A reiner at a dressage show.

FEI World Cup Dressage, Omaha, Nebraska, March 2017

I have to admit…I feel a bit out of place. 

Aside from attending a small schooling show this is the first dressage show I have attended with the intent of being an avid spectator and fan of the sport. I have had a life long fascination with the discipline which began with watching the Olympics on TV as a child.

As a teen, my mother and I took lessons for a few months at a dressage barn in Maine. There was such a gap in our knowledge and our horses at home that although we found it interesting we didn’t continue. 

Fast forward many years and I eventually found myself at an expo where Jane Savoie was also a speaker. One afternoon as I was exiting the arena on Roxy, bareback and bridleless, I encountered her. We visited about many things and at one point I said to her, “I want to do dressage.” To which she replied, “You already are.”

I responded, “OK, I want the saddle, the clothes and the BIG moving horse!”

We both laughed and then talked a little more seriously about what dressage was and how it related to what I was doing with my reining horses. I will save those thoughts and ideas for another blog. 

That conversation with Jane happened ten years ago and still my fascination with the sport continues. Is it still the seed that was planted while watching the Olympics as a child? Is it a desire to keep learning? Or is it the BIG horses that fascinate me? 

Maybe it is a bit of all of it. 

Yesterday I spend my first day at a dressage show. 

Under my turtleneck and sweater (what does one wear to a dressage event?)…I still wore my belt buckle.

At the end of the day two things were clear. 

#1-I’m still fascinated with the sport. 

#2-A reiner…horseman…colt starter…whatever I am can learn things from the sport.

Now it is time to pack up my laptop from my table here at Starbuck and make my way over to the event.









Stefan Peters is a four-time Olympic dressage competitor and three-time USEF Horseman of the Year.

Laura Graves is an American Olympic dressage rider with an amazing life story. Google it!

Isabell Werth holds the record for the most Olympic medals won by any equestrian athlete…and she is teaching today. Guess who I’m learning from today?


  1. AnnMarie on April 7, 2017 at 8:06 am

    I’m not a competitor. I just seriously ride for fun. I grew up with Tennessee Walkers, moved to Ohio for two years and rode in a Western Pleasure barn-rode pleasure and reining horses. Moved to Eastern Washington and got involved in a Combined Training barn…at the same time my mom bought a youngish mare who drove. I feel like I’ve had a taste of everything. And I love it all. Right now I’m in Maryland at another Combined Training barn(dressage, cross country, and show jumping). I ride a 15hh Morgan(?? bough at auction)and he’s one of those big moving small horses. Been riding him four years, and he’s getting older(currently 16 with arthritis) and when I was thinking of getting my next horse…I had no idea where to start. I still have a love for the Walker and the ease of trail riding with them. But I want to continue my fun in jumping/dressage. Now I have a spotted draftX colt(4 mo old) who’s gonna be big. And I aim to teach him everything I can. For me, riding is more about forming a relationship with your horse-that moment when my Morgan takes my thoughts for his own and throws out a big flashy extended trot when it’s just us and the birds and woods…that is what this is all about. Or that moment when we’re galloping across a hay field and I see a ground hog hole about the time we’re on it and I think “JUMP” and we clear it with room to spare…that’s the harmony I aim for.

  2. Paulina on April 3, 2017 at 4:27 am

    As a dressage rider, who bred herself a BIG horse with big movement. I found I had no idea how to start him. I found your starting dvd’s and your Jack series on you tube. I now have a calm, brave, well balanced 6yr old. With an open mind we can all learn from every disipline.

    • Stacy Westfall on April 3, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Aaaahhhh! This comment makes me so happy! Please share photos!

      I completely agree that we can learn from all disciplines…with an open mind.

  3. Stephanie Smith on April 1, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    I love this! I have been riding Western my whole life, but like you was fascinated with Dressage. So finally three years ago I started lessons. I learned so much and greatly improved my horsemanship! I continue to use what l learned ever day when I ride,and my horses are so much better for it!

  4. Claire James on April 1, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    Isabel werth trains using rollkur. Please investigate the controversy about rollkur before having anything to do with those who advocate it. Charlotte dujardin and Carl Hester do not use rollkur.

    • Stacy Westfall on April 2, 2017 at 10:26 am

      I will investigate, feel free to post links here too.

