As you read this (Jan 12, 2013), I will be at my second saddleseat show. I am entered in Beginner Walk-Trot. According to the rules, I am at the correct level.
At times I find this ridiculous. I’ve been riding for how many years? On Previous Horse, I was able to check my girth at the canter. Why am I taking ribbons away from true adult walk-trot beginners?
At other times, I feel distinctly qualified. I’ve been in a saddleseat saddle maybe a dozen times. I haven’t a clue where an American Saddlebred keeps the go, stop, turn buttons.
At yet other times, my previous riding gets in my way and I’m worse off than if I’d hadn’t ridden before. I go into panicked obedience at the announcer’s command instead of “finishing my pass” [Sorta]. When a crisis arises, I revert to hunt seat [Old Habits]. At which point, Stepping Stone Farm’s well-trained saddleseat mounts wonder why I’m hovering up around their ears. If I would please sit back on their kidneys where I belong, they could get on with their jobs. Even when I know intellectually what needs to be done, decades of muscle memory react to the horse without my consent.
Philosophically, where do you draw the line between legitimate contender and ringer?