Western Dressage Show Etiquette

By Heidi & Kelly Adams of Grass Roots Western Dressage

Before the Show

1. Know the rules.

The rulebook is so important to Western Dressage. It puts everyone on a level playing field and is very educational as well. Download it, Print it and Read it. If you have questions find a knowledgeable person to ask, or post your questions in the WDAA Social Corral or other available groups. I have a pack I take to each show and it contains the tests and rules. It is very handy for anyone with questions.

Make sure the bit and equipment your using is legal. Also check your attire. You have enough to worry about when you get to a show without the added stress of changing equipment so your test will count.

Western Dressage is a group sport and we all need to be supportive of the people we ride with. After you read the rules and find that one of your friends is using illegal equipment let them know and show them the rules. Help them to find equipment that is legal or change the piece of their attire that doesn’t follow the rules.

As will all rulebooks there are controversies. If someone approaches you with questions PLEASE stick to the current rules. Don’t go off on what rules you don’t like and why they should be changed. There is a time and place to submit rule changes and it isn’t to the person in front of you that is new and learning. Be supportive of the discipline and the individuals that compete. We are very lucky to have such an incredible discipline to call our own. Be the face of camaraderie and support. People have enough drama in their lives and that is why they found Western Dressage and the incredible partnerships, both human and equine, within the discipline we have all come to expect and appreciate.

2. Entries:

Get your entries in on time and complete. I can tell you from lots of experience that one of the hardest shows to organize is a Dressage/Western Dressage show. It isn’t like a barrel race or Pleasure class where you can add another entry on the fly. Timing is Everything and WD shows run on down to the minute timing.

If you and your friend are calling for each other let the organizers know BEFORE the show. If you have a tack change or are helping someone else change let them know that as well. I’ve spent HOURS working on the schedule so that the show runs smooth and the judge doesn’t get behind.

There is nothing more stressful from the judge’s point of view than running behind schedule. There is no way to catch up.

The schedule will ALWAYS be posted days before the show. If you need a time change let the organizers know as soon as possible so that adjustments can be made. These people are working very hard to make sure you have a great show. Show them the respect they deserve and have earned by being flexible and proactive. Please don’t wait until the day of the show.

At The Show

3. Stewards

These people are walking rulebooks – it is their job to know. Please show them respect. If you have a question on equipment approach them before the show starts because if you have your bit checked after your test and it is not legal your test will not count.

4. Be ready before your scheduled time.

The schedule has been out for days so be respectful and ready to ride before your scheduled time. There are cases when the show runs ahead of schedule. Pay attention. You don’t have to ride before your scheduled time but please be aware of how the show is running. If it is ahead of schedule and you want to wait until your time let the steward know.

5. Right before your test.

Some shows will let you warm up in the ring while the judge is finishing with the ride before yours – Others require you to stay out until the bell rings. Know the procedure before you enter. Have your caller in place and ready to go.

6. Riding your test

Enter the ring as soon as possible after the bell. You do have 45 seconds but please don’t go out of your way to use all of them. You have lots of time while the judge is scoring the previous test for your warm up.

At the end of your test take a few steps forward, turn and exit the ring. There is no need for you to walk up to the judge and it only wastes valuable time. Respect the judge and let them score your test.

7. Stay out of the Officials way

During the show respect what I like to call the 40’ rule. Stay 40’ away from the entrance gate and 40’ from the Judge and Scribe. There is lots of room around a Western Dressage ring to watch from. Find an area away from the officials so that they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

8. If you see a way to help PLEASE STEP UP.

Putting on a Western Dressage show is a HUGE job. Setting up the ring and taking it down is much easier with help. When you finish your tests ask if there is a job that will help make the show run smoother. I have had people standing around waiting for the final scores tapping their toes while a couple of people are pulling down the ring. Step up and help where you see a need – PLEASE!

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