  5. Jeanne b ( gram) on April 1, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Good morning! Saw your list and want you to know that my granddaughter, now 18, follows you and holds you in very high esteem. She now owns her own horse, and shares your passion for all things horses….. You have taught and inspired so many kids, ( and adults), who are living the dream of riding. You have inspired so many. She knew about you long before we actually saw you at the Equine Affair in Springfield, Ma. Just wanted to say that I’m thankful for your passion and knowledge, and your ability to teach, and reach a huge young audience who share your passion. Meagan was born loving horses, and my thought is long after I’m gone she’ll be riding, living the dream……thank you…..Jeanne B.

  6. Jen on April 1, 2017 at 1:15 am

    I love Eden’s comments and interest in anything horsey! That’s was me at 14….now I’m 52 and still living and loving horses:) I have tried all different aspects: English, western, ranch work and penning, pony club, jumping, saw a glow-in-the-dark western drill team and joined them for 4 years?, Little Britches Rodeo and High School Rodeo with my kids, gymkanas, barrel racing, and now sorting too!!! We never stop learning and when one door closes…. Another opens! Thank you Stacey for sharing your knowledge and who you are with us❤️ God bless.

  7. Maura on March 31, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    This is interesting! A couple years ago I saw a story and photo about a top dressage competitor–believe she is German — it was in Kentucky during world event and the last day she came in on her Quarter Horse with chaps and cowgirl hat! It was awesome to see the change and she looked happy!

    • Paulina Mudgway on April 3, 2017 at 4:30 am

      That was the dutch rider Anky van grunvsen

  8. Janice on March 31, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    As a life-long dressage rider, when I saw your winning saddle-less bridle-less competition ride, I thought “I want to be able to do that!” I am now riding at the FEI level. I need the saddle and the bridle at this level. HOWEVER, I am always striving for that feeling that the saddle and bridle are not necessary for what I am doing. It may just a few moments when I need no reins, but those are the moments of sheer joy.

    • Stacy Westfall on April 2, 2017 at 10:29 am

      Awesome! Share a video link! My little quarter horses are going to look a bit less elegant than the horses I watched this weekend but we are going to give it a try. Its my turn to say, “I want to be able to do that!”
      Learning is so fun:)

      • Janice on April 4, 2017 at 2:59 pm

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITqY2bP68M4 My horse is a 15.2 hand Lusitano stallion. He doesn’t move big like the warmbloods and has a mind like a Quarter Horse. He is super safe for an older amateur rider like me. I think he is confused by dressage and would rather be doing farm work. He continues to surprise me because he can move big once he knows what is expected from him.

  9. Eden on March 31, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    I’m 14 and am still trying to decide what sport I want to start competing in: reining, barrel racing, show jumping, dressage or cross country…basically three-day eventing :p (minus the reining and barrel racing.) But anyway, I still don’t know what sport I would like best…or what category I would like: western or english. I LOVE galloping (barrel racing) but I also love flying (show jumping and cross country) but I also love the way dressage riders and horses move…it just really interests me. And then there is reining…well, you do it Stacy, how could I not like that? 🙂

    • Stacy Westfall on April 2, 2017 at 10:31 am

      I guess you’ll have to do it all! For me, I picked a path (reining) and then I call the others hobbies. Someone who works as a lawyer might have a golf hobby…why can’t I train reiners and have a dressage hobby? I can! So many things to enjoy and learn…why limit it! Focus does help you in some area but diversity also helps in others.

      • Eden on April 5, 2017 at 6:38 pm

        You know what, I think I will Stacy:) Thanks.

      • Eden on April 5, 2017 at 6:58 pm

        Also, I forgot to say that right now I’m retraining a 19 year old spoiled mare that I bought…this is my first time training a horse btw. Using your method 🙂 It is a huge learning curve. And although I’ve made a TON of mistakes, so far (besides the mistakes) it’s been great! Have you ever heard of Alycia Burton? The famous free rider jumper? (you and Alycia are my all time fav trainers and riders. Why? Because you both strive to understand horses and…Because you both free ride!) She believes that horses shouldn’t be forced to compete in a sport. They should do what they love. So for now, I think I’ll just compete (my mare’s in great health and I don’t think a little competing will hurt) in what she loves. I haven’t figured out what she loves yet but I’ll start figuring out as soon as she’s a little more trained:)

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