Lynn Palm Explains Growing Discipline Of Western Dressage
TALES FROM THE TRAILS
By ELLEN ROSENBERG
It does sound like an oxymoron, but Western Dressage is “the next best thing for the industry, since it is all about developing willing horses and correct ethics of horsemanship,” according to Lynn Palm, an advisory director for the Western Dressage Association of America.
Based in Ocala since 1998, Palm was the 2007 American Quarter Horse Association Horsewoman of the Year, named AQHA Female Equestrian of the Year by the WDA and has ridden bridleless dressage exhibitions at the National Horse Show, 1989 World Cup and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. “I started out with Quarter Horses and have always been interested in multi-disciplines,” Palm said. “Quarter Horses are versatile enough to be good at all kinds of riding, including dressage. I found out about Western Dressage at the World Equestrian Games last year in Lexington, Ky. Basically, it’s traditional dressage done while riding in a western saddle.”
Dressage helps all riders and all horses, she said. “‘Dressage’ is just a French word meaning ‘training.’ This is a great way to help even more riders learn how to help their horses become balanced and well-trained, and learn good ethics of horsemanship,” Palm said.
Western Dressage mirrors exactly the same important traditions of traditional dressage. “You must gain the respect of the horse, build a relationship, develop the horse’s ability and ride with accuracy and precision,” Palm said. “The ultimate goal is for horse and rider to be in perfect balance and harmony.”
Palm finds Western Dressage a great fit for many riders. “Good training is at the heart of all riding,” she said. “Watching a horse that has beautiful movements and smooth transitions is a wonderful thing. These are the common denominators of all training and are applicable to any discipline: trail, endurance, hunters, reining, equitation. Learning this new discipline will help riders improve.”
There’s also a great deal of interest in Western Dressage, especially among women. “Female riders of a certain age tend to feel more confident riding in western saddles,” Palm explained. “There’s more security, and that’s OK. The nice thing about this is it makes dressage more accessible to a lot of people. You don’t need the big expensive Warmblood and the costly equipment. You can do this on any old horse and get down and dirty.”
Happily, the Jupiter Horsemen’s Association will be offering both English and Western dressage classes in its upcoming shows this season. The first show will be Nov. 12, and the association is having a Western Dressage clinic Sunday, Oct. 30 at the Jupiter Horse Park. Janell Pledger is chairing the dressage shows. “I’ve ridden dressage for many years,” she said. “This is the first time we’ll be offering Western Dressage classes. I think it will open the door to more backyard horse owners and get them involved in an exciting new discipline. It’s a lot of fun.”
Pledger said the clinic will run from 9 a.m. until whenever it ends. There’ll be an introductory talk about the differences between English and Western dressage and how they mesh together, and then each participant will be able to practice riding a test.
“We’ll be teaching and giving input,” Pledger said. “There’s no limit to how many can participate. The more the merrier. Any riding level is OK.”
The cost is $5 for members and $25 for nonmembers, and that includes lunch. Auditors are welcome for $10 — and you still get the lunch. “RSVP at least a week in advance so we can plan ahead,” Pledger said. “We will give you a ride time. We’ll also have entry forms and copies of the tests we’ll be using. The classes will be $8 each.”
The Palm Beach County Horseman’s Association doesn’t offer these classes.
“We don’t do dressage, either English or Western,” President Ann Root said.
The Palm Beach County Mounted Posse would like to. “We would love to offer these classes,” President Alyce Michelbrink said. “It would be wonderful. We’d have to look into getting qualified judges. I wish Jupiter all the best, and hope they do well.”
“Don’t let the word ‘dressage’ intimidate you,” Palm stressed. “You can do it!”
For more information about the Western Dressage clinic, call Janell Pledger at (561) 252-7326 or visit www.jupiterhorsemens.org.