Saddle Seat Wednesday
Part 1 [Road to the World Cup: Have Saddle, Will Travel]
Part 2 [Road to the World Cup: First Team Practice]
The World Cup riders are divided in a three-gaited team and a five-gaited team. At practice, we would sit and watch the other team. The three-gaited team practiced first while the five-gaited team watched, then we swapped out. There really isn’t a lot of separation between the two groups. We all do everything together as one with the exception of our practice rides.
While there is not much rivalry between five-gaited and three-gaited, I think there is some between the members of each team, but no one talks about it out loud. There are six members of my five-gaited team but only five can compete for the railwork and only five can compete for the pattern. Everyone is competing to not be that sixth person who has to sit out. It is probably the same with the three-gaited team.
The same person will not sit out both days of competition. Everyone is guaranteed to compete. So basically four riders will compete in both rail and pattern and the other two will be what we call “split”. They each will ride the same horse but one will ride the horse for the rail portion and the other rider will ride the horse for the pattern portion. The two split riders will have to wear the same number since scoring is based off back numbers.
Equitation on a five-gaited is exactly same as you would trotting and cantering. The same position applies. There is more leeway with your legs though. Squeezing with your lower leg is essential in balancing a horse while racking, especially through the turns, so it’s not expected to keep your lower leg perfectly still and off the saddle while at that gait.
America shows do not have five-gaited equitation classes. The UPHA used to host a five-gaited horsemanship class that was focused on equitation but they discontinued it. South Africa does have five-gaited equitation and it is quite popular. This is probably why SA beats USA’s butt a lot in the five-gaited International Competitions.
All of my Championship victories have been three-gaited. I chose the five-gaited team for a couple of different reasons. It was a safer route in my mind. Saddlebreds are the only breed that do five-gaited so I knew I would not have to go against the Morgan and Arabian riders. At trials, 20 riders tryout for the three-gaited team but only 12 tryout for the five-gaited. I played the numbers game and figured it would be easier to beat out six riders than 14. Another reason was I felt that I would more of an asset to the five-gaited team. Past five-gaited teams have been made of really good gaited riders but they did not have much of an equitation background. I felt my equitation skills would help the gaited team.