Biography of the Western Dressage Association® of America

From time to time the WDAA receives questions regarding the origination of our organization and the opportunities we offer to horse and rider. This is an excellent compilation of that information.

The Western Dressage Association® of America was developed with the input, feedback and experience of many wonderful horse people.  While a few of those folk have now gone ways necessary for their own needs and business, most firmly believe in this discipline, our mission and still interact with us as advisers and teachers.  From our inception our mission has always been:

 To build an equine community that combines Western traditions of horse and rider with Classical Dressage.
We honor the horse.
We value the partnership between horse and rider.
We celebrate the legacy of the American west.

We have never deviated from that mission and use it to guide our trail as well as in the design, development and implementation of all of our educational endeavors.

The WDAA is an educationally based 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  We chose this structure as a reflection of our commitment to education and community built on behalf of the horse and rider.  We believe in developing partnerships to strengthen the equine industry through offerings that enhance opportunities available to horses and riders of all experience levels and backgrounds.  We strive for and enjoy partnerships with

  • Equine Organizations (like the USEF and we are working for the same with a multitude of others),
  • Breed Associations (we are currently affiliated with 10 with more in the works and have many more we associate with in a variety of capacities),
  • International Western Dressage Partners (Western Style Dressage Association of Canada and Western Dressage Association of Australia for example),
  • State Affiliates (we have 13 active and over 30 more in development)
  • Other Educational Partners (including businesses both in and out of the equine world).

Having such fantastic partnerships is key in the development of programs.  The WDAA Cornerstone Education Program addresses the needs of riders as well as industry professionals.  We currently are running two targeted learning opportunities Train the Trainers™ and the WDAA Western Dressage Judges Education Program (which is the fundamental educational element in attaining a USEF Western Dressage License).  We even have a points and awards system forthcoming to celebrate the accomplishments of horses of all types; a wonderful offering that not only rewards the growth and success of a horse and rider partnership – but also one that adds value to horses regardless of background, breed or registration (an excellent factor for rescues or grade horses too!)  And these programs are only the tip of the iceberg… so many more are being explored or are in our development pipeline.

While it may appear that we are only a top down entity we are really the organizational or administrative structure for a movement that is founded in the needs of a large segment of the equine community.  One of the many wonderful components of the WDAA is the ability to disseminate information and education via our website and social media.  We use this feature as a tool to assist with the growth and development of the discipline as a whole.  Another excellent feature of our structure is the ability to extend our 501(c)3 status via a “Group Exemption Model” to support the growth of Affiliates (via educational as well as increased access to funding, sponsorships, grants, etc).  Those Affiliates can then customize events, activities, clinics and shows to the needs of their geographical region.

And then there are the Rules and Tests which at their roots are a learning and growth challenge and assessment.  Whether or not a partnership ever enters the show ring these test allow for the opportunity to evaluate physical and mental growth in the horse and rider relationship.  They promote progressive development and enhance the longevity of the horse – not to mention they provide key fundamentals for any and all disciplines or equestrian pursuits.  If the team receives feedback from a Judge those comments can be applied to a training plan and the successes both noted and celebrated.  The collective marks focus on good horsemanship elements including:

  • Gaits (the freedom and regularity of the horse’s movement – which accounts for each individual horse’s type and build)
  • Impulsion (transmission of an eager and energetic, yet controlled, positive forward energy generated from the hindquarters into the athletic movement of the horse)
  • Submission (attention, willingness, confidence, harmony with rider, lightness and acceptance of the bit)
  • Rider’s position, seat and hands (well balanced and elastic seat, demonstrating vertical alignment, with light and independent contact from hand(s))
  • Rider’s correct and effective use of the aids
  • Accuracy (precision of placements of the figures and execution of transitions)
  • Harmony (willing partnership of horse and rider, resulting in a free flowing performance)

And in those elements the tests not only offer an educational value, but also clearly tie back to the WDAA mission.

Western Dressage really is not a new revolution, but one with deep roots that span hundreds of years of horsemanship in the saddle (both Western and Classical Dressage).  At its heart, the Western Dressage Association® of America is really a vessel organization, intensely focused on the needs and education of the community of those devoted to celebrating the magic of the horse and devoted to learning and growing as partners for our equine friends.

We hope you will share the magnificent ride that is Western Dressage!

“…It’s about the Journey!”


2 Responses to “Biography of the Western Dressage Association® of America

  • Diane Kaser
    4 years ago

    Our Michigan affiliate is growing. At our first annual banquet, we all got to meet the other members and what a nice bunch of people. I am glad to be a part of Western Dressage. Our farm’s mission statement is We are all dedicated to the ongoing education of horse and rider. We believe you never stop learning.

    Thanks for what you do.

  • Carol Baldwin
    4 years ago

    This is an extremely helpful article. As an affiliate leader I can share this with our growing membership. It is informative, focuses on the educational aspect of the WDAA and, because of this focus, the WDAA’s status as a 501 c 3. All of this is structured to last and grow in a positive way, good for all, horses and riders. WDAA’s structure is NOT a business as I understand Cowboy Dressage to be. The benefits WDAA puts forth are for the good of all members and sponsors! Love it!