Five Grants for Western Dressage Riders have been Awarded

The Dressage Foundation (TDF) is pleased to announce that five grants for Western dressage riders have been awarded from TDF’s Lynn Palm Western Dressage Fund. This Fund was established in 2019 to initially provide grants for Western dressage educational events and was expanded in 2021 to also provide $1,000 grants to riders for their Western dressage education. 


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Leslie and Nox's Journey to the World Show

With a total of six western dressage tests under Equinox’s (Nox’s) cinch and my belt, we headed to the 10th annual World Western Dressage Show in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Nox is my novice husbands horse that was found on a ranch in Reno, Nevada. He is Clydesdale and quarter-horse cross. He was afraid of everything five years ago. A lot of trail rides, kisses and carrots lead him to trust my husband and I.Exactly one year before Worlds, Nox and I went to our first local horse show in Las Vegas. He could still not be cross tied and we nearly missed our morning classes because he wouldn’t load into the trailer. With Jessie Bonneau’s guidance, training, and friendship, we entered our first western dressage test last Spring. I memorized and practiced the wrong test (2017) and got a bell, but we finished. We decided that Nox was much better fit for WD, still not giving up on local English/western classes to build our relationship and performance.Nox and I have been built from the ground up. We started with my knowledge from 4-H many years ago and his memory of abuse and fear to where we are now, both physically and mentally. We placed third in our first rail class at the World show last week and improved on every test during the week. More importantly, Nox and I learned so much about each other. He was relaxed and confident his week at Worlds, much more than I was. When you say “It’s all about the journey” it really is. I could have bought a horse that was trained and ready to go and win, but I have different goals. I want to build a relationship with the best horse in the whole world, Nox. I want to see what we are made out of as a team. I want to set goals and succeed, growing along the way. I want my “husbands” horse to enjoy this journey as much as I do. So far, Nox and I are feeling amazing and enjoying our journey day by day. I wouldn’t give that up for any trophy or prize in the entire world. See you next year in Guthrie! Nox and I will be working hard and enjoying the journey everyday!

Submitted by Leslie Browder

Justin's Journey from Danny Sal Da Na

For Justin Byrom Cummins, entering the WDAA World Champion Show in Guthrie, OK was for him and us a unique and wonderous time filled with great moments, we and he will remember for a long time. 

I can't tell you how much or enough what this positive experience did for him.  Justin, is Savant Autistic. He came to Andrew James and I,  as a homeless 25 yo. man in distress 3 years ago by happen chance or divine intervention. Andrew & I took him in. He required a lot of mental health care which we were able to get for him. Over time he proved himself an invaluable asset with our 12 show horses. He and they bonded well with each other. He took on their care and maintenance for us. His connection with the horses, his fondness and how they work so well for him is wonderfully beautiful. 

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Meet the 2022 Top Hands

The Whittaker family of Massachusetts is making a difference in WDAA.

