Long-time lurker, brand-new poster here. I thought I would quickly introduce myself, and I have a general query as well…
I’ve been around horses pretty much all my life, but (silly me!) didn’t start riding until about three ago. Since then, I’ve been taking general (English) riding lessons off-and-on, whenever my work schedule has allowed me to commit to a weekly schedule. I’m still very much a novice rider, but now that my work schedule has stabilized I will finally be able to commit to regular, on-going lessons, and really learn how to ride. I’m very much looking forward to this!
Now, here’s my query. It’s more of a general – I’m curious- survey-type question, really: at what point did you all decide on a particular discipline? Did you know from day one, for example, that you wanted to be an eventer? Or did it take you years to settle on, say, western riding? What is it about the discipline you are involved in that made you choose it?
I’d really like to hear about your experiences, stories and opinions. Right now, I’m just beginning to look for a new lesson facility, and my intention is to start off with more lessons, and then to get into part-boarding or leasing. Luckily for me, there are a variety of places within my reach; pretty much any discipline is available. Obviously, each place will have it’s own personality and I will want to find the one that’s the best fit for my own learning style, personality, etc. But, all things being equal – which discipline do I pick?
Last edited by Serendipity; Jan. 23, 2009 at 09:34 PM.
Reason: spelling mistake
For me , it was years. Started off just riding. Took lessons (English) and then rode various horses, catch riding and trails. When out on trails we would jump etc. In the pasture we would jump. Rode from age 14 and didn't start dressage until I was maybe 32? Now I still mess around, trail riding and doing little jumps also. Cross training is the best, just like when you work out. No need to JUST stick to one. Get as wide experience as you can, it will help your overall riding.
My "primarily disciplines" are hunters and equitation. I grew up in a hunter-focused barn, added jumpers in high school, and the competed hunt seat equitation in college.
However, I've added more "disciplines" over the years. I added western equitation in college (might as well get more ride-time at the shows!). I focused on hunters/eq more in the last few years since the gelding I bought is S-L-O-W (no jumpers for us!). But I've also added dressage and cross country in the last few years, which he's happy to do. Just figured we might as well "spice things up". Luckily, he is pretty laid back! We also trail ride lots and are planning to add horse CAMPING to our repertoire this coming summer - fun!
I started with hunters really only because that's what we had in the area. Not many people rode western where I grew up, and my first lesson was in an English saddle, so that just "stuck".
I grew up on a farm where we bred our own horses, mostly Connemara/TB crosses and later Welsh crosses. What discipline I did was determined by the horse I rode. However the choice between english and western came when I realized that I feel like I am going to fall out of a western saddle. I love to jump and really enjoy the "rush" but I also get that rush just from trail riding.
Whatever you decide, make sure it's what ever gives you that inner joy and happiness.
I started riding as a kid. Was basically trained in huntseat equitation and hunters (and eventually showed as such). I think I was introduced to Eventing and Dressage when I was about 12 or 13. I didn't really seek it out, but just happened to start riding with a small barn that rode those disciplines. Back in those days eventing wasn't as easy to find and that was my Summer barn, so in the other seasons it was back to hunters & equitation for me (eventing was just for Summer). Even in the Summer there might only be one or two little events to go to all season and the rest of the show schedule was still traditional hunter stuff (where I lived anyway). I went to an intense eventing school/camp for the Summer when I was about 17 and feel in love with Eventing for good then. Still, it wasn't a ubiquitous discipline back then (or at least I wasn't successful in finding barns that specialized in it), so most of the time I still did hunters/jumpers -- through college and then the couple of years past that, that I still rode.
Now that I am riding again I was very happy to easily find a barn that is all eventing, all the time. No more hunter/jumper - eventing hybrid stuff for me! I don't know if this is because it's more common than it was back then (since I've been out of the horse community for many years, I wouldn't know), or if I'm just lucky enough to now live near eventing barns, but I am SO happy that I am able to concentrate on the discipline that I love.
