Episode 88: Western Dressage: a conversation with Lynn Palm


Today I’m talking with Lynn Palm about western dressage.
Lynn literally wrote the book on the subject of western dressage. She competes, judges, and teaches people about the sport. In this conversation, we discuss the step by step nature of the dressage tests, how the tests lead to balance in horse and rider…and more!

Click for show transcript

Announcer: [00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple: To teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. This is season eight, which I’m calling conversations with Stacy. And today I’m talking with Lynn Palm about Western dressage. Lynn competes, judges, and teaches people about Western dressage, but her resumé is much broader. Listen to some of Lynn’s accomplishments. She was she has 34 AQHA, American Quarter Horse Association, World and Reserve World Championship titles, 34. She has 7 Western Dressage Association of America World Championship titles. She’s has 4 Super Horse championship titles. And she did over 50 special bridleless exhibitions with the legendary horse, Rugged Lark, including–hold onto your hat–riding at the Olympic Games. This is a woman with a lot of experience in the horse industry. Let’s listen to our conversation about Western dressage.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:01:38] Hi, Lynn. Thanks so much for joining me.

Lynn Palm: [00:01:41] Hey, Stacy, any time I’m looking forward to this.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:01:45] Well, I ran into you at a horse show recently. Not literally. We started talking at the horse show, I should say. And, yeah. And I mentioned having you on the podcast to discuss Western Dressage because it was a Western Dressage show that we were at. And I always refer to you as the lady that wrote the book about the sport. So having said that, I would love to have you explain to everyone who’s listening to the podcast what Western dressage is and why we’re both so excited about it.

Lynn Palm: [00:02:19] Well, Stacy, you know, Western dressage, it’s heritage started in Europe, and this–in the Portugal?/Spain region, which then went to South America with the Baroque horses, some in France and and that style of riding with more of a saddle than an English saddle or dressage saddle. And those horses drawing a lot of attention because they are easy horses to train and got a lot of action and all their movements. Well, that then led to coming up through Mexico and California. And I think before your generation certainly was mine, west–the Western world was so intrigued with the California trainers because of their knowledge and working with a lot of the vaquero trainers and the vaquero trainers. I went out myself and worked with them several times when I was young and starting in this industry, and I related it so easily to what I learned growing up in the classical dressage saddle. So I–today–I ride the same today as I did 50 years ago when I started my business.

Lynn Palm: [00:03:41] And–the Western dressage really is what the classical dressage is all about. It’s, it’s a –foundation, classical training, discipline. And just like the English dressage is so, you know, it’s–it’s like dancing with your horse. You know, you put yourself in balance, your horse and balance, and do all the integral tests to movements and transitions in a test. And I know I feel like sometimes I’m out there dancing with my horse. I have so much fun doing it. And what I want–I’m excited about–for the Western industry, Stacy, is that now we have something tangible that Western enthusiasts can follow with the levels of dressage.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:04:34] Yes.

[00:04:35] And, you know, that it’s tangible now. You know, my–my biggest with the education of building good riders and and happy longevity horses, the dressage test takes the horse and rider in a step by step program to teach that. And those that want to rush, there’ll be lots of holes and mistakes and things not done well. Those that ride by the hand.–you’re gonna have lots of issues as you get in the higher levels. And it teaches a rider to have a correct balance so they can use their aids effectively to get the horse to do what they want him to do. And put that horse in balance. So it’s –it’s just all good riding. And I –I praise for it for the Western world. You know, there’s a lot of hard riding in the Western world because the stock horse is so forgiving and so amazingly patient and passionate. And for people, they could be killing them all. For some riders–ride them harshly and strong and demanding and commanding and training with submission. You know, horses don’t need that.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:05:53] I like the–

Lynn Palm: [00:05:54] Overall dressage is a good, good, me, good, good, good, good, healthy thing for everybody that likes to ride Western horses.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:06:03] Yeah. I love that you brought up the levels. Can you explain to those who are listening who don’t understand the different levels? I love that you brought that because you’re right. That is a…coming–like I’ll just speak–coming from the reining world. Like when we walk–when somebody comes into do reining, they immediately have to go in. Everything is done in the in the lope and they immediately have to do spins and sliding stops and so…

Lynn Palm: [00:06:27] Right.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:06:27] So there, there–there is no lower levels. So can you explain the progression of levels so that people listening can understand?

