English, Western, Free Spirit or…?

What kind of riding do you do now?

  • What style of riding (or sport) did you start in?
  • How has that evolved? If not, what keeps you interested?
  • If you had no limitations (age, physical ability, money) what horse sport would you immediately try that is different than the one you are in, and why?
  • What does your ideal ride look/feel like today?

15 thoughts on “English, Western, Free Spirit or…?

  1. Started western, now do low level hunters. I am DYING to try polo (remember, crazy 15 year old brain :p) a great ride is one where my horse actually uses his back and neck, not hollows out and breaks at the poll, saying “its not cheating…. I promise!” yeah bud, it is.

  2. Oh gosh, my riding history is a messy amalgamation of styles.

    I started off riding English at a crappy barn that catered to Girl Scouts and summer camp riders, but quickly migrated to a fancy show barn. I took lessons like I was a circuit rider (3x a week), but never had the money to show extensively. At some point my parents realized that horses were getting too expensive, and told me that if I wanted t ride, I could pay for it myself. That’s when I started looking for ways to ride on the cheap…which mostly meant schooling greenies and OTTBs.

    Rode the babies until I went to college, where riding was mostly put on the backburner. I spent so much time working in order to afford my horse, that I never had time to ride him. I was lucky if I got a weekly trail ride in. Did IHSA my junior year, but quit after a semester due to politics.

    After college I worked on a dude ranch for three years (and running!) so so switched to western and turns out I’m pretty handy at team penning! Whenever I have the opportunity I’ll break out the ‘ole Crosby and remind the Beast about our hunter days. I also get to pop over some fences on friends’ horses occasionally.

    Although I still identify as a hunter rider, the sad truth is that I haven’t taken a proper lesson in *eek!* 5 years and can’t even find my old huntcoat. I ride a hybrid Wenglish style and haven’t ridden a made horse in a long long time.

    I’d love to get back into Hunter-land some day and would really like to try my hand at jumpers or foxhunting. On the flipside, breakaway roping looks like a blast too!

  3. I have been, and always will be, a hunter princess. Despite a couple of brief stints in the jumper and equitation rings, a couple of western trail rides, and some dressage lessons, the hunters will always be my one true love. There is just nothing more magical to me than the feeling, or the sight, of a smooth, steady, well-ridden hunter round on a nice horse, where everything looks and feels effortless and beautiful. Some people say that watching the hunter ring is like watching paint dry, but to me… it’s pure bliss!

  4. I started out at a hunter barn, did some equitation. Then in my 20s landed at an eventing barn by chance and was bitten by that bug. I evented as much as I could up until my first child was born (34) and then found it was next to impossible to take an entire Saturday (or weekend) off to event. So for awhile I did low jumpers.

    About six years ago someone invited me to go hunting and I quickly became hooked. How can you beat galloping xc, jumping fences and then getting to eat lunch?

    I still school dressage movements to keep my horse balanced and supple but I’m sure glad I don’t have to ride those darned tests anymore!

  5. I started with Dressage, started on lesions when I was 7, moved on to pony club when I was old enough. I really never did enjoy jumping as much as dressage. I then moved onto some show ring stuff, English pleasure, ETC and helped some western pleasure horses raise there heads. I owned an Gorgeous appaloosa TB mare that I loved and would effortlessly move from an ultra collected “western” frame (think arab type frame, her head was too high to ask her to do the current trend in the WP ring) to an very nice up headed almost saddle seat like frame. I was very happy and thought I had it all.
    Then one day my mom bought home an Mini. Of course the next step was to go to an mini show, and naturally I got roped into helping. What did I see there, but Shetland ponies. Now these where nothing like the Shetlands I had seen, these where Leggy, sleek, and dare I say HORSE LIKE. Many where Animated like saddlebreds, but even the ones who where not animated had terrific action, with excellent suspension and freedom of their shoulder. I could not take my eyes off of them! To top the package off, they have BRAINS, heck they are Shetlands, in all of there door opening, knot untying, and Hay mom, I bet you cant catch me splendor!
    An few months later, I bought Louie, and have since learned to drive, and whats more, I have started in on Driven Dressage with him. I have sold all of my full sized horses, (I found an retirement home for my mare, with an little girl who loves her dearly) and now own three little american Shetlands, one of which I have competed in little one day HDT’s, just enough to wet my pallet in it, and am looking forward to my first driven dressage show in September.

    My Ideal ride, hahaha, that has gotten difficult, Now, if you are talking about an riding horse, well I need something that thinks like my pony, smart, active and always wanting to be an part of whatever I am doing, with an good moving shoulder and some suspension.
    Now as far as comfort, I am having an custom cart made with great suspension that should allow me to focus on my pony an little better LOL.

    I think If I had the time and the money I would try reining, it has always looked like fun. However that being said, in reality I would probably end up with an four up of smart sevete little Shetlands and be doing CDE if I had the money.

