Western Dressage at the National Western Stock Show

2/11/2013    By: Pat Van Buskirk

Since 1906, the National Western Stock Show in Denver has been the Super Bowl of livestock shows. On January 24th at this year’s show, Cliff Swanson, along with the Western Dressage Association® of Colorado, presented a two hour clinic in the basics of Western Dressage. Drawing from his skill set clinics, Cliff was able to demonstrate what he normally teaches in five or six half-day clinics.

Cliff explained the history of dressage, as he began with a demonstration of aids, magnificently mounted on his Morgan stallion “Tuffy”. Cliff and Tuffy had been practicing earlier in the arena for their evening performance of “Dancing With Horses”. Tuffy, thinking he was entering a dark arena with lights and loud music, was pretty excited when he came through the gate. With his shiny dark coat and high-stepping gaits, he and Cliff were really crowd pleasers.

Cliff began his clinic by introducing the riders - Chris Sletten, Neide Cooley, Alida Near and Olivia Floyd. Their horses were a great mix to demonstrate the versatility of Western Dressage – Arabian, Morgan, and Quarter Horse. Alida’s Quarter Horse Palomino was a new acquisition, this being only her second ride with him. They did great!

Starting with the basics, Cliff moved the riders in a 20 meter circle, explaining inside leg to outside rein both to the riders and spectators. Cliff does a wonderful job of engaging the audience. The crowd of 300 or more stayed during the entire presentation, cheering for the riders as they maneuvered their horses through Cliff’s directions. Olivia’s Morgan gelding was a little nervous at first and the crowd quieted to help her work with him. He soon relaxed and drew a round of applause when they successfully completed their lateral work.

From the basic 10 and 20 meter circles, through lateral work and demonstrations of each gait, Cliff and the riders gave the crowd a very thorough look at the discipline of Western Dressage. Following the demonstration, Mary Gunn, WDACO President and Nancy Miller, Vice President/Clinic Coordinator, greeted the line of people inquiring about how to participate or just learn more about our fun sport.

From left to right, Alida Near on her newly acquired Palomino Quarter Horse, Olivia Floyd on her Morgan gelding, Neide Cooley on her Morgan gelding and Chris Sletten on her Arabian mare.

Pat Van Buskirk is a founding member of WDAA and serves as the Technical and Website Manager on the Board of Directors for the Western Dressage Association® Colorado Affiliate. She is an avid horse enthusiast and has been writing for various horse and auto magazines since 1994.

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