Lynn Palm: [00:06:37] Sure, it’s–it’s great because it always starts with walk-trot. So that gives people a real good foundation to do the test in the slower gait and to ride with accuracy and precision. And the walk-trot is great. It starts you out with the correct figures of straight lines, transitions, size of circles, and then works into the basic level–the basic level, the introduction of the low work. And when I say trot I mean jog. So sorry, I just still come a little more from the English world. So if I say that…

[00:07:12] But then again, it–it progresses. And in the first level, again, you’re doing more from working gaits to lengthening gaits. Um, you’re doing more advanced transitions. You start your lateral movement. So that then builds to the second level. And there’s where you start at the collected gaits, also building more and lengthening and lateral gaits and more advanced transitions. And so it just keeps building to more advanced riding for horse–for rider skills and the training of your horse. And the training of your horse is more of developing your horse’s physique to be able to do harder tasks. So for those that need to learn the gallop or the extended lope to a sliding stop. You know, they still have to have a correct balance. They have to use a sequence of their aids. They just can’t yank on the mouth. Or, you know, yes, you can say, whoa. And if it’s a really trained horse and he’s got shoes on and he stays straight on his own, he’ll stop. He’ll slide. But it–it teaches the rider when they get in that fourth level, where they’re extending the gaits and then do a harder transition…The second level in Western dressage, that, for me, gives them the real foundation they need for the sliding stop, for a faster pivot, which turns to a spin, for roundness and accuracy of size circles, keeping a three beat lope on smaller circles for reining horses. I think that’s the biggest challenge for most riders. So then they’re in the second level, you start going into your collected gait. Well, most of the time when the riders do the small circles, they don’t know how to collect the horse, they just slow them down in front. And they’ve got a classical four beat lope, which I always minus that score on circles.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:09:18] Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Lynn Palm: [00:09:21] So there the Western Dressage is going to help all those maneuvers, not…to give an introduction in a different way because you have to have a downward transition in Western Dressage uphill. It can’t be falling to the forehand or it’s abrupt.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:09:37] Yes

Lynn Palm: [00:09:37] Uh, you can’t have a lengthening if your horse goes flat, just noses out straight with his nose. You know, he’s gonna go quick and more with weight on the forehand and go quick strides. So, you know, he has to have an uphill, but a good connection is still some collection in the–lengthening the gaits. So, you know, it all relates, you know, when you want to go fa–in those fast circles. And today in reining, oh, my gosh, you’ve got to run so fast. It’s amazing. Do you ever get teary eyed from going so fast?

Stacy Wesfall: [00:10:14] It–that’s my favorite part. Yeah. That’s like it’s funny. Of all the different things that people think, this–is it the spin? The slide? I like the running fast part still. So…

Lynn Palm: [00:10:26] Bill Horn. You remember that, don’t you?.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:10:29] Yes, yes. Yes.

Lynn Palm: [00:10:31] I mean, he was the one. Was the master of that.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:10:34] He really does.

Lynn Palm: [00:10:36] Yes.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:10:36] Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So I love how you explain it. Like the walk-trot in that first level and then the walk-trot-canter and–it’s exciting to me for the horse and the rider because that means I can take young horses to a show.

Lynn Palm: [00:10:51] Yeah.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:10:51] And start getting them acclim–acclimated to that whole environment without having to be full blown reiners. And so that’s that’s amazing. And so…

Lynn Palm: [00:11:03] That’s good to hear.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:11:05] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:11:05] It’s really good to hear. Maybe we should start a young horse training program for-for Western dressage to build the foundation for reining and ranch horses and trail riding–to, uh safe trail riding and whatever, you know.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:11:24] Now you–you judge. And,so you judge and you compete and you teach about this. So, when you are helping someone get started, if they come to you, like, say they bought your book and and they’re like Lynn Palm, how do I get started in Western dressage? What do you say?

Lynn Palm: [00:11:44] Right? Well, first, evaluate the horses they have. And not that it’s not for any horse. But we have to watch with our stock horse breeds–because, you know, you and I both really favor the quarter horse, or stock horse breeds– that they’re not extremely built downhill. If the horse is really built downhill, they’re going to struggle. If they want to go in higher levels, got to start out at the intro and get their feet wet. And the basic, not a problem. You know what I’m saying? Because you want a longer outline on those horses and the forward motion usually keeps the horse going more uphill, even though they’re built downhill without inverting. So it’s–it’s still good. But, you know, I just tried to tell a lady that’s moving up now to the first level from the basic. No, intro to basic with a quarter horse. And, you know, she’s had some even–it’s so built downhill and some feet issues–she’s had some lameness issues with him. Well, she still does. And she’s still trying to go up the ladder, so to speak, with a dressage test and, and advance herself with this horse. And the horse just can’t do it physically. So, you know, that’s really the only kind of horse I don’t think that’s maybe not suited for Western Dressage. It’s for all breeds. You know, your breeds, like your Morgans, your Arabs, your warmblood type, your–Oh, I love those–those ponies or smaller horses–Fjords and Halflingers…

Stacy Wesfall: [00:13:25] Yep.

