable discipline as the bringing out the best in a horse is most important. Time, patience, and a correct progression of training and developing the horse is paramount. Western Dressage also promotes a rider to learn to be confident and correct. It also promotes training without without gimmicks and quick fixes.

Western Dressage with WDAA/USEF mirrors Classical Dressage in its progression of training horse and rider. I have seen many riders in our own program and at the competitions work very hard to ride their horses in a correct way, through balance of horse and rider and communicating through the natural aids. A value that I will always appreciate when a horse is working willingly at what his rider is asking. Western Dressage is attracting those horse owners that are looking for the best welfare of their horses.

Finally, Western Riders have tangible test books with details of each element at each level and gaits. Western Dressage is about competing with yourself and always improving you skills to be the best you can be. For those who compete, you are always a winner as you compete to a correct national standard.

You don’t have to compete to be a winner in Western Dressage though. The Levels are guidelines to be successful with riding skills, the development of your horse’s training, willingness and harmony with your horse!! I have seen a huge difference in Western riders and their horses having Western Dressage as their guideline. Riders with correct position and balance, soft and invisible aids to communicate and the correct balance of the horse comes from the accuracy of the figures, maneuvers and transitions in a test. Seeing horses and riders working in harmony gives me all the passion to share my Classical Dressage Foundation with Western Riders and their Western horses.

As horse owners it is our responsibility to bring out the best in our horses. Western Dressage is the foundation to preserve the Western Heritage. Western Dressage is a fun journey doing the levels. It is the foundation to multi western disciplines. I look forward to encourage the Ranch horse enthusiasts to learn Western Dressage. It will be a successful match! Given time and patience there is a place for every breed of horse and all levels of riders. Join the ride—look out —ride one test and you will be hooked!

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