Building a Partnership with Your Horse – Why is Western Dressage such a Popular New Discipline?

by | January 25th, 2013 2:32 PM | Comments Off on Building a Partnership with Your Horse – Why is Western Dressage such a Popular New Discipline?

by Lynn Palm

This article really begins with a story.

In 1997, I tried to upgrade my business of training and competing with horses in multiple disciplines into something else by changing my approach to basic training. I tried to use the term “Dressage Principles” as a basis for Palm Partnership Training’s teaching and education guidelines.

Using the word “dressage” hurt our educational merit in the beginning. I would have people come up to me at horse expos, and write letters, emails, and Facebook messages noting that they were Western riders and “didn’t do” dressage. Others said that dressage is too difficult to ride, and they could never achieve it. People would even make comments saying, “I am a trail rider, and I don’t ride dressage!”

Hearing this over and over made Cyril, Marie-Frances and me all agree we shouldn’t use the term “Dressage Principles” as a basis for our training and teaching methods at that time. So we didn’t.

Ironically, 15 years later people started coming to us and saying things like, “We take dressage lessons and ride western!” and “I want to learn dressage because I know it is going to make me a better rider for my horse.” We agree it wasn’t the right time back then to introduce such a strong term, but now it is part of the Palm Partnership Training fundamentals. Dressage principles truly allow you to become the best partner for your horse!

I am truly blessed to have dressage as my first influence in riding and training horses. Cyril also learned dressage as his basis for riding. Cyril is from Europe where dressage is taught to all riders before they advance to jumping or 3-day event riding. “Dressage” is a French word that means “training” a horse. It is the TRUE natural horsemanship of riding and training a horse, because it allows us to truly understand what the horse is telling us and how to tell the horse what we want.

These are the main reasons why western riders are so excited about this new discipline. They are realizing all the natural horsemanship techniques that we Americans are coming up with are both good and bad. However, we should also follow the dressage principles of classical dressage because it has already proven successful for centuries.

When I learned to ride in the dressage saddle, I would go home and ride Western the same way. NO difference! It really works! Western riders are looking to train a willing horse and not train through submission. Harmony with the horse is what horse owners want whether they are a recreational rider or show ring competitor. This is the beauty of western dressage and why it is going to grow and become even more popular. The best part of western dressage is that it is helps people learn the correct ethics of horsemanship and how to train a willing horse.

The bottom line is that people want to learn more about correct riding and training. Dressage will give you the tools to achieve this correctness. It is all in following the Training Pyramid and the dressage levels. There are western dressage tests you can access at The perfect way to learn is to practice these tests.

Western dressage is for all breeds of horses. It is for the first-time horse owner and for the owner who has had horses all his/her life.

I love to hear horse owners say, “the more I ride and learn the more I realize how much more I don’t know!” Dressage will fill that gap and give you inspiration. Lastly, dressage will give you wonderful challenges for riding correctly and with accuracy during riding tests. It is fun and is similar to the sport of figure skating. It is done with athleticism, which brings out beauty and grace. It reveals lightness and the ability to harmonize with the horse. I promise, if you ride a test, you will get hooked. Join us, and I promise you will love it.

For more information about training courses, educational materials and much more, please visit or call 800-503-2824.

About the Author

A pioneer among women in the horse industry, Lynn Palm has long had a passion for teaching, and began instructing clinics in 1970, long before any of her contemporaries had even considered horsemanship instruction as a viable profession. She and her husband created Palm Partnership Training with the mission of improving the rider first and foremost, by educating others on forming correct riding skills and building knowledge to increase the riding longevity of their horses. Lynn offers a unique video and book library, as well as hosts a show on HRTV.

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