Lynn Palm: [00:13:26] You know. Yeah. They’re all built a little bit more uphill in their conformation. So, you know, they can go up the ladder easier than if it was a stock horse that’s built downhill. And that’s–that’s what we got to watch in–in the stock horse breeds for the discipline. Do, you know, get one and–and move up the ladder with him?

Stacy Wesfall: [00:13:50] And then they go, yeah, go ahead.

Lynn Palm: [00:13:54] I was just–said, did I answer your question?

Stacy Wesfall: [00:13:56] Yeah, I think so. So so they come to you, and they, and you say,”evaluate the horse”. So then, what’s the next step after that?

Lynn Palm: [00:14:05] Well, the next step after that with evaluating the horse, you’ve got to evaluate the rider and see what their skills may lie, and of course, no matter if it’s a rider that could fit into a basic or first level–let’s say we still have them start to learn the map of the dressage ring and doing the figures being–riding with accuracy on figures and sizes, and precise at–transitions in the intro level and then, you know, intro and basic together. Then once they get comfortable with the arena both sizes to 20 by 40 and the 20 by 60 court, then it’s basic. You keep them at basic, but then you move them to first level. And then when they’re getting proficient at first level, then you eliminate the basic and then start into the second level, which you’re still mastering the first level, and then work up the ladder. I always tell people to advance when their scores are consistently in the 70s. If not, not just one time a 70, consistently in the 70s on all the tests. Then you’re—you’re understanding and you’re riding correct and accurate and precise. And if that’s happening, then your horse is in a good balance and you’re both ready to advance the next level. Rider skills, and again, developing the horse to be able to carry himself more collected, more powerful, more athletic, more balance to move up to the new level.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:15:48] Yeah.

[00:15:49] It’s a nice progression. So here’s here’s an example: Most people come to me from a clinic and they say, I want to learn flying lead changes. And I say, you realize that that’s the most advanced transition you can do with a horse. Oh, well, no, I’ve never heard anybody say it that way. And I say, yeah, that’s–that’s the most advanced and that’s the hardest, to do it when you want to do it, on command.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:16:12] Mm hmm.

Lynn Palm: [00:16:13] And so they say, OK…Well, I say, that’s fine, then I’ll have to see how all the other trans–transitions are with your work to the canter. So I start with, of course, working jog to–to lope, just like they have at the basic level. Then I go to the same thing, working lope to jog. That’s the first transition. Then it’s simple. Change your lead, lope through the trot…well, that’s not a simple change of lead. A change of lead through the jog…so that’s lope-jog-lope transitions. Then they have to do walk-canter or walk-lope transitions. Then they have to do lope-walk-lope transitions. Anybody that struggles with any of that, especially the first one is usually the one that’s saying, can I do flying lead changes? You know, you’re going to struggle with it. You have, you know, it’s like they say with the reining horses, he’s dead leaded. Well, that’s great. That’s a horse that is athletic and can take care of his own balance and change leads easily.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:17:17] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:17:17] But you know, if–if they don’t change leads to, you know, you can teach your horse to do that and do it on command when you want it to. So it’s all the progression of the Western dressage leads to that and the lead changes in fourth level.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:17:34] Yes.

[00:17:35] Which I think is really great. That really is going to build riders. But what I’m saying, and especially from the judge’s point of view, people want to get further up the levels to make them feel like they’re accomplishing something or they’re a pretty good rider. And it’s–it’s not really that because anybody that competes, you’re competing against a national standard and a score that is–is across the books, kind of like your reining is when you’re scoring. And–and so, you know, it–it makes a good difference all the way around. But, you know, then the person that wants to get into it, you know, that they–they either–you’ve got to find out in the evaluation if it’s for recreation or for competition.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:18:25] OK.

Lynn Palm: [00:18:25] I find, just like you said, recreation I call the trail rider. That’s their interests more–in trail riding and learning to ride well. We have many students like that. Love them because they do training out on the trails. And that’s what I always did with my show horses and still do. I practice my transitions the straightness of my horse. The horse bends on the curves of a trail. I adjust the balance up and down hills. So, you know, it’s all good. It’s so–if it’s the competitor that is interested in that then they need to watch either other riders ride a test, go to a horse show, and then that gets them a little bit more of the bug of it. And usually anybody that has never done a test before but had good instruction with their riding, they–they–you get–you have them do a test. And I just it just happened with, I don’t know, I had three days at clinics in Pennsylvania this last weekend. I don’t know how many students….there was probably at least 15. And all of them except one have never ridden a Western Dressage test or an English Dressage–didn’t matter–there was a couple of Western riders, mostly English.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:19:42] That’s exciting.

Lynn Palm: [00:19:43] They’d never done a dressage test. I know, they’ve never done a dressage test. Every one of them–it’s either-it’s very black and white. The person has never ridden a test and does…they either love it and they’re hooked on it immediately or they don’t like it. But I haven’t found anybody that doesn’t like it yet.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:20:01] Yeah. Yes. Yes.

