North American Western Dressage (NAWD) is dedicated to protecting the welfare of all horses being ridden in competition. It is with that goal in mind that NAWD has taken a public stance against horses being ridden “behind the vertical” and enacted steps to protect horses against this style of riding in NAWD competitions.
Western dressage has continued to gain popularity and competition participation has increased; as such, participants continue to look for examples of good or bad riding. The Western dressage horse comes in all shapes, sizes and abilities, and as such, there is not a single “perfect” look; there are, however, universal correct biomechanics that are relevant to protecting the welfare of the horse.
As Western dressage continues to develop, NAWD leaders have noticed the perception that a horse held in tight check through the reins may be viewed as being “collected,” “on the bit” and “in a working frame.” In actuality, many of these horses are being pulled behind the vertical with the reins, thus closing the angle of the throatlatch and constricting breathing while also affecting the freedom and relaxed movement sought in the correct Western dressage horse. Scientific evidence has proven that when a horse positions his head and neck with the frontal plane of the face behind an imaginary perpendicular line from the ground to the eye, he loses 10–12% of his breathing capacity. (To read some of the scientific research, visit the International Society for Equitation Science HERE.)
Simply put, it is wrong for the development, welfare, longevity and nobility of the horse. This is the position they have always held at NAWD, and they are now encouraging others to take a firm stance against it, too. We invite you to pledge your support to stand with us against behind the vertical at nawdhorse.org.