I am currently showing in the Academy division, aimed at lesson students on lesson horses. The heart and soul of saddleseat is in the performance classes: Three-Gaited Country Pleasure, Five-Gaited Show Pleasure. In these classes, riders wear the traditional long-jacketed suit with a color-coordinated derby. Hence the term “suit classes”. If Academy riders plan to move up, this is where they plan to move up to.
When I tried on my not-cheap Academy duds, I could see a gleam in my instructor’s eye. To her this was the camel’s nose. She would continue to gently lead me down the garden path until I was in my own saddleseat suit on my own saddleseat horse. Since I have been at her barn for 8 months and have yet to miss a show, this is a reasonable conclusion.
To me, saddleseat is a detour. I’m getting out of the house, meeting great people, even learning things that will improve my riding on any horse. I don’t see turning away from hunter/jumper-dressage-eventing to go saddleseat full-time. I can’t imagine trying to balance both. I won’t say never. I never thought I’d continue this blog past one year. However, I find the possibility of high-level saddleseat deeply unlikely.
Horse showing is expensive enough. Imagine the cost of showing in diametrically opposed disciplines: separate horses, separate barns, separate training, separate shows. The only shared equipment would be helmet & gloves. Oh yes, even if I were to be in a fancy suit, I’d be wearing a helmet.
Barn rules say that suit riders must have their own horses. The head trainer (my instructor) thinks that the horse needs to be focused on one particular rider.
You work as a team and you want that horse specifically worked/conditioned for you. With multiple riders a horse can have multiple issues. When working towards a goal, you want everything to be consistent.
If you want to be the best, then you need to provide yourself with the best equipment, horse, trainer, etc..that you can afford and wish to put into it.
Since I know squat about the upper reaches of saddleseat, I would have to keep this mythical horse in training. After keeping my horses in my own backyard for 20+ years, I would be a terrible boarder. I have too many opinions on how things should be done and am too used to indulging those opinions. That’s just at a basic barn that provides a stall, turn-out, and two meals. I would be even worse at a training barn where someone else was making decisions about my horse’s care. That’s nothing against Stepping Stone, I would chafe at any training barn.
If you are going to do it, do it right. That would mean going to the barn enough days a week to make the effort worthwhile and going to enough shows to merit having a horse for that specific purpose. That would mean leaving my own barn to chug along with minimal supervision. I don’t see this happening.
I still think it would be fun to find a saddlebred. But only so I could take him or her away from this life and go jump something. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ll stay with saddleseat – but as a visitor, perhaps even live there awhile as an expat. I have no plans to change my passport.
Time will tell.