Lynn Palm: [00:20:03] They all love it. They–every one of those riders up there, they all loved it. Well, there’s there’s a dressage ring at their boarding stable now, and they want to do more of it and they want to do the virtual horse shows, or ride a test, you know, or just a virtual rider test and get it judged and critiqued. So, you know, it’s-it’s–

Stacy Wesfall: [00:20:24] Yeah. You–you bring that up and I want you to speak a little bit to the the feedback. Do you think it’s because of the feedback that you’re giving them? Do you think could you speak a little bit about the feedback loop that happens in dressage, in Western Dressage, that we don’t necessarily get in the rest of the–in a lot of the other disciplines?

Lynn Palm: [00:20:41] Well, you know, the–the best part about a judge and I don’t know–I–and you were at the judge’s seminar, I guess, two years ago with WDAA. And I don’t think they enough stress the fact that when a judge is scoring, you know, you need to understand what the words mean with that score. For instance, the 6 is satisfactory. So, you know, and then a 7 is fairly good. So you need to know really what those mean, because when you put the score to it, your comment should be if the rider gets a 6, it was satisfactorily done, you need to give a comment that says something that will help increase your score. Those are my dogs–help increase their score. If they get a really low score–6.5 and above–if they get a lower score, 6 and below, you should critique why they needed more bending the corner or the horse was not straight or transition work on the forehand. But there you try to tell them what it was and then you can make another comment like I’m doing with the virtual show I’m doing right now, that I’m adding more education. Which in USDF, the judge expects an education–uh, sorry, the judge–or the clinician expects that person to have knowledge of what’s in that level. They might be able to do it well, but they know the new requirements in that level or that test or they have done their homework to, you know, walk the test on foot to know what’s going to be asked. Then you learn about it. So in–in the judging aspect, what I try to do as a Western Dressage judge, again, since it’s such a new discipline and there is a lot of crossover with English riders coming to Western and vice versa, that I try to add a little bit more education where in the USDF, which is classical dressage, in their judges programs, you know, they want you to make a comment on how they can make that score higher. That’s the education part of it. But I go a little bit more extensively. And the other thing I’m unusual about, a lot of my comments are about improving the rider. I’m a firm believer as an educator, improve the rider, you’ll improve the horse. You improve the riders with their skills. So fundamentals and their skills, and then you improve their knowledge of what they’re doing and why. Then, of course, like any sport, they’ve got to do the practice to do it well.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:23:33] Yeah. Can you give an example?

Lynn Palm: [00:23:34] So–well, you see the rider that’s learning how to lope with balance and control. OK. The other riders that are just learning the lope, it’s–it’s a big step because the gait covers more ground you’re–you’re all of a sudden, everything comes to you to have negative reactions happen that, oh, my gosh, I’m going fast. And then you get stiff and quick and then you get hurried and then you lose where you’re going. And all those things start happening because you’re not used to it. You practice it. So–so you have to practice the skills to have a better balance, how your hips follow the motion, how you keep your balance from your seat, how you keep the aids going to keep the lope going. You know, they got to learn the transitions. So–and the sequence of aids. So all of that then. I think it is a big step in that level for riders.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:24:35] Yeah, yeah, that’s–that’s really interesting. I mean, I’m reflecting back to what you said about the competitive rider versus the noncompetitive rider, and I hadn’t actually–I hadn’t actually thought about that a lot. You said you have a fair number of students that come to learn that are not competitive about it….what do you um, like–so they’re basically–they’re looking to enhance their communication? Is that what they’re doing?

Lynn Palm: [00:25:01] They’re looking to get better control of their horse, which gives them confidence. And I love the fact–here’s a simple–a simple thing that I love about the dressage ring. Why do we have letters? They don’t mean any rhyme or reason, but the letters teach the rider to look and think in front of their horse, huh?

Stacy Wesfall: [00:25:25] That’s a good point.

Lynn Palm: [00:25:27] Lots of things.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:25:29] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:25:30] So that in itself is going to give that rider confidence.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:25:34] Mm hmm.

Lynn Palm: [00:25:36] Even if the horse isn’t doing exactly what they want, but if they keep targeting their eye where they’re going in that dressage ring–and it has to be on a letter–the riding starts to change. The horses start to do better. ‘Cause they’re not wiggling around, looking down and cuing late and hands back in the saddle and balancing their hands and try to pull the head in to set the head and all those things that happen that make the horse more challenging because the rider skills are–lack balance. And of course, if they lack balance then they’re not going to be giving clear and consistent or light cues.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:26:13] Right. Yeah. That–.

