North American Western Dressage Introduces Pre-Intro Lead-line Western Dressage for Young Riders
During the 2015 show season at the Airfield 4H Conference Center in Wakefield, Virginia, a new show series was started. Marie Taylor wanted to have a Western Dressage show; as there were none in Virginia; and so she created the Wakefield Western Dressage Show Series to fill the void. The show series brought in a vast variety of riders of all ages, riding many breeds of horses at all levels. The only thing that was missing was an outlet for young riders to be able to participate.
To fill the void, North American Western Dressage professional member Hillary Stark, Jean Donhauser, and Marie Taylor created the first Pre-Intro test. The test was made so that a young rider, ages 3-10, can be lead during the test with the majority of it at a walk. This first test finally carved out niche for these young riders wanting to learn about dressage tests and good horsemanship. The bright smiles that came from the young riders while they were riding were so contagious. Every child that rode enjoyed their moments in the spotlight and received a standing ovation when they did their final salute. Hillary Stark’s daughter, Haleigh Stark, loved that she could participate in what her mommy was doing and soon more equestrians were coming to the show just so that they could watch their children ride NAWD’s pre-intro tests.
Hillary has subsequently created two more tests with the emphasis being on the education, not about who wins or loses. The tests are made so that they are progressively more difficult, but easy for the rider to understand. The assistant is allowed to coach the rider while the lead the horse so that they may learn the correct sequence of aids for the movements that are asked of them. Judging emphasizes “rider effort” and riders are rewarded for good equitation and application of aids. The learning process using the training scale is progressive and builds the necessary skills to become a good horseman. By giving children the opportunity to learn these values early on, North American Western Dressage hopes to give them a leg up in riding as they get older. We also make sure that the priority is set on safety for horse and rider during the test.
We encourage judges to use their comments to inspire these children to pursue their horsemanship goals. Judges should understand that the rider should be rewarded for effort and what he/she can do on their own, it is not the intent to have riders punished for lack of experience and finesse.
NAWD officially released guidelines and a series of three Pre-Intro Lead-line tests in early December, 2015. If you are interested in using them for your next show, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org