Anyway, you have plenty of time to decide what you like. Your instruction now will give you the basics to be able to move off into whatever direction you want, when you're ready. Learn all you can can, do the work to have a strong seat, good balance, effective aids, forgiving-elastic hands, etc. and try as much stuff as you can when you're ready. You can always ride in multiple disciplines too, if you want to. I have some friends at my barn who train eventing, but they're REALLY into cowboy mounted shooting. Who knew?
ETA: Oh and welcome!
Last edited by cranky; Jan. 23, 2009 at 10:17 PM.
Reason: to add welcome (forgot that part, sorry!)
I still haven't decided! I love dressage and hate dressage people...I love eventing people but am a huge chicken. I have never done any hunter stuff...I might like it. I am intrigued with combined driving but there is something about it that is a little...hokey...but I might like it if I ever do it. I am moving to a barn where the BM does combined driving and she said I could be her "gator" on the back of the cart. I can't wait! Try your hand at everything and see what you like! Good luck and welcome to the board. I am clearly addicted.
"What's so funny 'bout Peace Love and Understanding?" Elvis Costello
Wow, this is cool! I was expecting to get a few replies, maybe tomorrow sometime... I go off and read a few other threads and there's already responses!
I'm seeing lots of variety in what everyone does, which is really neat. I have to admit, I was a little worried that I would have to stick within the regime of a certain discipline once I started with one particular barn. My riding experience is limited to my family farm and a couple of lesson barns, all of which weren't specific. This is good to know!
Of the riding you've done or what you've seen (live or on TV), think about what appeals to you. What looks fun? What looks enjoyable? Go try it. Don't expect to be good at it right away, but if you give it a fair chance and find it too boring, or too scary, then try something else.
A lot of adult riders started in one discipline, then moved to another because of 1. proximity, 2. boredom with what they'd been doing for years already, and/or 3. aging/fear issues (people who did more, ahem, high-impact jumpers or eventers find that dressage and driving start looking mighty good as the years pass ).
The paradigm shifts once you start owning your own horse(s). You may want to focus on one discipline, but if you discover that your horse can't do it, or wants to do something different, then you get to decide whether to sell the horse or change disciplines. No right or wrong answer to that one, just a matter of personal choice.
I don't think I have decided on a particular discipline. "They're all good" to paraphrase my old trainer.
I started out Western as a kid, the backyard, trail riding and goofing around kind of Western. Cadged rides from friends and neighbors and spent a summer riding ponies bareback, because nobody had a saddle. Tried English lessons - they were a bit daunting so I quit, but still loved the idea of jumping. Got a horse of my own, and after I watched her jump a rail set up in the pasture getting out of the way at feeding time, I gritted my teeth and tried English again. Unfortunately that may have been the only jump in her.
So the closest English instructor was basically a dressage instructor but she did basic jumping (British Horse Society instructor). Did a little showing, but always on the flat. College was more H/J at the school barn, then a long break. A very long break. Came back to riding with a contemporary of the dressage instructor and did basic flatwork. Also got to sneak in a couple of nice trail rides.
Moved, and started at an H/J barn. Had a lot of fun jumping, quite a bit of frustration too- the old body just didn't want to cooperate some times.
Moved yet again and found a close barn, saddleseat this time, and yes, I'll be learning to drive! I would still love to jump, but really, I'll take whatever I can get. There's a place advertising polo lessons, that sounds like fun but it is 40 miles one way - so saddleseat and driving will work for right now.
To answer your question- don't worry about choosing a specific discipline to focus on, because I learned that even if you do, things can change! Case in point- I started riding as a kid, hunters, eq, and later jumpers. In high school I made the switch to dressage, a discipline that I stuck with through college. After college I continued with dressage, then bought a horse. It was my horse that changed my focus. She will never be an upper level dressage horse, so we started focusing less on dressage and more on H/J, a discipline that she has talent for. I started working with my current trainer, who focuses on all-around, and through that I discovered western, and boy, what fun we are having now! I go back and forth between dressage work, H/J, and western, and we are both having fun doing everything. I am looking forward to competing in both english and western on the open and even the breed circuit, something that 5 or 10 years ago I never thought I would be doing!