Lynn Palm: [00:26:15] That’s what horses wanted. Yeah. Yeah.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:26:17] That’s a good point. Yeah, that that would make–they–they basically plan ahead. They learn how to plan ahead–the rider does, with the more clear cues. I like that. So. One thing I’ve noticed that I’d like to hear you speak to is like…I–I wonder if the crossover just makes it easier to start in Western dressage because of the tack. So can you speak about the difference in tack a little bit? Meaning…so…I think people may–might go into Western Dressage as a good starter when they’ve seen traditional dressage on like, the TV–maybe the Olympics or something, but they can get started with–

Lynn Palm: [00:26:56] Right.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:26:56] Western tack and can–so you think–do you think that’s a–that’s helping people get started because they’re more comfortable? And then can you explain some of the rules of what bits you can ride in and stuff?

Lynn Palm: [00:27:09] Well, I have to be general with this, but I’ll try to be general and so people can get a lot out of it. The tack is–is really just like any discipline. The rules of the competition will give people knowledge, even if you don’t want to compete. But getting the rules of what tack is allowed and prohibited. That’s number one. But in general, the Western Saddle is very inviting, especially to the baby boomers–the 50 and older group–because there’s just a lot more saddle around you and it gives a lot of confidence and security as opposed to a dressage saddle. The other thing I think that’s really desirable, that attracts people, is that the horses…in overall–in performance…you want working active gaits. But it’s not as ground covering…and…how do I want to say…have forward impulsion as much as the traditional dressage horse is going to have.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:28:24] Mmmm…yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:28:25] The gaits–the gaits are smoother with most of the breeds that are doing it. The Arab, the Morgan, the Quarter Horse, the, you know, the draft type breeds of horses. Those, you know, their–their gaits are smoother than, again, to traditional dressage, which are always breeded–breed of choice–is the warmblood. And those horses also may be for Western dressage. I said the breeds desirable, maybe smaller horses that’s attractive to people. So there’s there’s a lot of things that attract people to the Western, to the English. But as far as the learning the discipline, either it’s–it mirrors each other.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:29:12] Yes.

Lynn Palm: [00:29:13] It mirrors how to build your skills. It mirrors how do you train your horses. That’s why when I teach, I tell people I don’t have my own method. I just base my training of horses and teaching riders on classical training. It’s already been discovered thousands of years ago. It’s already been practiced and successfully practiced thousands of years ago, starting with the horse at war. And the Vaquero Spanish–that whole Lusitano and Illusion–those horses all the same things. You know, so it’s–it–and it works. And it works, why? Because it’s a thorough understanding of the anatomy of a horse. And how a rider can successfully ride and communicate and get that horse to be a willing partner. And that’s the bottom line, and that’s the fun part. Not building a fight. If they can’t do it–but definitely if I go back myself. Now, what can I do differently here to get this horse to understand what I’m asking him? What can I do differently? So that’s why it goes back to, when I judge, I do critique the rider an awful lot in my comments.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:30:31] Is this the first year that you’ve done online judging?

Lynn Palm: [00:30:35] Oh, yes, absolutely. I don’t think we’ve ever done it before. I don’t think so.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:30:42] And so…how’s that been?

Lynn Palm: [00:30:47] Well, I’m doing a group of Quarter Horse enthusiasts from Italy.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:30:52] Wow.

Lynn Palm: [00:30:53] I’m the judge. Yep, for Hung Seat Equitation, which I love. And because in the horse world, I was always, really, a stronger English rider, more the appendix horse, and started with the ear of the hunters and driving and all that. And so that’s why they’re my favorite ones, actually, because you can ride them Western beautifully as well. And so I lost my train of thought. Where was I going with that?

Stacy Wesfall: [00:31:22] Just the online judging in general.

Lynn Palm: [00:31:24] Oh, yeah. Yeah. Ok. And so I always critique videos as part of our services we offer. I’ve always I…when the fax machine was a big thing, I used to give lessons a week to several riders in Switzerland by fax.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:31:43] Wow.

Lynn Palm: [00:31:44] Diagrams, and–and a lesson plan–what to do with the practice time over there.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:31:49] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:31:50] ‘Cause the Swiss very serious and dedicated people in anything they do. So they’re really fun to work with. But anyway, this is the online show that I’m also doing. I got done with–I had 19 riders and then like Carla Wennberg’s doing horsemanship, Western horsemanship. Oh–um–I like her so much…she’s from Arizona. She won the World in Ranch Horse. Oh, I see her face…Debbie… Debbie Cooper is doing the Ranch Riding and somebody else is doing Trail, I think, and somebody else is doing reining. So they had those events. And anyway, this Western Dressage group from the–I believe they’re a WDAA affiliate in Illinois. They started a horse show called the Firecracker Show, I guess. And it’s–And people sent in their videos to them as entries–paid for their entries–and I was a judge, and I’m a large R judge. They’ve asked me to judge those entries. I had no idea I’d be doing 84 of them. I had to do it in a week’s time because they give you a deadline. And so there’s one week where the people putting the show together have to get everything organized and sent to me. You know, that’s their handwritten test. So that takes a week to get that all done. And then the judge only has a wee–well I was doing a clinic in Pennsylvania. So I lost some time, but anyway, I’m–I’m going to put in one hard weekend and then I’m going on vacation for a month. I’m going to show the classical English show this weekend. And both–I just got my ride times, which is great when you show dressage, by the way.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:33:42] Yes.

