Now, CowChick, surely you're aware that I can do a google search on every major riding discipline and find equal pictures that are used in discipline-specific publications. Like I said, I'm neither for or against it. I just think it's interesting to see all the hub-bub over a new "discipline".
I'm sure very similar scoffing occured over many new breeds over the centuries, but now they're just accepted as their own breed rather than the "cocktail" they really are. How about the commotion that surely happened when horse shows first came about? Imagine people taking their horsemanship from the war zone to the Spanish Riding School. How about when ranchers took their prized stock from the cattle drive to the arena? The lightbulb didn't go off over the head of everyone who has working cow horses all at once to compete their horses for titles and recognition. A few people got together and formed a group. This group grew and...voila! Were there ranchers who scoffed and looked down their noses at the idea of showing off perfectly good working horses when those horses could be out working the cattle drive? Sure! What about when people went from fox hunting to competitive eventing, jumping, show jumping, hunters, etc. Or from the frontline to dressage? Of course, these things don't happen overnight. They can't. Surely there was controversy because people as a whole don't like change.
So what if there are groups of people who enjoy doing western dressage? If you don't like it, don't it. They aren't trying to start a "chase horses with battleaxes" group and make that into a sport. They're taking two interesting disciplines that are commonly thought of as polar opposites and combining them? Why is that so terrible?
Also, not all western is functional. It just isn't. That's like saying all my organs are functional (well, they're all in good working order I suppose, but that's not the functional we're talking about). My appendix serves no purpose, but it's still there. At one time was western riding almost solely functional? Sure it was! That's where western pleasure, trail classes, reining, team penning, etc come from. Western is a very broad term. So, in a sense western dressage is also functional. It has it's basis in a very real form of riding that has been around far longer than any of us have.
As for bits, again curbs are used in multiple disciplines. Why does it matter if they're used in western dressage? I can give many instances where I've watched with my own two eyes horse shows with western classes of all varieties where curbs are used roughly. I mean "wow" roughly. None of them being western dressage. Curbs are just as abused throughout the entire horse world. I've watched people at my barn who are pleasure riders yank around on their horses' mouths with high port curbs. I've watched people in contesting yank around on their horses' mouths with hefty curbs. I've also watched people in both instances use light movements and only gradually get more insistent when they need to, just like anyone with a non-shanked bit. Like I see often on this forum, it's not the bit that's cruel, it's the hands that control it. Here's an excerpt straight from the WDAA FAQ page regarding tack that I found interesting considering the whole "curb" discussion:
What is the difference between Western Dressage and traditional Dressage?
The goals of Western Dressage and Dressage are similar. They both wish to create a better horse and rider with the use of structure and levels. The Western Dressage horse is encouraged to work and school on lighter contact than the typical dressage horses. While both want to see balance, cadence and carriage, the Western Dressage horse will be evaluated with the conformation and movement of today’s western horses in mind. The Western Dressage horse will have a shorter stride than a Dressage horse and the Western Dressage horse will be asked to walk, jog and lope as opposed to walk, trot and canter. In keeping with the tradition of the Western horse and rider they will be shown in Western tack and clothing. These are just a few examples of the differences.
It is not the goal of Western Dressage to create western horses that compete in open dressage but to create better western horses and riders through the use and principles of dressage.
Do I need special tack, equipment, or clothing to show in Western Dressage?
No! The current USEF rule book permits riders to perform the tests in either a standard western snaffle bit, which is defined in the rule book, or in a standard western bit which is also defined there. You may use your western saddle and your western headstall and reins.
The WDAA will request a change in the USEF rules regarding bits. The WDAA will request changes which will require, at the lowest test levels, the use of a snaffle bit only, along with a caveson which is loose enough to permit two fingers comfortably between the caveson and the horse’s nose. Please review the Western Dressage rules for details.
Please note the paragraph that specifically calls out that there will be a rule change request to change lower levels to snaffle bit ONLY. After the rule change, what will be the argument then?
As with all disciplines, new or well-established, there will be those who disagree. How many threads have we seen where western riders gang up on dressage riders? How many threads have we seen where trail riders are belittle because they're "just trail riding"? We don't all have to agree, and I completely support that idea. I just like to see discussions where participants can use logical reasoning and thought out ideas to express themselves. It's tough when we look at threads full of comments like, "I hate ___ because it's cruel!" Why is it cruel? "Because, because...well, because I said so!" When really this comes more from a place of ignorance (no insults intended) or a lack of solid understanding.
As I stated before, I'm neither for nor against Western Dressage. I just want to know more of the why beyond "Well, I saw pictures!" Is it that people don't like seeing something like dressage being infused with western? Are these primarily dressage riders who aren't fans of western or vice versa? I'm not trying to make any assumptions. I would just like for all of us to get a better understanding.