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Helpful Tips for Your First Show

Which Cowboy Dressage Classes Should I Enter?

In general, classes are arranged from least to most difficult in a given set. So, for example, W/J 1 (Walk/Jog 1) is the least difficult Walk Jog class, while W/J 6 is the most difficult Walk Jog class that we offer. Challenge classes, offered in the morning, have a series of poles and cones in the arena for the horse and rider to navigate around and over. Don’t be afraid to give these a go! For many riders, having these additional “guidelines” in the arena can help them better ride their test. 

Youth classes are for riders who are 17 years and under. Youth must wear a helmet during ALL classes in which they are entered, including Partnership On the Ground, and at any time while mounted.
Amateur classes are for riders who are 18 years or older who DO NOT receive income from training or teaching lessons/clinics.
Open classes are for riders who are 18 years or older who DO receive income from training or teaching lessons/clinics.


Where Can I Find the Tests?

For a full list of the Cowboy Dressage tests, click here (click on the "Judges Scoresheets Back" to view the scoresheets for free) or, you may download tests, call sheets, and diagrams for $5 per test here.

Here's a list of the tests currently offered in CDWCO shows (see Class Abbreviation Key below):







*Class Abbreviation Key:
Ch = Challenge
W = Walk
J = Jog
Gaited = For Gaited horses (Tennessee Walking Horses, Missouri Fox Trotters, Gaited Mules, etc.)
I = Intermediate Gait
L = Lope
P = Partnership
OTG = On the Ground
U/S = Under Saddle
Lead Line = Rider that is 7 years and under            

Freestyle: A rider-designed act choreographed to music
VB = Vaquero Buckaroo. Honors the Vaquero style, with traditional reins, bits, etc. (See the Cowboy Dressage Rules & Guidelines
for details.)
Liberty = Showing a horse on the ground with only a neck rope, or eventually, no rope. You must have scored a minimum of 72% on POTG 2 to show in Liberty classes. (See the Cowboy Dressage Rules & Guidelines for details.)


If you’re still unsure, please send us an email at We are more than happy to answer your questions and help you select the tests you’d like to ride, as well as explain the maneuvers!

Where Can I Find the Cowboy Dressage Rule Book?

It is highly recommended that you read the Cowboy Dressage Rules & Guidelines before showing.


What Kind of Tack Do I Need?

Please see the Cowboy Dressage Rules & Guidelines for details, but in general, you need to show in:

•    A Western saddle (with a horn)
•    A standard Western bit, snaffle bit, or hackamore
•    Loop or any type Western reins
•    Optional: crop or whip (max. 42”), spurs, Western-type cavesson


Note: Vaquero classes have specific tack requirements; see Rulebook for details.


What Should I Wear?

•    A Western hat or helmet (helmets are required for all Youths for all classes, even ground classes)
•    Necktie, kerchief, bolo tie, or pin (In very hot weather, show committee may dismiss this requirement.)
•    Long-sleeved shirt with any type collar
•    Jeans, trousers, pants, or riding skirt
•    Boots (no riding-type shoes)

•    Optional: Vest, jacket, coat, sweater, chinks/chaps, gloves

Can I Have a Buddy Horse?
Absolutely! If it helps your horse to relax, you are welcome to have one or more buddy horses positioned outside of the court. If you don’t have your own buddy horse, just ask another rider! You’ll find many people who are happy to help!


What if the Judge Rings a Cowbell?

The judge will ring a cowbell when it’s time for the next rider to enter the court. After you hear the bell, you’ll have 45 seconds to enter the court. This is actually enough time to ride completely around the court at a jog, so don’t feel rushed! Take as much of the 45 seconds as you need to help you and your horse enter the court as relaxed as possible.

If the judge rings the bell while you’re on the court, that means you made a mistake on a maneuver, such as turning right instead of left. Don’t worry – it happens to everyone from time to time! Just pause and look at the judge, and they will explain where you went wrong so you can complete the maneuver. You’ll receive a 2-point deduction for the first error, a 4-point deduction for the second error, and “no score” for the third error. But you can still get a good score even with an error or two, so try not to let it fluster you! If you do happen to get three errors, you can still complete your test for practice. You’re also welcome to ask the judge to complete the test as a schooling test (no score), if that’s what your horse needs.


Do I Have to Memorize My Tests?

Although it’s good to be familiar with your tests, you are not required to memorize them. A caller will be available, or you are welcome to bring your own. However, if a caller makes a mistake, it's still up to you to know what to do!


These diagrams are to help you practice! Find more info on the courts, click here.

2023 CDWCO Class List.jpg

Open Court

Challenge Court

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