Lynn Palm: [00:33:43] Both of them I’ll be done about two o’clock. So, Marie and I think we can knock it off and have–our deadline is on Monday–and get the next 40 done in those next two afternoons. So there we go.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:33:53] Nice. I like that–I like that you brought up like you brought up ride times. Can you explain that?

Lynn Palm: [00:34:00] Well, in an–every–any other competition, there’s a class schedule and with a class schedule, if it’s a judged event, you pretty much have to estimate or guesstimate times or work with the show management when a class may be that your entered in. Well, in dressage, you have the exact time you have to enter the ring for your competition. And that’s wonderful. And why it’s wonderful first–It really helps plan a warm up, constructive warm up, so your horse and you go in the ring peaking in performance rather than being tired or hadn’t done enough or you were late, hurried off and all those things that can happen. So you build your warm up from, you know, how long you feel that you and your horse are ready to do your test and then you base that on your ride time and the ride time. I will use 9:17. OK, if that was the time, that’s the time that Steward is letting you come into that ring. So then you’ve got a few minutes while the judge is finishing the previous rider’s test with your comments and you’re in the ring, around the ring, or in the ring. And when your test started, it’s about a ten minute interval. Your test–the test will last anywhere from five to six minutes. Oh, it’s nice. It’s longer–it’s a longer performance of a–of a pattern than you get in the breed shows or reining. And it’s–it’s fun. If you like to ride with accuracy and precision and control and get all the wonderful moments that we all get when everything is working and in balance and you get this “aha moment” thing. Oh, my God. That was so easy. I want more of that. Then you work harder at it.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:35:59] Yeah. Yeah. Now, the one thing that I–

Lynn Palm: [00:36:02] How when a reining horse gives you those feelings, if they stay straight and keep the balance uphill. It’s wonderful.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:36:10] It does. Now, one thing I noticed with the little horse that I’m riding right now is she would have been…going straight into reining, I believe, would have been hard because for the horse, it goes straight into all canter work and fast work, you know, so–you’re doing–there is–that you might–you walk or trot in. But aside from that, the whole rest of it’s done at the canter. And what I realized when I started training her was that she’s naturally a little more sensitive and she likes to anticipate a little bit more. And what was so neat was after I took her to about three shows, she started looking for the walk transition in the dressage test. And I thought, oh, this is the best seed to plant ever, because instead of anticipating big sliding stops, she was anticipating somewhere out here there’s a walk with my head down long and low. And I found it to be a beautiful, beautiful thing. So I want to circle back to one other thing you mentioned earlier and tie it together. You mentioned you were in Pennsylvania and you were helping a lot of people get started in dressage. And what I want to talk about now is your Lynn Palm Western Dressage fund, because you really, really believe in education. And so you…can you explain what the Western Dressage Fund is and why you created it and how people could take advantage of it?

Lynn Palm: [00:37:33] Yes, absolutely, well, first of all, I’ll say at the beginning and at the end, the Western Dressage Foundation…those three words .org (dressagefoundation.org). Or this is how people can learn about it on the website. And I was oh, I’m in my fiftieth year in business and I wanted to do something special for the 50th year or thereafter to give back to the industry. And I thought, you know, looking at the people that are involved in this scene, how fast this Western Dressage has grown, and I know the good values of it, especially for the horse. And rider, but especially the good values for the horse, just like you said, it helped your reining horse. Is that positive or what? So I decided that instead of doing something myself, why not team with something that’s already established, well respected. And there was nothing emphasizing Western.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:38:33] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:38:34] So I teamed up with the Dressage Foundation and it–there is–people can submit for a grant. The grant will–they have to submit the–what it’s going to do to coordinate a clinic or an educational seminar or a camp or a lecture or you know, whatever, a ride-a-test clinic, whatever somebody wants to do that’s educational.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:39:03] Mm hmm.

