Stories from the Saddle‘s first blog hop topic is a good one: Why do you do what you do?
Before I get into what I do and why, I feel like I should probably recount all the things I’ve done so that you understand more about where I’m coming from. I started riding in a Pony Club barn, but since I didn’t have my own horse I wasn’t actually in Pony Club. Still, it was mainly an eventing barn. I only took lessons once a week for two years before we moved away, so really I was just a beginner kid on lesson horses learning how to ride and jump.
When we moved to Texas I called all the barns in the phone book (ah, the good ol’ days) that said they offered lessons and left a message. Only one of those called me back so tada – that’s where I started riding. It was a h/j barn so that’s what I did. I started in the hunters but moved pretty quickly over to the jumpers, which was definitely my preference.
Then after high school I went to be a working student at an eventing barn (partly because those are the barns with more working student opportunities, and party because I felt ready to learn something new). I came back from that experience with a lot of enthusiasm for my new sport and kept at it for a few years afterward.
A couple horses later I found myself with a pretty nice young horse off the track who showed an aptitude for hunters, so back I went into that. It only took a couple years though for me to get majorly burned out. That horse was sold and I went as opposite as possible – a little QH with some reining experience. I had a good time with her just learning to ride western and remembering how to have fun again, then eventually sold her and bought another TB. At that time I also had my young mare, who was bred to be a hunter (I bred her in the midst of my hunter phase). But not long after getting her started I remembered that I actually hated the hunters (sorry) and leased a jumper as well. Once I was back in the jumper ring I knew that’s where I was happiest. At one point Sadie was actually for sale. Then we figured out that she too was happier as a jumper so I decided to keep her.
I bought Henry specifically looking for a jumper. I have zero desire to do the hunters (only exception being hunter derbies) ever again. I also have a major hatred for dressage. Tons of respect for it, it’s super hard, but I just find it as dull as humanly possible. It’s really the only thing that keeps eventing from being my perfect sport.
The point of all this rambling is to illustrate that I don’t really have a sport. I’ve always been a wanderer I suppose… I do whatever a) suits the horse b) suits my mood at the time c) looks fun. If you made me claim one it’d definitely be jumpers first and foremost. Mainly because it’s so technical but still fun and so much of it (at least past a certain level) depends on rider skill. Even though you’re competing against other people, in a way it always feels like you’re competing against yourself. Making better decisions, better turns, thinking ahead to where you can save time, always trying to make your round as fast and clean as possible. That appeals to me a lot more than having the fanciest horse who jumps or moves the best and trying to find 8 jumps, and to be honest I’m very bothered by the measures taken to get a lot of top hunters to the ring these days. I just can’t get on board with that.
Eventing would be my second choice. I will say that above a certain level I think it’s just crazy stupid. I have a hell of a lot of respect for fences that don’t fall down and my interest wanes past Training level. But I think of all the horse sports eventers generally tend to have the best sportsmanship, best horsemanship, and best general all around base of knowledge. Sure they’re a little yahoo sometimes and good god someone teach them to use a hairnet properly (jk I love you guys. But really: hairnet) but at the end of the day they’re the crowd I like to hang out with most. Their sport is one of the hardest but also one of the most fun. I mean come on – who doesn’t want to gallop around and jump fences out in a field? Just take that pesky dressage crap out. 😉