Gaited horses, including Missouri Fox Trotters are making an impression in Western Dressage.  The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse is proving to be a perfect breed to not only compete, but excel in the WDAA.  Missouri Fox Trotters owners and Foxtrot Urbane members Lynne and Waland Burger of Big Barn Ranch, along with their trainer, Claudia Coley are always eager to learn more.

“Down the Centerline” with perpetual dressage student Lynne Burger.

Here I am reporting on the 2020 Western Dressage Judges Seminar that was conducted February 6th – 8 in Denver Colorado. My husband Waland Burger, our Dressage Trainer Claudia Coley and myself attended. I went to audit and Waland  and Claudia went to begin the process for their WDAA Judges Certification.
It was so worthwhile to audit this seminar. I learned so much as a student about what the judges are looking for and how they score. There is no guesswork here, it is a precise formula. Of course “general impression” can always vary, but with the guidelines that have been in place for so long, the scoring doesn’t vary that much.
While we were there, we got to hear several well-respected Classic Dressage Judges talk about the ” whys and wherefores ” of the scoring process. Claudia who is a Classic Dressage Licensed L Judge with Distinction, knew who several of these judges were and it was impressive to see how involved and enthusiastic they are about our Western Dressage!

Did I mention that the hotel was great, the food was great and the “Ubers”  were great?  We met so many nice people and several gaited people, including Judge Julie Haugen, who also shows gaited horses.  She taught that portion of the clinic,  so the gaited folks had very good representation, and our Missouri Fox Trotters got ” honorable mention.”
When you compete in Western Dressage, you will receive a score sheet. These are extremely helpful in knowing where you are in terms of your progress and where you need improvement.  There are ” Point Shows” and  “Schooling Shows “. The Schooling Shows are just that, you are schooling yourself and your horse. You get more feedback from the judge at these shows and you get lots of feedback from your horse!  The point shows are the polished shows., with the largest being the WDAA World Championship Show which will be in the fall. Good people there and lots of fun!
About the score sheets.  A lot goes into these score sheets, and I would have never thought that I could ever consider being a Dressage Judge, but you know, I think I could!  With the methodology and terminology, assistance, and first hand info, it can be done!  Part of the apprenticeship requires being an apprentice judge at several shows, and judging several shows online where you are scored on your score sheets.
So let me tell you about our Missouri Fox Trotters and the gaited horse judging.  For the Western Dressage gaited tests, the jog, which we call trot is replaced by the saddlegate,  because there are several gaited breeds. The saddlegait is our favorite middle gait, either trot or appropriate walk, as long as it is steady, rhythmic and balanced.  Judges want to see regularity of rhythm and tempo (gate and speed), relaxation and suppleness of the back, with a steady connection and bend.  All these are part of testing the riders aids.  Here is where the beauty of riding a test comes in and this is important!  Without riding a test with circles, up-and-down transitions, movements such as hunches in, shoulders in, lead changes, etc., you do not really test the correct and effective use of your aides!  This is big, and applies to any riding discipline.
Our aids are how we have a conversation with our horse and it just does not get better than that.  Come and get your feet wet with Western Dressage.  Did you know that there are Suitability, Equitation and Horsemanship classes as well?  Yes there are rail classes at the World Show!
Did you know, Missouri Fox Trotter horses earn credits in Western Dressage.  Check out the Divisions Page for a listing of everything you and your horse can do to earn credits.
Visit the WDAA website for the Events Calendar, and on YouTube there  are Judges Perspective WDAA Classes you can look at and actually listen to the judges scoring.  On Facebook you can find the WDAA Virtual Shows at Virtual Western Dressage Shows.  You can find the WDAA recognized online show guidelines for exhibitors here.
If you have any questions on any of this, or how to get started, just ask!  We have tons in common in Western Dressage. We all start at the beginning!
 – Lynne Burger
See all Lynne’s accomplishments on her horse J.J.’s Sweet Dream “Diva”
We would love your Missouri Fox Trotter to become a part of Foxtrot Urbane.  Become a member and enroll your horse today here.
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