Saddlebred riders do not want obedient horses.
Bear with me. Dressage and saddleseat have many similarities: rearward balance and an uphill shoulder from the horse, seat and posture from the rider. That is a topic for another post.
A dressage horse trotting down centerline has no idea what the test is. Rides at home are an endless remix of gaits, transitions, and figures. Show patterns are majorly different for each level of competition, minorly different within the levels, and change every few years. Patterns are not practiced between shows. The goal is a horse who is attentively and athletically ready to do whatever she is called upon to do smoothly and promptly. This is termed submission. This does not mean a slavish robot. Dressage riders want a happy working partner. On her blog post, Vocab Lessons, Ange Bean writes “Submissive = When the horse lets you control of each of their body parts easily.”
(Pet peeve: I take issue with the common dressage parlance of “improving” a horse’s balance or gaits. His balance works fine for his needs. We may want to bring the horse in line with a chosen ideal, and work to help the horse achieve this ideal more easily, more consistently, and on demand. However, to privilege one expression of a gait over another is a value judgment that resides inside our heads. End soapbox.)
When an ASB enters the ring, he knows the drill. Enter at a trot heading left. Walk (perhaps. The big-time performance classes are not stringent on this.). Canter. Reverse. Repeat. There might be a little modification: the instructor throws in a second canter if the students are not sufficiently worn out, a horse competes in walk-trot instead of walk-trot-canter [Show Report: Class 78]. By and large, the routine is the same every ride, every class, every year. The result is a different attitude on the part of the horse. No one wants a Saddlebred who asks, ‘What next? What next? What next?’ They want one who says, ‘Hot damn. Here we go.’
Different requirements from the horse equal different goals for the rider. My job – on a Saddlebred – is to assist the horse to look as flashy and striking as possible. Then to sit lightly until I am called upon to assist further. Granted this is easier on a trained horse who knows her job. I imagine that riding a young Saddlebred requires stronger assistance and less time staying out of the way. But the underlying philosophy remains. I would think.
Folks who know more about dressage &/or saddleseat, please weigh in.