Lynn Palm: [00:39:04] And there is a board. I am on the board. But some other awesome ladies, that’s been part of the foundation–which I love to work with–to approve the applications. So if your application is approved, you get X amount of dollars to put on the event. So that’s the first phase. Then I want to develop more with it. I want to try to get involved with kids. And I grew up in 4-H. And I would like to get involved with 4-H on the national level. But they don’t do that. They do it only state level. So I don’t know. Like pony clubs, the national level. That’s all for kids. But anyway, I’d like to do some kind of program where it helps kids that can afford to get into the sport and help support them financially where they can go get lessons and they can go to clinics to get educated. You know, it may be some kind of incentive for–for young kids for competition, though. I don’t know. Those are just some ideas that I’m talking out loud that aren’t there. But I hope to develop that with these people.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:40:17] That is, that is so–that is so awesome that you did that because…yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:40:23] It makes you feel good, Stacy. It’s a good feeling. You get to a part and age in your life in this horse industry has–it’s given me such a beautiful life. I’m blessed. I respect horses. They’re magical. And I sure know also that horses are very important with this all ugliness going on in the world. They really do give positive feedback to everybody. And I saw that in the clinic this last weekend and we saw it at the horse show. Everybody was working hard, all–even the English riders. You know, that’s the second time that they’ve allowed the English Classical Dressage, USDF, and the Western, USEF together on the same grounds. So I thought that was kind of neat because we had a lot of people coming over and watching us ride, you know.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:41:15] Yes.

Lynn Palm: [00:41:15] They were peeking. And they were people that came. There were–ones that were shot peeking. But there were.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:41:23] Yes, there were. There were. Well, I really, really appreciate.

Lynn Palm: [00:41:27] Yes.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:41:29] Yeah. Go ahead. I was just gonna say, I really appreciate everything you’ve done to promote this because it’s really helping horses and people.

Lynn Palm: [00:41:36] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Just one other thing that I would like to also accomplish that I like with the English world needs to be mirrored, but they don’t want to discourage anybody at this point because there’s a lot of older, retired horses that–or have horses that have not had a good life that also get somehow, swung in this dressage court and they love it that–the–oh, I lost my train of thought again saying that Stacy my goodness.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:42:06] We’re–we’re having fun jumping all over the place in this conversation. So it’s all good.

Lynn Palm: [00:42:13] Is that, I really would like to intro and the basic levels to be done in the snaffle. I think that–that would be, and I voted for it, but they didn’t want to limit anybody from riding if they had a horse that was older and adjusted better with a curb bit.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:42:30] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:42:30] I hope in the future because we can we can change that. I think that’ll be important because I’m judging right now some of the lower levels, and some of the horses have such tight necks, tight in the back, shortens the step behind, goes behind the bit. You know ones who are truly hand ridden and people don’t know the difference. So…

Stacy Wesfall: [00:42:49] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:42:50] If it had a snaffle, it wouldn’t make such a big fault in what they’re doing.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:42:57] Yeah, I think it’s important to talk about for just a minute. So I’m going to clarify. So like in traditional dressage, the the horses have to be ridden in a snaffle bit up through second level.

Lynn Palm: [00:43:10] That is correct. And optimal in third and fourth.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:43:13] Got it. And so–but in Western Dressage, in–the view was in order to get the sport going, to keep things…to keep it open, people could basically come from almost any discipline into the Western Dressage ring and use the original tack they had.

Lynn Palm: [00:43:32] Absolutely. You said it–very well said, absolutely.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:43:35] And I see where you’re going with it, where you’re saying, like, it would be nice if people–and here’s where where I think it dove tales perfectly with what you were just saying. The…when people ride a horse in a shanked bit and the horse isn’t ready for it, you get the resistance your describing in the tests. And it’s but sometimes they feel intimidated going back to the snaffle. But the snaffle has a different effect on the horse and would actually improve–would actually improve a lot of the base of that because of what you said about a tight neck and all that stuff. But that is a dance that with this being an earlier, earlier association, I suppose that’s a dance they’re trying to figure out right now.

Lynn Palm: [00:44:16] Right. Right. And they think that the curb bit gives them more response because it’s more severe or responsive bits. But they don’t have the skills to be riding with those bits.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:44:26] Yeah…So there could be more resistance. Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:44:30] Exactly. Then the horse is more resistant. They’re not keeping a good balance. They’re bouncing, you know, the horse is tightening. And then they’re balancing again in their hands or their feet. So, you know, a snaffle is a lot more forgiving.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:44:46] Yes.

Lynn Palm: [00:44:46] And it helps also, you know, the horse as well. So but–it’s, you know, again, there’s a reason for it. And again, the reason is, is that you don’t want–if you have two responsive a bit, then you can have too much of your horse blocked.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:45:01] Yes.

