The Journey of the Western Dressage Association® of America (WDAA)

6/9/2013    By: Western Dressage Association of America

Like the tale of a great cowboy story, a monumental journey began in the kitchen of a house in a small town in Texas.  It was there that a gathering of horsemen and women begin to discuss the merits for the use of Dressage for the Western horse; “Western Dressage” emerged. Understanding the need for an organization to provide education and resources for this discipline, the Western Dressage Association® of America (WDAA) was formed as the first national entity for Western Dressage.  In 2010, the application for the WDAA to be a 501(c)(3) educationally based nonprofit was accepted by the Internal Revenue Service.  Now a short, three years later, the WDAA has grown from a fledging group to a movement of riders devoted to being better for their horses with a mission that is being adopted around the world!

As the Western Dressage Journey continues, new opportunities abound.  Currently the WDAA is under review to become the Recognized Affiliate Association for Western Dressage with the USEF.  People are now being given the opportunity to share their thoughts on Western Dressage and the WDAA with the USEF. Tuesday June 11, 2013 is the last day to submit your comments to the USEF via email at

Your voice matters and we hope that you will let your support of the WDAA be heard.

From the inception of the Western Dressage Journey, the WDAA has believed in the value of creating an organization with a solid foundation of structure, responsibility, educational offerings, inclusion, community and fun.  The WDAA has looked to respected members of the equine industry to help carefully and thoroughly craft building blocks that will stand the test of time and provide consistency in its rules, tests and education.

Another part of the Journey was building Alliance relationships with Breed Associations including the American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA), the International Friesian Show Horse Association (IFSHA), the American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA), the Andalusian and Lusitano Show Alliance, the Pinto Horse Association of America (PtHA) and the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC).  These Breed Alliances not only support the WDAA and its educational mission, they have adopted the WDAA Western Dressage Rules and Tests as educational tools and competitive events.  WDAA Rules and Tests were adopted by the USEF for use in the Morgan Breed division for 2013.  The Arabian Horse Association (AHA) Board of Directors recently voted to use the rules and tests of WDAA for Western Dressage classes starting in the 2014 competition year.

In 2011, both the Friesian and the Morgan World Championships offered Western Dressage.  In 2012, the Pinto World Show and Color Breed Congress joined the line up with an equally overwhelming response.  This year, in addition to each of these previous events, the WDAA adds the Western Dressage OPEN World Championships which will be held in conjunction with the Color Breed Congress in Tulsa, OK.

Another part of the Journey is the establishment of a State Affiliates program, which includes many that are licensed and operating as well as many more in different stages of the application process.  Recognized State Affiliates are separately incorporated not for profit associations, who share the mission and vision of the WDAA. Each Affiliate is able to respond to local needs within the geographic area of its own state; optimizing learning events, clinics and shows; and offering targeted benefits to members who also wish to join their State Affiliate.  The WDAA provides each Affiliate organization a broad framework of benefits which include website access, social media, and educational resources as well as access to the WDAA 501(c)(3) group tax exemption for membership donations. As Diane Raucher-Miller, a Massachusetts Affiliate organizer has stated, “they [WDAA] have carefully outlined timeframes and insurance policies that prove that they are thoughtful and professional in their endeavors. They [WDAA] will not put other professional horsemen at risk for being rash or unprotected in their involvement with the WDAA.”

The WDAA is also seeing a growing popularity internationally. The Western Style Dressage Association of Canada (WSDAC) was the first to request a collaborative effort in bringing WDAA Western Dressage to an international audience. In 2013, WSDAC adopted the WDAA 2013 Western Dressage tests to foster a more cohesive educational mission. Elaine Ward, President of the WSDAC has this to say, “WDAA has been our inspiration for fairness and integrity. They have graciously allowed Canada to use their tests this year. The whole association is full of amazing volunteers and above board professionals.” Other International Alliances are forming and requesting to be aligned with the WDAA such as Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and a large number of European countries.

One of the most important rides in this Journey is the WDAA Western Dressage Rules and Tests. Developed for the 2013 competition year, the WDAA Rules and Tests were crafted by professionals with in-depth backgrounds in both western and dressage, to provide a training platform as well as for exhibitors and shows ranging from local schooling shows which offer Western Dressage to World Championship Shows for all breeds (including those USEF recognized and non USEF recognized breeds). To quote a Dressage instructor who teaches English and Western riders, “The tests clearly outline the levels through which each horse and rider should become proficient before they move up to the next level.”

Educational offerings are a key element in the WDAA Journey.  Tests offer riders the opportunity to attain feedback on their partnership with their horse.  The WDAA Train the Trainer™ program guides equine professionals through classroom and arena demonstrations of and discussions about the sequential curriculum of Western Dressage training.  Jim Badger, Maine Affiliate organizer and Cathy Drumm, Massachusetts Affiliate organizer participated in the second TTT Clinic both agree… “Happy to be part of an organization that supports, helps and recognizes the work and time people are putting into creating a better relationship with their horses.” Additional offerings targeted to equine professionals are in development to further advance the appreciation of and understanding for the use of dressage fundamentals in developing the Western riding horse.

Our Corporate partner, provides a wide spectrum of opportunities for WDAA members to receive online coaching from a diverse group of experts as well as the ability to participate in competitions online. has committed its significant resources to partner with WDAA in its educational mission by creating a wide variety of educational materials for the emerging discipline of Western Dressage. Additionally to assist riders, trainers and judges, the WDAA and have compiled video of various horses and riders working through each of the sixteen (16) WDAA Western Dressage Tests from Introductory Level through Level 2. These videos were filmed to show how the tests are ridden and the flow from one movement to the next. In mid-June, these videos will be available on the WDAA website: as well as on the Western Dressage page:

The WDAA has been guided throughout the Journey by leadership, strategy, and policies of its Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and its committees, all of which are volunteer positions and provide their services without funding. Each of the many distinguished professionals has contributed to the mission, vision and direction of Western Dressage. With each program and plan, the WDAA remains focused on its mission in continued development of more educational resources for its members, instructors, clinicians, judges and anyone who wishes to create a more harmonious relationship with their horse through Western Dressage.

The WDAA recognizes the significant journey for both horse and rider which benefits from the practice of Classical Dressage techniques blended in the goals and hallmarks of the Western riding horse.  It is the belief of the WDAA that partnership with the USEF, among other equine organizations and breed associations, can further related educational offerings and competitive events while being ever mindful of the organization’s mission, vision and values. If you wish to understand more of the WDAA’s journey with Western Dressage and its motivation to seek USEF Recognized Affiliation status, please visit our website at While you are there, feel free to browse around the rest of the site, partake of some of wonderful blog articles written by professionals or even horse owners such as yourself… we love to share, communicate, connect but more importantly educate.

The Western Dressage Association® of America is a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization focused on providing a model of horsemanship which optimizes the partnership of horse and rider for their mutual benefit.  The mission of the Western Dressage Association® is to honor the horse, to value the partnership between horse and rider and to celebrate the legacy of the American West which it focuses on through its offerings of educational opportunities and events to the equestrian community. Read more about Western Dressage and the WDAA at their website