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Six Feet on the Ground Guidelines

Six Feet on the Ground

2014 Guidelines from North American Western Dressage

Working with our horses on the ground is the first step in developing a partnership and we should consistently take the opportunity to evaluate this most basic foundation building activity.  There are many different ways that people train their horses on the ground, and this program allows you freedom and flexibility to work with your horse in the way that is most effective for you. 

This is NOT a showmanship class.  Scores are not based on where you stand, how you hold the lead, or how much bling is on your halter or clothing.

 In Six Feet on the Ground, we emphasize the principles in the training scale, which is applicable to every discipline and provides a working model for success even before we get in the saddle.

The arena or area in which you perform the test does not have to be a dressage court.  Any safe, flat, level area that you have available will work for this program.

Test Rules:

1)      The Horse may be shown in any type of halter and lead rope for NAWD Six Feet on the Ground for all tests.

 a.      No chains are allowed.

2)     The Horse may be shown with a snaffle or bosal for NAWD Six Feet on the Ground Tests #6 and #7.

3)     No NAWD Six Feet on the Ground Tests may be shown with a curb or spade bit.

4)     The handler may use an artificial aid such as a whip, lariat, or training stick.

5)     Leg protection for the horse is allowed.

6)     The handler’s clothing should be neat and clean and shall include a shirt with a collar, jeans or chaps, and boots with a heel.  Helmet is allowed, but not required.

7)     All age horses and handlers are allowed.

8)    The horse may be shown at liberty and scores will reflect the added difficulty.

Maneuver Guidelines:


For this exercise, you should be positioned in front of your horse’s shoulder the entire time with your shoulder adjacent to the horse’s neck. The horse should remain relaxed with head level or slightly above the withers and the tempo of the footfalls should be steady and even.  Rhythm and Relaxation at the walk and the trot are keys to your success.  The horse should lead in a straight line with the footprints of the hind legs following in the tracks of the front feet without drifting sideways, becoming crooked, charging ahead, or dragging behind.


For this exercise, you should stay to the side of the horse’s head but in front of your horse’s shoulder or you may stand directly in front of the horse.  Maintain a steady and even tempo to the footfalls as the horse steps straight back.  The horse should remain relaxed with head level or slightly above the withers.  The horse should step freely back with each diagonal pair of legs moving together.  The horse should back without being crooked or drifting.

Circling the handler – walk or trot

In this maneuver, the horse should walk or trot around the handler with a steady tempo and rhythm.  The horse should demonstrate a relaxed state of mind and body.  The horse must be 12 to 15 feet away from the handler.

Handler Change Sides of the Horse

In this maneuver, the handler should change from being on one side of the horse to the other.  For example, the handler would go from the right to left side.  This maneuver can be accomplished by either having the handler step to the other side, or having the handler reposition the horse while the handler remains stationary.  The horse must remain calm, relaxed, and obedient during this change.

Change Direction on the Circle

The handler has the horse change direction on the circle by asking it to turn towards the handler and change directions while maintaining rhythm and cadence as it returns to the circle and continues the gait in the opposite direction.  This should be executed smoothly without resistance. 


The horse should stand quietly with all four legs square and straight. 

Turn on the Forehand

In a turn on the forehand, the horse moves his hindquarters around a front foot that either pivots or steps in a small circle.  The rhythm of the movement will be similar to that of the walk, having four beats.  The rear leg on the side of the handler should cross in front of the rear leg opposite the handler.

Turn on the Haunches

In a turn on the haunches, the horse moves his shoulders around a rear foot that either pivots or steps in a small circle.  The rhythm of the movement will be similar to that of the walk, having four beats.  The front leg nearest the handler should cross in front of the other front leg.

Side Pass

In a side pass, the horse will move laterally with the front and hind legs on the side of the handler crossing and passing in front of the front and hind legs on the opposite side as the horse moves away from the handler with a steady tempo and rhythm. The handler may position him/herself next to the horse to provide a cue for this movement.

Haunches Left or Right

In a haunches left or right, the horse will move forward on three tracks.  The horse should remain relaxed with head level or slightly above the withers and the tempo of the footfalls should be steady and even.  Rhythm and Relaxation are keys to your success. 

Rules for Judging

Horse and Handler will be judged on:

1)      Completion of the maneuver.

a.      The judge will evaluate all the maneuvers performed per the system described below.  An exhibitor will receive a total score even if all maneuvers are not completed.

2)     Performance of the Horse and Handler for the maneuver.

a.      Scores will be lower if the horse fails to exhibit relaxation, demonstrates rough or inconsistent  motion, improper footfall sequence, or other issues that detract from the harmony of horse and handler.

b.      Scores will be higher when footfalls of horse and rider are harmonious and in sync with one another, when the horse and rider demonstrate complete adherence to training scale values, softness, and fluidity of motion.

3)     Elements of the Training Scale exemplified with the maneuver.

a.      Rhythm, Relaxation, Connection, Impulsion, and Straightness are under evaluation at all times.

b.      Rhythm is evaluated as the movement of the horse maintaining the cadence of the footfalls in a steady and even tempo. A harmonious partnership between handler and horse will result in footfalls that are matched in tempo.   

c.       Relaxation is evaluated by both calmness of handler and horse.

d.      Connection is evaluated by responsiveness to the aids, both visible and imperceptible.  Excessive head or tail swishing or stiffness will be judged as a lack of connection and scores may be lower.  Fluid motion and timing of handler aids with movement of the horse may result in a higher score.

e.      Impulsion does not mean faster.  In this case, it is the horse’s willingness to move with lack of resistance in the direction that that handler chooses.  The evaluation also includes maintenance of the movement until completion of that maneuver.

f.        Straightness is evaluated for all maneuvers.  If the horse is travelling on a straight line, his body should be straight from nose to tail.  If he is travelling on a circle, the arc of his body should match that of the circle.

