Western Dressage Division

Please Note: The NYS 4-H Horse Show is not a licensed USEF competition; however, USEF tests and scoring will be used for the show.


  • Approved helmet.
  • Long-sleeved shirt with any type of collar (short sleeves maybe worn at the discretion of the judge).
  • Trousers, pants, or a one-piece long sleeve equitation suit provided it includes a collar.
  • Boots with heel.


  • Neck tie, kerchief, bolo tie, or pin
  • Vest, jacket, coat and/or sweater
  • Spurs-blunt-only and all spurs must have straps
  • Chaps, shotgun chaps or chinks


  • Clip on spurs
  • No t-shirts, sweatshirts or crew type necklines
  • Saddle: A standard stock saddle, national, working saddle, Aussie, native or western side saddle is to be used but silver equipment will not count over a good working outfit. A horn is not required but western style fenders are required. Tapaderos are permitted except in Western Dressage Equitation. Padding or pads on the seat of the saddle are permitted.
  • Any western type headstall must be used.
  • Approved bit (see following information on approved bits).
  • Western style pad.
  • Acceptable western style girth-If back strap is used, a connector strap is required.
  • A breastplate and/or crupper may be used.
  • A western cavesson.
  • A whip which is no longer than 47.2” including the lash is permitted in all tests.
  • Hackamores and bosals - (Except for junior equines in bosals - refer to Western Division, section IV)
  • Slip or gag bits, and donut or flat polo mouthpieces and kimberwicks.
  • Roping bits with reins attached to a single ring at the center of a cross bar.
  • Any rein design or other devices which increases the effective length and thereby the leverage of the shank of a standard western bit.
  • Anything that alters the intended use of equipment as provided for in the description of appointments for a given class/test.
  • Use of martingales, bit guards, any kind of gadgets (such as bearing, side, running, balancing reins, nasal strips, tongue tied down, etc.), any kind of boots (including “easy-boots”) or tail bandages and any form of blinkers, earmuffs or plugs, and nose covers, are cause for elimination. Protective manufactured leg wraps are permitted, with color matching natural color of the horse as much as possible.
  • Fly hoods (ear covers) will only be permitted in order to protect horses from insects. The fly hoods should be discreet and should not cover the horse’s eyes, and will only be permitted in extreme cases at the discretion of the judge. Permission must be granted prior to the class and applies to all competitors in the class.
  • Rein additions or attachments except for rein chains used in conjunction with a spade bit.
  • Any decoration of the horse with extravagant items, such as ribbons or flowers, etc. in the mane, tail, etc.
  • Flash, figure eight or dropped nose bands.
  • Mechanical Hackamores
Approved Bits
  • Snaffle Bits
    • Any snaffle bit may be used on a horse of any age being ridden at any level. The use of snaffle bits or a bosal is strongly recommended for junior horses 5 and under. Competitions may choose to hold junior horse (5 and under) classes that are restricted to snaffles or bosals.
    • A snaffle offers no leverage or curb action. A Western Dee bit and/or bit that are slotted for the headstall and reins. The rider must use two hands with a snaffle bit.
    • A standard snaffle is a conventional O-Ring, Egg Butt or D-Ring, all with rings having an outside diameter no smaller than 2 inches (50.8 mm), nor larger than 4 inches (101.6 mm). The inside of the circumference of the ring must be free of rein, curb or headstall attachments that would provide leverage.
    • Bars: Bars of the mouthpiece must be round, oval or egg shaped, smooth and unwrapped, except with latex; and no less than 5/16 inch (7.9 mm) to ¾ inch (19.05 mm) in diameter measured one inch (25 mm) from the cheek with a gradual decrease to the center of the snaffle. May be inlaid if smooth. The mouthpiece may be two or three piece.
    • Three-Piece Mouthpiece: If a mouthpiece is three pieces, a connecting ring must be no larger than 1 ¼ inches (31.75 mm) in diameter, or a connecting flat bar must be no longer than 2 inches (50.8 mm) and 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) to ¾ inch (19.05 mm), measured top-to-bottom, and must lie flat in the horse’s mouth.
    • A Mullen Mouth (solid mouthpiece), barrel mouthpiece, full cheeks or Naptha Bits (plastic or rubber) may be used.
    • If a bit hobble is used on a ring snaffle it must be attached below the reins.
    • No flat, sharp, slow twist, twisted or pointed edges on mouthpieces are allowed.
    • Horsehair or rope reins and mecate are allowed for bosals and snaffles. The mecate can be tied to the saddle horn or held by the rider.
  • Curb Bits
    • There is no discrimination against any standard Western bit. A standard Western curb bit may be used on a horse of any age being ridden at any level; rider may use one or two hands with a curb bit.
    • Standard Western Bit is defined as a bit with leverage. It may or may not have shanks; the maximum length of the shanks is 8 1/2 inches (21.59 cm). Shanks may be fixed or loose.
    • A bit which has slots for attaching the headstall and/or rein is a leverage bit and is permitted.
    • Bars of the mouthpiece must be round, smooth and unwrapped (except with latex) metal of 5/16 inch (7.9 mm) to ¾ inch (19.05 mm) in diameter measured one inch (25 mm) from the cheek. It may be inlaid, but smooth, or latex wrapped. The mouthpiece may be two or three pieces. A three piece, connecting ring of 1/¼ inch (31.7 mm ) or less in diameter, or a connecting flat bar of 3/8 inch to ¾ inch (9.5 mm – 19.05 mm) measured top to bottom with a maximum length of 2 inches (50 mm), which lies flat in the horse’s mouth, is acceptable.
    • The port must be no higher than 31/2 inches (8.89 cm). Rollers attached to the center of the bit and covers are acceptable. Broken mouthpieces, half-breeds and spades are acceptable.
    • Wire on the braces (above the bars and attaching to the spade) of a traditional spade bit is acceptable.
    • Reins must be attached to each shank. Split reins, romal reins, rein chains (spade bit) or loop reins are allowed.
    • Curb chains, if used, and flat leather chin straps must be at least 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) in width and lie flat against the jaw of the horse. No wire, rawhide, metal or other substance can be used in conjunction with or as part of the flat leather chin strap or curb chain. Round, rolled, braided or rawhide curb straps are prohibited.
    • A slobber guard on a curb bit is permitted.
  • Illegal Bits
    • All curb bits must be must be free of mechanical devices. Nothing such as extensions, rivets or prongs, may protrude below the mouthpiece (bars).