Good luck with your riding and remember to have fun!
Proudly Owned By Sierra, 2003 APHA Mare
In Loving Memory of Tally, April 15, 1983 - June 2, 2010
Since you are starting, I would look more for an instructor that will give you very solid, general basics first.
I think that someone that will longe you, provide you with a very good, steady, indepent seat, that means indepent of your hands, would be ideal.
That trainer probably may be an assistent trainer at an English based barn, so you will then be exposed to many of those disciplines.
Once you have the basics down well, just having been exposed to all that will help you decide where to go from that.
I would not reccommend that you own a horse for now, the money, time and energy you would spend on caring for that horse, being a beginner, is much better spent on lessons and clinics and so on, eventually maybe renting a horse for a little to keep learning.
Later, once you are more experienced, owning a horse will do you and that horse more good.
Sometimes, the chance to buy a horse will present itself, when someone is moving on to more horse and one suited for you will show up.
Once you own a horse, your learning curve will be steep in horsemanship, but as a rider, unless you have large resources to keep taking lessons on different horses, that horse will take too much to really let you keep learning, as you need while you are a beginner would be my concern there.
Once you have some very good basics, taking some more lessons in another barn, to learn from other types of instructors, maybe in different disciplines, that will broaden your horse horizons.
Mostly, get your feet wet in a good training center first, take as many lessons on as many horses as you can and then you can come back with more specific questions.
Soon you will find the majority of your internet time is spent here
Resistance is futile.....
As for deciding on a discipline - don't limit yourself right now. Try it all.
IMHO you can't beat a lesson on the longeline for developing a good, balanced seat and quiet, effective hands.
You are most likely to find someone willing & able to teach you this way at a dressage or other English-type barn.
(Western riders: mea culpa if longeing is now part of Western teaching methodology. I plead ignorance)
I started riding huntseat as that was what was available to 8yo me.
Went on to show H/J then switched to dressage and lower-level eventing.
I love riding outdoors. Adding jumpable obstacles to a trail is my idea of a fun ride.
As to other riding experiences:
-I have sat on a cutting horse - YOWZA!
-Got dizzy spinning a reiner (but it was fun).
-Last year I treated myself to driving lessons. I am now seriously wanting to add a driving pony to my "herd" of 2.
-And I have joined friends who horsecamp which is also a lot of fun.
I guess what I'm saying is don't poo-poo any riding discipline unless you give it a try.
*friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon: Steppin' Out 1988-2004 Hey Vern! 1982-2009 Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
Each riding style has a sort of 'image' that attracts people, such as the brave cowboy herding cattle, or the English country gentleman pursuing the fox over picturesque countryside while the huntsman blows on a foxhunting horn, even if Western Pleasure or Show Hunter horse show classes are far, far removed from those romantic days of yore.
But usually, people wind up doing whatever is commonest in their area, and I don't think most people actually 'choose' at all. The people around them usually have a bias against other riding styles and encourage the person to see the other styles as less appealing or less 'good'.
If you look at the number of posts on each section of the Chronicle bulletin boards, you might get the idea that Hunt Seat is THE most popular and most done style of riding in the USA. But what's popular really varies a lot from region to region. The popularity of a style has a direct effect on how accessible instruction is in that area.
I always wanted to ride dressage. The same things appealed to me in dressage as anyone says appeals to them in any riding style - the traditions, the style, etc.
I grew up in 'Hunt Country' - Geneseo, NY, where horse sports like show jumping, eventing and dressage were EXTREMELY popular. There was also a lot of fox hunting - I don't mean show ring classes, I mean belting around across the countryside chasing a fox with hundreds of other people. We had an incredible number of very strong, experienced, traditional 'sport' horse people in the area, people who had been around horses all their lives and handled different breeds and types of horses. For many people, riding was a natural part of life that they did every single day, come hell or high water, as they say, LOL. There was far less Western riding and Saddle Seat or gaited riding there, than in most other parts of the United States. In some areas of the USA, there is very, very little horse 'sport' (eventing, dressage, show jumping).