  6. I started out riding bareback on a little Shetland pony who just loved to buck me off and run for the closest stall with hay. I was about 9 years old, and was given permission to ride him by the owner. My family couldn’t afford horses but we lived close to a stable. I spent more time there than at home. I went to horse camp in the summers and had access to a horse in high school. It was all western or bareback. Tack intimidated me. I was always afraid of putting a saddle on wrong so I rode bareback for the most part. But I always admired those English riders with beautiful saddles and two sets of reins.

    Fast forward 20 years during which I married, had kids, divorced, and had no interaction with horses. After my divorce, I started taking jumping lessons and then discovered dressage. I learned the basics on my first “owned” horse, a little QH. Then I bought a big beautiful Friesian, sure I was going to take him to Grand Prix. He ended up being way too difficult for me. Now I have a Paint who is of average talent in the dressage court but of exceptional temperament. We do dressage and trail riding. It’s a perfect fit.

    If I could do another discipline, I’m not sure what I would pick. If I were a lot younger I would probably try endurance again. I can’t tolerate that many hours in the saddle anymore. I also loved jumping. And reining fascinates me. I guess I love all disciplines and I love watching riders in all of them that have great connection with their horse.

    Because, it is about the horse after all.

  7. I started riding Western when I was 48. A year later I went to hunter/jumper and bought my first horse, a 14.2 Quarter Horse. Three years later, I started in dressage, then bought a 3-year-old Friesian/Arab cross who was (needless to say) too much for me! After a year of not riding him (!) — my trainer rode him — I got my current horse, a (then) 10-year-old QH, my perfect horse.

    My fantasy is to ride cross-country. That will be in my next life, when I start riding when I’m 8.

    My ideal ride doesn’t have to be a ride — it could be on the ground. It’s those rare moments when I stop trying, stop thinking, stop talking to myself and am able to listen to my horse and have a conversation in his realm. That doesn’t happen too often, but when it does — wow.

  8. I first rode western, at rental stables — I’m old enough to have started when you could rent a horse and go ride, unsupervised. Fewer lawyers in them days! πŸ˜€

    However, once I finally was able to own a horse, it was an Arabian. Soon I could go to a Class A show with ONE horse, SIX saddles (western, cutback, dressage, forward seat, sidesaddle, and an Arabian costume), and a show buggy. I did just about everything: trail, reining, pleasure in the western saddle; all kinds of english pleasure, hunter, a little cross country, and even some park (the Arabian division version of three-gaited).

    I agree — you can have a favorite way to ride, but that doesn’t mean someone else’s favorite isn’t just as valid a choice. (Unless, perhaps, they’re into soring or horse tripping.)

    Then I wrecked a knee (GETTING IN A CAR, fer hevvins sake), which ended some of those activities: I really miss jumping. Oh, I can still JUMP — I just can’t LAND. You know that moment when you “sink into your kneerolls”? I’ve learned, to my dismay, that this requires actual KNEES. πŸ˜›

    So, obviously, if physical restrictions weren’t an issue, I would be jumping. If *money*/time/assistance weren’t an issue, I would love to do working cow horse and cutting — but numero uno would be combined driving, single and pairs. Cheeze, that would only require three vehicles per each, a caravan of trailers and tow vehicles, and enough harness to outfit the Budweiser Clydes (and it would all have to be cleaned regularly … πŸ˜€

  9. I started riding with a friend and became involved with Pony Club. So, we did a variety of things; dressage, hunting, equitation, 3-day eventing. Now I generally use my western saddle, or my military police saddle. I do have a dressage saddle but rarely use it. Most of my riding is just for fun – trail rides and some arena work trying to get the horse responsive to my aids. I’m taking some lessons from a gal who does versatility ranch horse work.
    If I could do anything on/with horses I think I’d love to go skijoring. It looks like a lot of fun!
    My ideal ride is one where my horse is calm and quiet while we negotiate about 10 miles of trails as we explore new areas.

