Back To The Bigtime


Detail from photo taken by Mariah Bouchet.
Detail from photo taken by Mariah Bouchet.

Show this weekend (maybe. possibly. cross fingers. superstition scares me from being more definite. more on this tomorrow.) My first big show of the year, i.e. an open show with performance classes rather than a fun show for lesson students. It will be at held in at a show arena rather than at a local barn. Time to break out the shirt/vest/tie combo.

I’m ready. Mentally, that is. Physically, not so much.

In Obedience Epiphany, I expounded on my theory of the dressage horse versus the saddle seat show horse. Short version: “What’s next?” versus “Here we go!”

I asked my saddle seat instructor for her response to this post. It is her stated goal to train the horses so well that they can to do their jobs without their riders. In my previous riding life, having your trainer do all the work was something, if not to be ashamed of, at least not to boast about. You could buy a trained horse or have the trainer ride the horse around a new level to give a good experience. Maybe. But if the trainer needed to tune your horse daily, that made you a dressage queen or hunter princess. Neither are terms of affection.


I think it goes to the goal of the riding style. The ideal of a well-trained ASB is that he (or she) trucks around on his own, stylin’ along while the rider sits in comfort and admires the scenery. A saddle seat trainer in an open class might be holding the horses’s hoof every stride, but needs to make it look as if the horse is on effortless autopilot. Whereas a dressage horse is supposed to be in a close dialogue with the rider. If the dressage horse is on autopilot, the rider needs to make it look as if she’s leading the parade. Again, neither one is good or bad. Both are equally hard to do well. Just different.

Of course, it’s not that clear cut. I’m wandering in the realm of abstract theory. A place I know overly well. While the goals of the two disciplines diverge, the realities are closer together. Dressage horses know their jobs. ASBs need a supportive ride. Between any two riding styles, I think there is about 50% overlap and 50% wildly different. Depends which angle one wishes to pursue. Whether one is a lumper or a splitter.

So what is the take-away and what does it have to do with my ride on Saturday?

Sam at home
Sam at home

Ready, Aim, Fire
When Sam & I trot into the ring, correction, when Sam & I “bust up in there”, all I’m gonna do is ride straight & let the corners of the arena turn him. No circles. No bending. No setting up for jumps. There is nothing to do except …

Ease On Down The Road
Sam is not a DIY hot rod, nor a junker farm truck that sticks going into third gear. Sam is well-maintained, luxury sedan. My mechanics have rotated the tires, waxed the hood, and filled the tank. So, I shall sit down, sit back, and pilot my ride to a Diana Ross soundtrack, cranked from 33 to 45 rpm.

We’ll see if all this mental preparation can substitute for serious lack of saddle time.

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