Today I attended a western dressage clinic sponsored by the Indiana Half Arab Club
You can find more information about western dressage at the USEF website.
I enjoyed this clinic. The clinician was very supportive and positive, and had a good foundation in both dressage and western riding. She was welcoming, open, and enthusiastic.
I didn't see anything that wasn't familiar to me. The 20m circles still needed to be circle shaped, geometry was just as important. X was still located at X and square halts were important. Some of the tests were slightly more difficult, even at the WT level because the riders were challenged by multiple changes of direction and some difficult turns, a holdover from the western style pattern classes. What I liked was the casual nature. Some people find dressage to be snobby and intimidating. They see riders in expensive saddles, gleaming white breeches, riding horses with big gaits and think they couldn't possibly be competitive. Western dressage has a heavy emphasis on neat but casual. Working stock horse tack is just as allowed as western pleasure bling. There is less of an emphasis on gaits so riders might feel more comfortable on their smaller moving horse.
Several of the riders had never had professional instruction, a few were very new to riding and were mounted on suitable horses and looking for a fun and low stress sport to enter the world of horse showing. You even had a seasoned show rider who was looking to expand her knowledge base and explore new things with her show horse. The riders learned not just how to make a dressage regulation circle, but why it was important. They learned how their position affected the horse's way of going, and how to encourage their horses to have regular gaits. They got to ride parts of the tests, and then got to go over each part while being coached.
It wasn't just dressage, but good riding. How do you improve your riding as a beginner rider? How do you help a young horse? How do you train an older green horse?
I'd hate to see someone losing out on the quality instruction that I get in my dressage lessons because they think they don't have the experience or the horse to do dressage, so I think if going out there and showing in your western saddle makes you happy, have at it!!!!