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Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I join North American Western Dressage?

North American Western Dressage offers opportunities for members to compete in virtual and live schooling and recognized shows.  A basic membership, currently at no charge, will enable you to receive our newsletters packed with the latest information about Western Dressage.

Premium Membership can be purchased through our regional affiliates.  Premium members receive: 

  • Discounts on clinics and shows put on by North American Western Dressage and any of our regional affiliates.
  • Discounted rates for participation in the Virtual Schooling Shows 
  • Educational opportunities including online video coaching
  • Free access to select classes from the  Western Dressage University
  • Promotional support  for facilities, clubs, trainers, clinicians, and individual riders

What type or breed of horse excels at Western Dressage?

Any breed of horse can make an excellent Western Dressage horse. The organization is quite diverse and welcomes any horse that is physically fit enough to perform the movements. All breeds of horse benefit from learning the fundamentals necessary to improve their balance and athleticism.

What are the tack requirements?

A Western Dressage riders tack should be clean and fit the horse. Use of western saddles is acceptable and welcomed. Use of any traditional western headstall is appropriate. Western attire, belt, long sleeve shirt with a collar, and western footwear.  Beginning in 2012, western style cavessons will be allowed, but must be adjusted loose enough to permit two fingers comfortably between the cavesson and the horse's nose. The preference is for horses to be shown in a snaffle type bit, but traditional curbs allowed in most western pleasure classes will be permitted. A protective helmet is highly recommended for all riders but mandatory for those riders under the age of 18.

Is Western Dressage the same as traditional Dressage but with western tack?

No, Western Dressage and English Dressage, while similar are not the same. One of the most obvious differences in the two disciplines is the change in tack. Most gaits are the same including walk, trot and canter; the gait must be natural to the horse's confirmation.  Lightness of the hands is encouraged in Western Dressage and the contact from the rider to the horse should involve soft contact. North American Western Dressage NAWD is committed to preserving the quality and the progressive nature of the dressage training scale, but our judges will be trained to reward relaxation, suppleness, and rhythm.  There will not be rewards for the huge gaits seen in many of today's warmbloods.  As time goes on, we intend to incorporate more Western elements into our tests, but only if they will not compromise the quality of classical dressage

Is Western Dressage the same as Reining?

No, Western Dressage is not the same as Reining, but there are many similarities.  Western Dressage, like reining, seeks to have a well-trained, obedient, flexible, supple, and balanced horse.  However, we does not use spins, sliding stops, or run down movements as part of our training or test.  Reining is yet another discipline that can benefit from cross training in Western Dressage, and a retired reiner would make a great Western Dressage mount!


I am interested, what do I do now?

Join us to receive our newsletters and Contact us to let us know how you would like to get involved!

Does Western Dressage have its own dressage tests?

Yes.  North American Western Dressage has written six levels of Western Dressage tests, which is the equivalent of the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) 4th level tests.  These tests will be used for all NAWD recognized shows and we have applied for licensed affiliate status with the USEF.  Any show organizer is welcome to use our tests and we will help promote your show if you do, please contact us for more information.

There are also basic and primary tests available under the Morgan division of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF)


Do I or my horse need to be a member of any other organizations to participate in Western Dressage?

No, being inclusive to all people and breeds is part of  North American Western Dressage NAWD Mission Statement   There is no need for you to belong to another equine group or for your horse to have to be registered with a particular breed organization.