By Holly Clanahan

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Two Different Worlds

He’s a good ranch horse competitor, but Smart Dual Olena took home a top honor at the Western Dressage World Championship Show. 
By Holly Clanahan
Smart Dual Olena was just at the Lazy E Area in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in June, on high alert, looking for cattle. After competing at the American Quarter Horse Association’s Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships and scoring some top-10 finishes, “Brewster” returned to his old stomping grounds in late September to compete at another world championship show, in another discipline altogether. 
And apparently the Western Dressage World Championship Show was a good fit, as Brewster and his owner/rider Jan Halter left with a world championship, earning a score of 76.96 in Basic Test 3 Amateur.
Jan, who is from Leonard, Texas, bought her 18-year-old sorrel gelding about a year and a half ago, sight unseen.  
“I saw him in a sale catalog the night before a sale in Billings, Montana,” she said. “I really loved his look. I loved his breeding. (He is by cutting superstar Smart Little Lena, out of a daughter of Dual Pep). I called the guy in the morning and wound up buying him on a phone bid.” True to his breeding, Brewster had competed in cutting, as well as working cow horse, and had lately been used as a turnback horse for other cutters. 
Jan herself had ridden classical dressage for most of her 20s, 30s and 40s on warmbloods, Arabians and crosses. Then she decided a change was in order, so she moved to western performance horses and loves to compete these days in ranch riding and Versatility Ranch Horse cattle classes. 
“We don't work on this really,” Jan said of Western Dressage. “I work on basics just to get him soft.” But dressage basics – working on suppleness, responsiveness and maneuverability – help in any discipline. Just two weekends before the Western Dressage World Championship Show, Jan and Brewster won their division at a Versatility Ranch Horse show in southern Oklahoma. “OK, now we’re going to slow it down,” Jan said of their preparations for Guthrie. In suitability, their first class at the Western Dressage World Show, Brewster was a little watchy, Jan said, “because the last time he was in that pen was in June for the Versatility Ranch World, and he was 11th in the cutting.”
So while they’ve both drawn on their varied backgrounds as they came together for their Western Dressage World Show debut, Jan and Brewster have also been strengthening their relationship. 
The equine chiropractor who helps keep Brewster in top shape commented to Jan, “He’s never had his own human, has he?” Since the gelding was owned for most of his life by a trainer, Jan agreed that was probably the case. She set about to rectify the matter. 
After she bought him, she was told that he can be standoffish. He’d do his job but didn’t really want to be in anyone’s pocket. “But, you know, I carry carrots,” Jan said. “When he does something good, he gets a carrot. We couldn’t catch him at first, and now he’s like ‘Oh! Take me!’”
Reflecting on their journey, Jan said, “I try not to get real emotional about it, but it’s just really hard not to. I just love him.” 
Photos used with permission of the photographers. Cutting photo is by Walk This Way Photography and Western Dressage photo is by Caitlin Demura Photography. 

Paying Tribute

Two freestyle riders dedicate their rides to those who gave them their start. 
By Holly Clanahan
Owner, exhibitor, breeder, trainer, groom – these are the visible roles at a horse show, and they’re all essential. But there are other people who are equally important, if not more so – and those are the ones who gave us our start in horses. Realizing this, two exhibitors in the costume freestyle at the Western Dressage World Championship Show, held Sept. 27-Oct. 1, dedicated their rides to beloved family members and mentors. 
For Dayna Alanna Cocca of Aracanum, Ohio, it was her grandparents. Her grandpa, Wayne Campbell, especially supported her love for horses, and he bought her first pony, with the expectation that she would learn responsibility by paying for all his expenses. 
“He showed me what it meant to be both hardworking, successful and generous, as well as passionate about something you love,” Dayna wrote in a Facebook post. 
Wayne and his wife, Jayne, paid for Dayna’s riding lessons, which her single mother didn’t have the means to do. And today, she is a lovely rider, taking her mare, Rebellious Miss, into not only Western Dressage, but also a drill team and endurance riding. 
Their costume freestyle was to the theme of “Top Gun,” a nod to Wayne’s love of military aviation and the Tom Cruise movie. 
Sadly, neither of Dayna’s grandparents got to see her freestyle. “My grandma passed away in January of this year from a long battle with heart problems and COVID, and my grandpa is in a long-term care facility with late-stage Alzheimer’s,” she wrote. But she knew they’d be happy to see her having fun, putting herself out there at her first Western Dressage World Championship Show and her first in-person freestyle competition.  
Wayne would always ask her, “Are you having fun, kiddo?” And Dayna, wearing a flight suit with patches from a local refueling unit and riding the treasured 14-year-old mare she’s had since she was 3, was able to answer with an emphatic “yes.” 
“Elton John,” aka Michelle Frank of Cypress, Texas, rode into the costume freestyle ring immediately after Dayna, and she also had a higher purpose. She rode to honor her horse-show “mom” and mentor, Martha Pirnie, who died four months ago. 
“We sponsored a class in her honor because she loved this, and she loved the theatrics of the freestyle and the costumes,” Michelle said. “She has made me so many costumes, and we just wanted to do this in her honor.”  
Michelle’s mount in the costume freestyle was Aka Tango, a Paint gelding who had been owned by Martha before her health declined and she signed him over to Michelle. 
Martha had known about the Elton John-themed freestyle, and suggested that perhaps Michelle could ride to “The Yellow Rose of Texas” instead, since Elton John was “a little dramatic.” “It sure is (dramatic),” Michelle said she answered. “Your horse is a little dramatic. It’s a black-and-white Paint with a mohawk!” 
So even though Martha’s choice of music didn’t make it into the freestyle, Michelle and her friends are wearing yellow rose pendants in honor of Martha. “That way, we know she’s here with us,” Michelle said. “That was her favorite thing to do every year, was to come up here (to the Lazy E in Guthrie, Oklahoma, for the World Show.)” 
Michelle did ride another freestyle (not in costume) at the World Show on another horse, to music that had been selected by Martha. 
“She is the only reason why I’m doing (western dressage,)” said Michelle, who brought five horses and several riders with her to the World Show. Michelle’s background was in classical dressage, but Martha told her, “‘You have to try this.’ We did, and I fell in love, and now I have a little program.” 