Lynn Palm: [00:45:02] And when they’re blocked, then they’re going to head set by tightening the neck and the jaw and the back. And the hind legs are gonna be stiff. The gait is going to be quick and they’re going to be abrupt and–and, you know, tighten…tight in their performance. So that’s where, you know, I think that, you know, having the snaffle as a requirement in those two levels…

Stacy Wesfall: [00:45:28] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:45:28] Then it’s optional. Let it be optional the rest of the levels. And I’m sure that they will develop more than a fourth level in the future as well. So it’s all good.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:45:39] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:45:39] But I’m saying, you know, most part–riders doing levels that the horses aren’t ready yet for. You know, do a level that you can shine at. If it’s lower it’s okay. And if you go up a level–this is the other thing. It’s your choice or your coach’s choice with you that you go back a level.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:46:00] Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:46:01] You know? And that’s okay. It’s not like you’re failing. You know, any time you want to advance, you’ve got to make easier things even more perfect.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:46:09] Yeah. Yeah.

Lynn Palm: [00:46:10] Then you can do the hard things.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:46:13] That’s right. That’s right. Well, I know that I grabbed you kind of–Hey, Lynn, let’s do this, let’s do this interview right now. So I really, really appreciate you jumping on the phone. And thank you so much for everything you’ve done for the sport, because I truly believe that as you help educate more people, you help more horses and it helps the industry. And it just makes this win-win-win-win-win. So thank you for writing the book. Thank you for riding in all the demonstrations. Thank you for promoting the sport and educating the people. And thank you for joining me on the podcast today.

Lynn Palm: [00:46:47] Thank you so much. Well, again, those that may wanted to take advantage of that Western Dressage Foundation with the Dressage Foundation, just go to their website. And it’s .org–the dressagefoundation.org and–

Stacy Wesfall: [00:47:03] I’ll put links in there, yep.

Lynn Palm: [00:47:05] Yeah, put some links. That’s great. And then as we talk Stacy, I look forward to doing these together with you. I’m going to do–I want to do some myself to my viewership and following. And we need to combine it with some open ideas from those out the industry that would like us to do things where we can tap into other people’s networking so we can get more people and really grow the sport.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:47:36] Yeah. It’s a good sport.

Lynn Palm: [00:47:37] And I had a blast riding with you in Lexington and had fun watching your show and had fun showing there. We did good. It was so darn hot. And by the way, I think you were second the first day, I don’t know about the second day, but we were top score, the first and second for the Western Dressage show. But both days you know my chestnut mare with the white legs? She was high score horse of all the English horses, too.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:48:07] Wow. Congratulations. Yes. Yes.

Lynn Palm: [00:48:11] Is that cool. Yep, she got two beautiful champion ribbons. Absolutely.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:48:15] Wow.

Lynn Palm: [00:48:16] So that’s cool. So there you go. See, the Western can be as good as those English horses.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:48:22] That’s right. That’s right. That was really fun.

Lynn Palm: [00:48:25] And actually that one I do both with. There you go. I like doing both with them.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:48:29] Yes. Yes, definitely. I’ve been doing that, too. Sure. Well, thanks again.

Lynn Palm: [00:48:36] Yes. I look forward to the next time. And that’s all. And give your horses a big hug and a kiss for me and tell them thank you for being so magical.

Stacy Wesfall: [00:48:50] Ok. After listening to that conversation, I have one thing that I would like to point out. Aside from the information that you received about Western Dressage, did you hear the passion that Lynn still has for what she does? Now, let’s get this straight. After 50 years as a professional, she still brings that level of passion to this industry, which to me also explains her decision to fund the educational foundation because she really, truly loves horses and people and this industry. If you’re considering hosting some type of Western Dressage educational event, I really encourage you to check out the fund. It awards up to $2000 per event and you can find all the details over at dressagefoundation.org. I’ll also put links in the show notes of this episode so you can find all the information there, too, because it’s a really great way to help Lynn help grow the industry by using the grant that she set up. So thanks again for listening to the podcast. And I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [00:50:06] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.


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  1. Courtney Thompson on December 17, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    So much fun! Lynn Palm is such a wealth of knowledge and it was fun hearing two of my favorite horse experts together!

  2. Jan McDougald on August 30, 2020 at 10:55 pm

    Thank you for having this great podcast Stacy. You had great questions and Lynn Palm was very interesting and knowledgeable.

  3. Kirsten White on July 26, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    This is so awesome, and timely for me! Stacy, you inspired me to learn both ranch riding and western dressage this year. I have entered five virtual shows, showing two horses in ranch riding, horsemanship, and this week entered my first western dressage class. I have been listening and watching your videos, and also am reading Lynn Palm’s book. I am really excited to be learning these new disciplines, they are so fun, even though my horses are senior horses and I am in my sixties! Thank you for sharing your experiences, and bringing these fine people to your podcasts.

    • Stacy Westfall on July 27, 2020 at 7:44 pm

      That’s awesome! Good job taking action! Thanks for letting me know:)

  4. Colleen Spada on July 22, 2020 at 9:40 am

    This was such a wealth of knowledge! I need to add to my bucket list to come and watch you at one of the shows! Great Conversation! Thanks for sharing

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