Each exhibitor may select no more than three tests. Test must be in adjacent levels. The Musical Kur is considered one of the three tests. The Musical Kur is considered equal to the highest test in that particular level.

The goal of Western Dressage is to develop a partnership between a happy equine athlete working in harmony with his rider. A system of progressive training produces a horse that is physically strong, balanced, supple, and flexible; this equine athlete also demonstrates a calm, confident, attentive attitude and is happy to do his job.


USEF Western Dressage Tests can be found on the USEF website. Links to example tests can be found below.

  • Introductory Level - (will not be offered at State Fair but may be used on local level) Tests provide an introduction to the discipline of Western Dressage; the horse performs only at the gaits of walk and jog. The rider should demon­strate correct basic position, use of basic aids, and understanding of figures. The horse should show relaxation; harmony of horse and rider are important. The jog should be a natural gait within the horse’s scope and should demonstrate a swinging back.
  • Basic Tests - confirm that the horse is supple and moves freely forward in a clear and steady rhythm, accepting light contact with the bit. The horse demonstrates a greater understanding of the aids and calm acceptance of the bridle; greater emphasis is placed on relaxation submission, harmony, rideability and pure gaits. The horse is beginning to develop more power and balance.
  • Level 1 Tests - confirm that the horse is building on the elements from lower levels and has developed the impulsion to achieve improved balance while beginning to develop the self-carriage and engagement required by the “lengthen” jog and lope. The horse demonstrates a more consistent light contact with the bit. Tests introduce col­lection and engagement as well as lateral and longitudinal balance while emphasizing rideability.
  • Western Dressage Freestyle is a performance utilizing the gaits and movements of the discipline ridden to music. Each test includes the required movements, gaits and paces of the standard Western Dressage Tests for that level. The competitor is abso­lutely free in the form and manner of the presentation she or he chooses within a fixed time provided. The performance should clearly show the unity between rider and horse as well as harmony in all the movements and transitions. The horse and rider should appear as one; lightness of contact is the hallmark of Western Dressage Free-style.
    • The competitor must declare to the management (and consequently the judge) at what level she or he will be riding.
    • The competitor must provide two (2) recordings of the music to which the Free-style will be performed. Management must provide time for a sound check.
    • The Freestyle ride must not exceed the time limit listed on the test. Time begins when the horse moves forward out of the initial halt and ends with the final halt and salute. Both halts are mandatory.
    • The judge will provide two (2) sets of scores; one for the technical correctness of the movements performed and one for the artistic merit.
    • The artistic score is comprised of several elements:
      • Harmony between horse and rider.
      • Choreography: use of arena, design and creativity. Not “test-like”.
      • Degree of difficulty: points are only awarded when the attempts are performed well.
      • Music: suitability to the horse. Cuts in music are smooth/flowing.
      • Interpretation: music must express gaits and paces.
    • Technical correctness:
      • Judged on the execution of required technical movements in the test i.e. figures, gaits/paces and transitions.
      • Certain movements (leg yield, half-pass etc.) should be performed in both directions.
    • Errors:
      • Entering the arena after more than 20 seconds of music but within 90 seconds.
      • If the Freestyle test is longer than the stipulated time on the test sheet, 10% will be deducted from the combined technical and artistic score.

