How to Become a USEF Western Dressage Judge

JudgesEducationLogoWDAA takes its educational mission seriously.

One of the educational programs that WDAA has developed and continues to build upon is the Judges’ Education Program.  USEF licenses judges for Western Dressage but the education of these individuals is the responsibility of WDAA working closely with the Licensed Officials Committee of USEF (LOC).

When WDAA became the USEF Recognized National Affiliate for the discipline of Western Dressage there was an immediate need for a pool of judges to officiate.  With this need in mind, the initial Western Dressage rules specified that USEF licensed dressage judges were able to officiate in Western Dressage.  At the same time, WDAA moved aggressively to create several programs that would “grandfather” in some judges to provide them with licenses to judge Western Dressage and to create an Accelerated Training Program.  The Grandfather process has ended and the ATP program will end in mid 2017.

The first step for an individual who is interested in obtaining a license to judge Western Dressage is to attend the WDAA Judges’ Seminar which is offered around February each year.  This was initially a one day program but has expanded to two days and will likely add an additional session in 2017.  Several knowledgeable clinicians present a variety of programs ranging from tack and attire to judging mechanics, to rail class requirements and specifications, to gaited presentations to practice judging. At this seminar, applicants will take a written test on USEF rules and must receive a passing grade. This program attracts participants from a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from dressage judges to L program graduates to breed judges to individuals who have never held a judging card.  The first challenge for every participant is to develop a “new eye” for Western Dressage.

In the second step of the process, the judge applicants are required to complete an online judging test consisting of at least 16 ridden tests. These tests will be evaluated and results passed on to the LOC. The third step is apprentice judging. Applicants must apprentice at least 3 USEF competitions, evaluations from the sitting judges are submitted to LOC. LOC has the final word on acceptance and promotion of judge applicants.

This thorough and challenging process is focused on providing a pool of skilled, well-educated judges to officiate in Western Dressage.  USEF works closely and constantly with WDAA to improve this educational program.  In 2015, WDAA offered their first Group Apprentice Judging program at the WDAA Western Dressage World Championship show.  This is an ideal situation for apprentice judging; the show offers the greatest range of tests at all levels for Western Dressage.  The 2016 Apprentice Judging Program at the WDAA World Championship show will be greatly expanded to three judge clinicians who will work with smaller groups and offer an opportunity for participants to work with several judge clinicians over three and half days of competition and special networking opportunities.

WDAA is determined to provide each competitor the opportunity to ride a Western Dressage test before a well-educated and qualified judge.  The scores and the comments from Western Dressage judges are our guide to improve our skills and to chart our training course forward with our equine partners.  These judges help to guide our Journey.

For a list of licensed USEF Western Dressage Judges please visit and perform a keyword search for “Western Dressage”.


2 Responses to “How to Become a USEF Western Dressage Judge

  • Shelia Ellison
    2 years ago

    I would like to know more about how I can become a western dressage judge. I am a trainer/ instructor but do not hold any judges cards. I’m new to this association and want to be involved.

    • Diana Swanson
      2 years ago

      Hi Shelia,
      WDAA would be thrilled to have you as a USEF licensed judge! Please review the above blog article titled ” How to become a USEF Western Dressage Judge” if you have more questions please go to the Judges Education page on this website, also the Officials and Education section is very helpful. Make sure that you are on the WDAA email list so you get notices about the judges clinics and Group apprentice judging opportunities. We wish you the best in your quest!
      Diana Swanson – WDAA Staff