Fox Lea Farm Debuts Western Dressage

The Venice, Florida, horse-show hotspot hosted the first United States Equestrian Federation-recognized western dressage event.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Trainer Tim Christensen says the attention paid to details is just one aspect of western dressage that he finds appealing. (Credit: Shane Rux Photography) Scroll down to see more photos.

It comes as no surprise that Fox Lea Farm would make history by hosting the first United States Equestrian Federation-recognized western dressage event. The event, held on January 10 in conjunction with an AQHA split/combined horse show in Venice, Florida, was the first of its kind. And judging from the level of participation and enthusiasm, its growth is about to take off. 

Dressage is a term used to define a method of training through standardized training procedures. It uses “tests” in competition to determine a horse and rider’s competency as they pass through the various progressive and sequential stages of training. Traditionally, dressage has only been ridden in an English saddle. 

But no more – western riders are finally getting a chance to show their horse’s gymnastic abilities with western dressage. The show in Venice allowed American Quarter Horse exhibitors from all across the country to take a peak into the world of western dressage. Most took advantage of their bird’s eye view while sitting on top of their Quarter Horse, as they prepared to show in one of the other arenas.

Lynn Palm competes in western dressage at Fox Lea Farm  (Credit: Shane Rux Photography)
Lynn Palm

Throughout the day, western dressage exhibitors rode tests in Fox Lea’s Grand Prix arena. According to AQHA Professional Horsewoman Lynn Palm, the Grand Prix highlighted western dressage, allowing horse-show participants a great view from all four sides of the arena. 

Lynn, who has been training and competing successfully with Quarter Horses in traditional dressage for years, was impressed with the response from trainers and exhibitors. She and her husband, Cyril Pittion-Rossillon, along with staff member Marie-Francis Davis were on hand throughout the day prior to competition to answer questions from exhibitors. Both Lynn and Marie-Francis rode tests. 

Tim Christensen, a trainer from Myakka City, Florida, rode three tests on each of four different horses, competing in a total of 12 tests. He, like many trainers, has been using dressage techniques and methods in his everyday training for years. Tim says the attention paid to details is just one aspect of western dressage that he finds appealing. 

Tim had to revamp some aspects of his techniques, like the spur stop. To encourage the correct forward motion, he took off his spurs. He likes that you have to focus on every stride to have the accuracy required by the discipline.

“You can’t just quit riding when you come down to the walk” he said. There is also a lot of geometry involved. For instance, a 20-meter circle is judged on its exactness, as is the square halt and every other element of each maneuver. 

Tim said, “Western dressage compliments the all-around horse and the all-around horse compliments western dressage. They are a perfect fit for each other.”

The event has sparked interest from people who have shown, as well as those who have never shown and Tim intends to pursue western dressage with gusto.

“It will open up a whole new market for the Quarter Horse and for riders looking for a different venue,” he said. 

Stephanie Lynn competes in western dressage at Fox Lea Farm  (Credit: Shane Rux Photography)
Stephanie Lynn

Western dressage is the perfect fit for the American Quarter Horse, as their temperament and athleticism, combined with the unique elements of each test offer riders a never-ending list of techniques to learn and perfect. 

Kim Aldrich Farrell, organizer of the event, was encouraged by Lynn to hold the event.

“Western dressage is a discipline that is a great fit for many horses, riders and trainers,” Kim said. “It provides an avenue to expand their love of the equestrian sport and is a place to challenge them to continue to learn and grow. Equestrians are competitive and dressage is a place where the concept of competition is to strive to be better as a horse-and-rider team than you were the day before.” 

Lynn was very complimentary of the rides she saw that day. She said she was encouraged to “see horses happy in their work and riders trying to be the best rider for their horses.” 

Perhaps the best testimonial of the day came from the judge, Jodi Ely, who said, “The quality of the rides speaks for itself about the future of the sport.”

Jodi said she “saw happy riders on happy horses demonstrating quality basics.” Jodi is an L-rated United States Dressage Federation judge who competes in FEI dressage events. 

Without doubt, western dressage is an event the American Quarter Horse is well suited for. Stay up to date with all the latest news about western dressage and the AQHA by checking back often at www.aqha.com/showing

About Fox Lea Farm
Fox Lea Farm is no stranger to innovation. Since inception in 1984 they have been revolutionizing the equine industry across disciplines hosting the first CDI show in the Florida where prestigious international riders compete to qualify for the Olympics and World Cup. 

Fox Lea stopped producing dressage shows of the International level when the horse population on Florida’s east coast exploded with interest. Fox Lea continues to host “A” rated hunter shows, have CAMP shows that provide additional activities for competitor’s family members, along with various breed shows.