September 2022 Newsletter

View the September 2022 WDAA Newsletter as a PDF!

CAWDA Announces WD Judges Scholarship

California Western Dressage Association announced its Western Dressage Judges’ Scholarship program, an annual award program to help potential Western Dressage judges achieve their goal.

CAWDA is offering a Western Dressage Judges' Scholarship to a selected CAWDA member who is considering becoming a Western Dressage judge or is in the process of going through the Western Dressage licensing program. All adult CAWDA members are eligible to apply except for those who are already USEF licensed large R western dressage judges. (Small "r" judges going for their large "R" may also apply.)

The CAWDA scholarship will cover the fee for the upcoming (2023) WDAA Judges’ seminar held in Colorado. One applicant will be selected by the CAWDA Board based on their application and a Board interview. Deadline for application submission is November 20, 2022.

Western Dressage judges are the cornerstone of our discipline. We are excited to be able to offer this award and welcome those who accept the challenge of becoming a licensed judge to apply.

For more information about the program and to access the scholarship application, visit our web page at

July 2022 Newsletter

View the July 2022 WDAA Newsletter as a PDF!

May 2022 Newsletter

View the May 2022 WDAA Newsletter as a PDF!

March 2022 Newsletter

View the March 2022 WDAA Newsletter as a PDF!

December 2021 Newsletter

View the December 2021 WDAA Newsletter as a PDF!

November 2021 Newsletter

View the December 2021 WDAA Newsletterto the PDF!

Racing Into Western Dressage

An ex-racehorse finds a home in a different discipline.

By Holly Clanahan

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September 2021 Newsletter

View the September 2021 WDAA Newsletter as a PDF!

July 2021 Newsletter

View the July 2021 WDAA Newsletterto the PDF!

May 2021 Newsletter

Your May 2021 Newsletter from WDAA

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AMHECT Announces the Ellen DiBella Western Dressage Scholarship

The American Morgan Horse Educational Trust (AMHECT) is thrilled to announce the creation of a NEW scholarship opportunity for AMHA members. The Ellen DiBella Western Dressage Scholarship was established to promote the use of Morgan horses within the growing discipline of Western Dressage.

Western Dressage seeks to improve balance, cadence, and carriage of both horse and rider. By combining the disciplines of Dressage with the Philosophies of Western Riding, Western Dressage seeks to improve our partnership with our horse. The goal is a happier, more sound horse, and a more aware and knowledgeable rider. Achieving these goals is a journey of technique, learning, growth, practice, and patience. To help Western Dressage Riders participating with Morgan horses, this scholarship hopes to allow riders to advance in their skills once they are well into the first level.

The Scholarship is named to honor Ellen DiBella of Parker, Colorado in recognition for her years of service to all things Morgan and especially her support in the creation of the Western Dressage Association of America (WDAA). Ellen has spent a lifetime supporting the Morgan industry via her countless volunteer roles including (but certainly not limited to) AMHECT Board of Trustee, AMHA Board of Director, USEF Board of Director, USEF Rules Committee Member, Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show® Committee Member and other countless subcommittees. Her passion for Western Dressage and her commitment to the WDAA is just one example of Ellen’s positive influence on the equestrian community.

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Announcing the 2021 Harmony Award

WDAA is very proud to announce the 1st Annual WDAA Harmony Award.

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Ring Savvy As Seen From The Judges And Scribes Perspective

By Sue Hughes and Mary Lynne Zylstra

Show season is almost here. Are you nervous? First time in the dressage ring or working hard to get those scores up from last year?

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