4)    Scoring

In NAWD “Six Feet on the Ground” tests, horse and handler are judged individually as they complete tests that become increasingly difficult as the horse and handler gain skills.  One or more judges score each horse and handlerScores can range from 0 to 10 with 0 being the lowest mark and 10 being the highest.  “Not executed” means that practically nothing of the required movement was performed.  Comments will also be given for each movement.




Not performed


Very Poor




Fairly Poor








Fairly Good




Very Good



Pattern for NAWD Six Feet on the Ground TEST 5

We thank Peg and Terry Helder for allowing us to use this pattern designed for the CRC program.

Midsummer Celebration Winners

Midsummer Celebration Winners-page1

NAWD Jackets

Sizes: XS - 2XL                                                                   $75 plus $8.00 shipping

Fabric: 100% Polyester Shell Bonded with Micro Fleece inside for water and wind resistance

  • Open Bottom with adjustable shock cord
  • Large #8 YKK Heavy Duty main zipper with rubber zipper pull
  • 2 Front pockets with YKK zippers and fabric pulls
  • Mesh front lining to cover inside seams and pocket bags
  • Shoulder and back seams located for decoration and added style
  • 1/2 Elastic cuffs for ease and comfort
  • Pleated sleeve
  • Women's Pricess cut

This jacket is very high quality and has an extremely flattering shape.  I found the sizes run a little big, I ordered a medium and wished I would have gotten a small but was able to have it sewn in. 

Trax Competition Details

Trax Competition

Cowboy Dressage, WDAA/USEF Tests, IPHDA and NAWD tests

Awards for first 6 placements in each class with a minimum of 3 horse/rider combination entries

Separate registrations are required for each horse/rider combination.

Scanned or photographed test sheets are submitted via Email within 10 days after the show and must include the judge’s signature

Top 3 scores from each class shall be averaged and used to determine placings, you must ride at least three tests in a season to qualify for year-end awards.

Awards shall be calculated and results posted to the website on a monthly basis.

Cowboy Dressage Division:  Buckles shall be awarded to high point Open, Amateur, and Youth Competitors. Minimum of 3 scores to qualify.  Thank you to Eitan and Debbie Beth Halachmy for their generous buckle sponsorship!

  • Cowboy Dressage Walk/Jog & Walk/Jog/Lope                              
  • Challenge Walk/Jog & Walk/Jog/Lope
  • Vaquero Walk/Jog  and Walk Jog/Lope
  • Amateur/Youth Ground Partnership
  • Gaited Cowboy Dressage

WDAA/USEF  Division, NAWD, and IPHDA:    Minimum of 3 scores within division to Qualify, Prizes to be announced                              

  • Intro                                      
  • Basic                                       
  • Level 1                                   
  • Level 2                                 
  • Level 3                             
  • Level 4
  • Level 5

Within each division, there shall be High Point awards for Open, Amateur, and Youth riders.  For 2014, there is a special DSS Legacy Trophy for riders over the age of 65

Open Division: ALL entries qualify for the open division

Amateur Division:  An Amateur is defined as a rider 19 years of age and over that does not train horses for a living

Youth Division: Anyone under the age of 19

Senior Division: For 2014, we have a special award for the high point rider in Western Dressage that is over the age of 65.  The DSS Legacy Award has been graciously donated by Donna-Snyder Smith  

Team Competition:  Teams are 3-4 members including the team captain, Team registration fee is $100 with a $25 discount for NAWD Professional Members or Youth Teams.  Upon registration, you will receive a form on which to list your team members.   

  • There will be a $10 change order fee for each change in members.
  • Teams can add and drop members, but a horse/rider combo cannot switch teams during the season.
  • Any trainer, club, organization, professional, or individual may form a team. 

Team Prizes: 

  • The winning team shall receive Championship Jackets
  • The 2nd place team shall receive T-Shirts and Medals
  • The 3rd place team shall receive Medals

General Instructions:

Separate registrations are required for each horse/rider combination.

  • Seasonal registration fee is $20 for NAWD premium members
  • $10 service charge for registrations received after May 1st
  • $20 non-member fee for basic or non-NAWD members
  • Competition season runs from January 31st- Dec 15th, 2014 with Winners to be announced by January 15, 2015

Upon payment, you will receive a link to the registration form, which will be hidden on the website and not available to the public.   Scanned or photographed test copies should be emailed within 10 days of the show to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  All scores will be recorded and available to the public, but only the top three scores from the highest test of each level will be averaged and used to determine placings.  Upon receiving three scores above 75% in any level, the horse/rider combo will be no longer eligible for that level and asked to move up. 

Why was NAWD created - Inclusion of All Breeds

The Western Dressage Association of America obtained recognition for Western Dressage tests at the USEF througn the MORGAN division

There is NO recognized testing for any other breed.  Our source at Far West in Oregon told us recently that if you do not have a morgan, you can not participate at recognized morgan shows.  

We believe that every breed should have the opportunity to receive feedback from the sanctioned judges that are only at recognized shows.   This is why we are working with the USEF to obtain liscensing for our tests and rulebook.  

Schooling shows are great ways to obtain feedback, but lots of people want more.  We are doing everything in our power to include all breeds.