Within the past few years the equestrian community has seen several new riding disciplines emerge. There are many styles and types of riding seen across the globe, from trail horses that spend most of their days herding cattle across the land, to hunter jumpers that spend hours in the ring. Some of the more traditional riding styles are: dressage, show jumping, reigning, western pleasure, driving and vaulting. Of course there are countless more, but the two newest disciplines that I find interesting are western dressage and mounted shooting. Every day I talk to a broad spectrum of equine customers, some ride dressage, others vault and several barrel race. Over the past two years I have encountered more and more customers who ride western dressage and participate in mounted shooting events. I thought it may be interesting to go into a little more detail about these two riding styles.
The United State Equestrian Federation describes western dressage as “A systematic and progressive system of training for the western horse and rider in traditional stock tack with the purpose of enjoying a safe, pleasurable, versatile and useful working horse.” The test is set up much like a standard dressage test. The ring size is the same, as well as many of the movements. The horse and rider are judged as a pair through a series of movements and given a score at the end of the test. Now to me western dressage seems like the hybrid baby of the standard dressage discipline and western pleasure. To many avid equestrians this has become a very popular style of riding. I see more and more friends on social media that have transitioned to this new style of riding. Who knows, maybe someday I will get adventurous and leave my comfortable dressage saddle for a pair of cowboy boots and western saddle.
The other popular style of riding I have been hearing about is mounted shooting. When I think of mounted shooting I envision the old Wild West days when cowboys would shoot from horse back and spend hours in the saddle. For this competition, a pattern is set up with ten balloons in which a rider must shoot all ten in the quickest time. One may think that sounds easy, but you have to gallop around the course all the while having perfect aim and the shooting skills to pop each balloon. I’m sure it would take me many hours of practice just to get the pattern down, let alone the shooting part. For those of you worried about safety the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association mandates that all guns are loaded with black powder and no live ammunition. For the ambitious western rider this seems like a fun and exciting new competition to try.
Today equine disciplines have become increasingly diversified. Maybe as the snow and cold slowly fades you should try something new. I have a friend that rides and trains cutting horses, I might be able to convince her to trade lessons on each other’s horses. I always wanted to try reining and cutting lessons. I’m sure she would be happy to learn a few dressage moves too!
The United States Equestrian Foundation. “Western Dressage.” March 2015. www.usef.org.