  10. I started western at a summer camp. I loved it so much, my mom went in look of lessons for me during the school year. She found a riding school with something like 60 horses whose owner was the founder of the local dressage club. They started everyone western to begin with, but all had a philosophy of dressage basics regardless of discipline. I started riding English not long after because my legs were too short to reach past the saddle pad on a western saddle and my instructor thought I could better communicate in an english saddle. I ended up having 3 lessons a week during the school year – 1 each with a western instructor, a hunter/jumper instructor and a dressage instructor. Despite different disciplines, they all followed the basic philosophy of the school owner which was rooted in classical dressage.
    When I got my own horse, I did english and hunt seat with her, and rode bareback a LOT. I was too short to reach to get the saddle on her even if I could lift it straight over my head, so when I didn’t want to wait for my mom’s help or she wasn’t around I would just get on bareback. I always loved competing in trail at horse shows with her, and she was the best real trail horse EVER. She spooked once in the years we owned her, when a car backfired loudly on the bridge we were going under. She was sure-footed, and willing to move out if asked, but happy to have a nice, relaxed walk if that was preferred, and regardless of what the horses around her were doing.
    My next horse was a breed show horse. He was double registered palomino/quarter horse, and we did REALLY well together in english and western, jumping, showmanship, trail.
    I went to college and competed in hunter riding, but took dressage lessons when I could, too.
    Ultimately, though, even while riding western pleasure horses, my whole childhood horse doodles were horses with arched necks, poll high, reaching far outward with their front legs. I always thought I couldn’t afford to really ride dressage, though.
    After a break from riding due to trying to settle in after college, I did some soul searching on what type of riding I wanted to do. I adore the trainer I did breed show riding with, and considered going back to that world so I could ride with him again. However, my heart told me forget about the finances – do dressage. So now, that’s what I’m riding. I need to find a western saddle to fit my thoroughbred for trail riding, and I am disgusted by anyone who tries to belittle riders in other disciplines just for riding those disciplines (which I hear far more riding dressage than I ever did another discipline, but none from my barn). If I had the time and money I would love to do reining as well, but I am doing what I want to do and would do if I actually had the money. (I’m not rich. Therefore, doing dressage as I’d love to – work with my horse AND buy or lease an upper level schoolmaster – isn’t an option right now.)

  11. My first lessons were in English (on a stubborn, poky Appaloosa) and Saddle Seat (on a bay Standerbred). After that, I learned on Hunt Seat and Dressage. I’ve ridden Western, and took a couple lessons in it, but oddly enough, I feel much more comfortable in a tiny English saddle than a giant Western one. I love Dressage though, and want to learn reining.

    If I had no limitations, I would barrel race and do cross country jumping. I competed in cross country once, and loved it.

    In reality, and with my limitations (the ground looks much much father away now that I pay my own medical bills and insurance than it did when I was 12 years old, plus I never have the right combination of time and money), I’m thrilled to go for a trail ride every once in a while.

  12. At the moment I am doing dressage and a bit of jumping. I’m not competing, I’m just doing it for me. I like dressage better because I can see my steady improvement, even though I don’t have my own horse right now. I just started jumping and it’s all rather haphazard still.

    I started on pony rides and trail rides. My parents were all “don’t encourage her” so I usually had to pay for them myself and beg and plead for transportation to and from.
    When I started riding regularly it was at an agricultural college a year after I’d finished highschool. I got 2 weeks riding the string horses before we started breaking in our own horses. I was assigned a 14hh grey mare of no breeding called Millie. She taught me in leaps and bounds. The style was Australian stock work. We checked fence lines and herded cattle and checked cattle – this started after taking 2 weeks to start them under saddle and then 1 week of basic riding.
    At the time I was also working with the weanlings and driving a big 10yo Clydie cross in chains and between shafts. His name was Bill. I got on with him even better than Millie.

    My next regular ride was my first horse, Jay, who I commented on in an earlier post last week, and we mostly did trail riding for 5 years before I started dressage with him. He really flourished doing dressage, but still preferred it out on the trail.

    But one of those years I spent in Minnesota, working at a boarding stable on a working exchange. The boss was a fabulous horse trainer, and I got a project horse, who I named Wombat. He was a 4 yo Quarter Horse, and we did western pleasure and obstacle and trail riding, and I also started him in harness and went driving around in a light sulky.

    Of all of those, I think I like the western stuff and the dressage stuff the best, but I’d always combine it with trail riding because I find it helps to make a horse more sensible, to be confronted by the wide world on a regular basis – and I haven’t yet met a horse that didn’t love just getting out there and going places.

    There are 2 things I haven’t tried that I’d like to – polo (or polocrosse) and endurance. They look like fun!

    I get all shiny-eyed whenever I see an Andalusian or a Friesian, so if I ever get one of those I think the dressage might suit best – but possibly also driving.

  13. I started out in Hunter. I didn’t really know that there were any other options other then Western. Now I have two loves: Dressage and hacking.

    Dressage because it pushes to continuously improve my skills and my communication with my horse.
    Hacking because it gets me into my favourite places- the woods and far away from any people. I can be quiet and hear myself think there.

  14. I started out as a young kid just riding – bareback, Western, English, whatever – and never had a lesson. When I got to college, I finally got some formal lessons for the first time and did some lower-level eventing and also hunter/jumper. Then I stopped riding for almost 20 years, and got back to horses when my daughters got interested in riding. Got a horse with some lower-level dressage training and my daughters and I got hunters, and eventually a jumper, and did the show thing for several years until we got tired of it (for a variety of reasons, but in large part because we didn’t like the way many of the horses were ridden and treated). Stumbled across Mark Rashid at just the right time and began to relearn how to work with with horses. Love my horse life now – I do trails, some arena work and just work with my horses – wouldn’t change a thing. I ride in all sorts of tack – mixed English/Western – and my horses don’t mind.

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