General Rules for Dressage Tests

  • Each entry is to individually perform the required test. A schedule of order will be established for each class. It is the responsibility of the exhibitor to be ready to ride at the scheduled time or be eliminated. Tentative ride times will be assigned the evening before with the final rides times posted as early as possible in the morning of classes.
  • Tests are to be ridden exactly as listed.
  • All Intro and Basic Level tests will be ridden in a small arena. (20 meters x 40 meters) All Level 1 and Musical Freestyle tests will be ridden in the large arena (20 meters x 60 meters). (1 meter = 3.3 ft.).
  • Readers are not allowed.
  • Salute. At the salute riders must take the reins in one hand. A rider shall let one arm drop loosely along the body and then incline the head in a slight bow.
  • Voice. The quiet use of the voice or clicking the tongue once or repeatedly is permitted.
  • Touch. Petting the horse is allowed during the test as a gentle reward.
  • Excessive use of the whip will be cause for Elimination at the judge's discretion.
  • When a competitor makes an error on the course, the judge sounds a bell or whistle, shows them where to take up the test again and leaves then to continue. The clock is not stopped. If the error does not impede the course of the test, it is up to the judge to decide whether to sound the bell or not. Every error, whether or not the bell is sounded, is penalized as follows:
    • 1st error minus 2 points
    • 2nd error minus 4 points
    • 3rd error Elimination
      • i.e. When a competitor makes an error of the test, such as trotting rising instead of sitting, or failing to take the reins in one hand for the salute, the competitor is penalized as for an error of the course.
  • In the case of marked lameness, the judge informs the competitor that he is eliminated. There is no appeal against this decision.
  • If during the test the equine leaves the arena (all four feet outside the fence or line marking the arena perimeter), the competitor is eliminated.
  • A competitor leaving the arena at the end of the ride at any point other than A shall be eliminated.
  • Equines which enter the arena with their tongue tied down will be eliminated. Each commenced second in excess of the time allowed is penalized by 1/2 point. The clock is started when the equine moves forward after the first salute and is stopped when the competitor salutes the judge at the end of the test. Times allowed are located on each test.
  • In all competitions, the winner is the one having the highest total points. In the case of equality of points, the competitor with highest marks under "General Impressions" is the winner. When the General Impressions are tied, the judge may declare a winner or the competitors may remain tied. General Impressions are the same as Collective Marks.

Scoring for Dressage Tests

Scores used by the judge for all movements and collective marks:

  • 10 -Excellent
  • 9 -Very good
  • 8 -Good
  • 7 -Fairly good
  • 6 -Satisfactory
  • 5 -Sufficient
  • 4 -Insufficient
  • 3 -Fairly bad
  • 2 -Bad
  • 1 -Very bad
  • 0 -Not executed


  • Add up all points in Movements column, being careful to check for errors and coefficients. A coefficient is represented by a printed 2 next to the points. The score for that movement must be multiplied by 2 before adding up total points.
  • Multiply coefficients then add up the total points in the General Impression (Collective Marks) column (last 4 categories).
  • Add all points (both the above). Add total from 1 and 2.
    • Total test score - movements
    • + Total collective marks
    • Total test score ÷ possible score = % score
  • Subtract errors according to the following schedule (errors will be indicated with a large E, then the points are scored for the corrected movement):
    • 1st Error on test minus 2 points
    • 2nd Error on test minus 4 additional points
    • 3rd Error on test Elimination
      • (Please note that rides with three errors or other elimination such as leaving the arena will be scored right through to the end, but score should be posted as Eliminated/No Score. All errors and eliminations should be double-checked with the judge.)
  • (If time is to be used) Check the time of the ride against the time allowed (printed on the front of the test sheet). If overtime, subtract time penalties as follows: 1/2 point for each commenced second overtime.
  • After deducting error and time penalties, you will have the total score. Divide the total score by the total possible points (found on back of test paper) to determine the percentage.
  • The total points and percentage (or reason for elimination if eliminated) should be written on the front of the test sheet. When posting scores, both total score and percentage should be posted. If possible, percentages should be announced when giving out awards. Score sheets should be kept until awards are handed out and then given to riders.

Scoring for Musical Freestyle

  • Above the level movements: movements “above the level” are penalized by a four-point deduction from the total for technical correctness for each illegal movement, but not for each recurrence of the same movement.
  • Halt and salute: at the beginning and end of a freestyle test, a halt with a salute is compulsory. The halt must be executed facing “c.” the halts are judged.
  • Maximum and minimum time limits: the WDAA musical freestyle has a maximum time limit is five minutes but no minimum time. Timing and judging commence when the horse moves off after the entry salute and ceases at the final salute. No bell is sounded at the end of the time limit. Movements executed after the time limit are not scored.
  • Time of entry: the rider must enter the arena or signal the sound engineer within 45 seconds of the entry bell, or a deduction of ten points will be taken off total for artistic merit. The rider must enter the arena within 20 seconds of the start of the music, or will be eliminated.
  • Time limit deductions: one point is deducted from the total for artistic merit for exceeding the time limit. There is no minimum time, or specified deduction.
  • Forbidden movement deductions: five points are deducted from the total for technical correctness for each forbidden movement executed in the test.
  • Points (full, half, tenths): judge’s marks for technical correctness must be given in half-points or full-points. Artistic impression may be given in one-tenth increments.