The FEI riding sports that are represented in the Olympics, though, are quite different from the 'riding styles'.
The FEI riding sports are eventing, dressage, show jumping, driving, endurance, and very recently added, Western style reining, though reining isn't quite like the other FEI sports...yet.
Typically, FEI riding sports mean working very closely with a riding instructor, needing quite a 'purpose bred' well trained horse to compete successfully, and quite a lot of challenges. While many people participate in the FEI sports at a lower, less strenuous level, there is always that next step beckoning you.
The FEI sports have these characteristics:
1. Many graded levels, gradually increasing in difficulty, with horses and riders spending years gradually climbing up those levels, some levels requiring years to master, or being completely out of reach for many people.
2. A need for expert coaching to advance, the skills needed are more and more complex and demanding with each level...even just learning the scoring and what the judges are looking for is a job in itself!
3. Local, regional, national and international competition - each subsequent level requiring more and more time, effort and commitment, in huge increments. AND more coaching and a more and more 'purpose bred' horse.
4. 'World' competition is a true world competition - with riders from dozens of countries competing against each other.
5. Two tiers of organizations running competitions. At the lower level, the competitions are controlled by a national organization. At the top levels, the competitions are controlled by an international organization, the FEI (International Equestrian Federation).
6. Usually, a very 'broad base', with many people competing at the lowest levels, and very few, even just a handful, competing at the top levels.
7. At the lowest levels, just about any eager, healthy horse will suffice. But at the top levels, the type of horse gets more and more crucial. No single breed is 'perfect' for any FEI competition; many organizations try to breed 'sport type' horses that are suitable.
ALL the different American riding 'styles' on the other hand, are very, very different.
Many of them are quite unique to America, and quite a few are not practiced in any other countries, or in very few countries, in a very, very limited way.
MOST of them are very strongly geared towards a single breed developed in the USA. Western riding is much dominated by Quarter Horses, Saddle Seat is almost exclusively the world of the American Saddlebred. Tennessee Walking Horses are the ONLY breed in those classes, etc. Hunt Seat competitions were originally geared almost exclusively around the Thoroughbred breed, and even today, horses are preferred that move much like a 'classic' Thoroughbred.
The skills required are much more narrow in focus, and tend to emphasize one certain trait. Most are practiced only by a very few breeds of horses, or there is a very specific 'type' that's wanted, that has a particular way of moving and balancing.
They include Show Hunters ('hunt seat' or 'hunter/jumper'), Western, Saddle Seat, a number of different styles tailored to certain gaited breeds, such as Fox Trotter, Tennessee Walking horses, etc.
Our national organization, the USEF, controls ALL horse showing and competing in the USA. It handles both the 'style' types of riding AND the lower levels of the FEI riding sports.
A look at all the different USEF divisions shows you a mixture - breed classes (such as Arabian, Andalusian, etc), AND style riding, such as Saddle Seat, AND the lower levels of the FEI riding sports. Most riding types have local clubs and national clubs as well.
In Dressage, we have another national body, the USDF, that handles education of instructors for dressage instructors.
Welcome-and I second the notion that you'll spend most of your internet time on here!
I started out western, doing 4-H and riding bareback all over the place when I was young with barely any lessons (hence a lot of bad habits but hey-who knew?!)
Bought a quarter horse, thought I'd do the circuit, no western instructors where I boarded so I started riding english and doing some low level dressage.
Bought my own farm, had a neighbor into dressage, caught the bug. Trying to learn dressage on your own from a book-not really easy or particularly effective in my case! Bought a yearling warmblood cross filly, eventually sold the quarter horse.
Started the filly under saddle and after 6 months, decided regular lessons would be a good thing. Found a local trainer whom no one in the area had anything negative to say about (that's a big accomplishment in our area lol) and started out with plans to be a dressage queen. Now this instructor is an upper level eventer but she happily taught me anyway. Was making good progress, holding my own at recognized dressage shows but my mare is on the lazy side. Said instructor suggests we take up jumping " to get her more forward". This is after I had my 2 daughters, so I was past 30 and pretty much a chicken- I thought eventers were crazy!
Fast forward to now-brought 2 horses from unbroke/green broke to Prelim and have a homebred knocking on the door to the move from Training level to Prelim. I'm 48 years old.
Bottom line-be open minded to all disciplines-the one you least expect may be the one that is perfect for you. Find the absolute best instructor you can and stick with that person-I cleaned my instructors house in exchange for lessons so I could make it work. She is the reason (ok I helped!) that I've been able to accomplish what I have and I truly respect her opinions and level of expertise and horsemanship. I'd rather take lessons with someone more expensive and experienced whom I admire once a month than someone I don't have as much respect for but lesson with weekly. Find someone who you respect and admire because in many ways you will be emulating them later. And you may need to lesson with many people before you find the right one. And if you decide that you don't want to compete and just want to enjoy your horse in a different capacity, that's fine, too. Just be sure to always were a helmet! Good luck!
I learned English as a child but as an adult took lessons in western riding. I found that I am not competitive enough to have the drive for showing and competing. As an adult, I'm more comfortable in a western saddle for trail riding. I've done a little ring showing, and team sorting/ penning, reined cow horse stuff. I've taken dressage lessons with western tack; I've jumped a few low jumps and trees; I don't like to go fast -so a nice collected canter (NOT the low head lope) is preferable than an all out gallop.
I've coached 4H and High School. Been at boarding barns and now have horses at home.
I've taken lessons from a few different instructors and watched many others. Done a little quadrille with some other gals from a boarding barn (4 horses all performing the same manuvers in the ring with a coach). Group riding lessons were a blast and as a group of 8 riders, we did some patterns and pairs riding during our lessons. We even combined 2 lesson groups to make a pinwheel of 16!! Awesome.
I REALLY like camping and trail riding. Ride for 2 - 4 hours with friends, come back and eat take naps, talk. then go out again later in the late afternoon/early evening for a 2 hour ride. Campfire until ??? waking up in the morning as the sun comes up to hear a soft whicker ... "Mom? Are you awake yet? I'm kinda hungry"...
I grew up in Virginia hunt country, so that's all ANYONE rode. The only people I knew who rode dressage were a brother and sister who had lived in Germany. Although "real" hunter has pretty much petered out now, i STILL haven't found anything better.
Thanks everyone for the welcomes, your stories and your advice! I’m really enjoying reading about what all of you have done – there’s so much variety in each of your replies! Everything from cutting horses to driving to eventing to…well, there’s so many! Thank you all very much for sharing!
I completely agree with all of the great advice you have given me. I absolutely need to continue on with learning the basics. In the lessons I’ve done already, there’s been a lot of longe work, three-point, etc., which has been fantastic. And, since my lessons have been “off-and-on” over the past few years, I’ve pretty much gone back to the beginning each time I’ve started up again, which has been great for really learning the basics of w-t-c. So, when I start with lessons again, I will be starting with the basics and going on from there.
Originally Posted by Barbara_F
Pick the discipline that gives you the biggest smile every time you ride.
Heh heh, I'm still at that point where I can just stand in the field with a horse and be pretty darn happy
And the advice to try everything – that sounds just perfect to me! I am so looking forward to this! Thanks again!
I was brought up in a real "horsey" family. Dad trained race horses and was a hunt master. Mum showed hackney horses in harness.
I had little choice but to ride and drive from an early age. I actually don't remember starting to ride. I was about 9 when I started to drive properly.
I've always had broad equestrian interests but in particular: national hunt racing, eventing and classical training for riding. And again with driving, I've done horse driving trials (multiples), private driving showing classes, coaching and even commercial work.
I'd say to try everything and then settle on what you enjoy and get a buzz from and find practical and within your means (competence and finances). Don't narrow your options though.
Find a good instructor that trains horses as well as people and suck their brains dry.