Anyway, one of Emma's recent posts reminded me of my whole, "Which discipline am I going to do, anyway?" problem - something I referenced in my comment there as "it's complicated."
Let's talk about complicated.
When I first started riding, I was riding at a hunter/jumper barn. In hindsight, it was... not a very good h/j barn. Or, indeed, a very good barn at all. But it was what I had, so I learned to jump.
|Oh god, please don't ask how old I am in this picture. Also, if you've never been to Texas/Oklahoma - yes, the dirt is that color; that's why it's the Red River.|
That was about the time that the mare I was riding in lessons at the time (not the above pony) flipped out a little and started bucking after the last jump on the course. I... honestly, I've ridden bucks since then that were way worse. It kinda felt like she was doing something stupid at the canter, but I had no idea what it was until I got her stopped and my mother and the instructor freaked out about the bucking. After that, the decision was made that I wouldn't be jumping anymore. I assume I was part of this decision, but I cannot for the life of me remember saying, "I don't want to jump."
Thus began an ill-fated career as a dressage rider.
Well, ill-fated might be an exaggeration. It might be more accurate to say, "career of being a dressage student while riding with all the wrong people."
First instructor: the same h/j trainer I'd been riding with. Bless her heart, she had no idea what she was doing. We made it to two shows, and let's just say that if we got a dressage bingo card going, I could make a line with any of the following:
- "What's a diagonal?"
- Misunderstood judge's instructions
- Plenty of whoa, absolutely no go
- Spooked at judge's box
- Retired or withdrew
- Judge's comments: "egg-shaped circles"
|Four of those six were this day, all on the same test...|
Third instructor: clinician while riding with Psycho Bitch. Seemed nice? Probably would have been more helpful for me if I hadn't been terrified of the barely-broke three-year-old colt Psycho Bitch had me on.
Fourth instructor: another hunter/jumper trainer, this time entirely in group lessons where everyone else jumped and I didn't.
Fifth instructor: eventing instructor. Going the right direction! Sort of! Until she had a baby and stopped teaching.
|Such a pretty property. These days, it's a stupid subdivision...|
Seventh instructor: theoretically a dressage instructor. Actually cut from much the same mold as Psycho Bitch, but we noticed her directing that at my friend, with whom we were sharing lessons, and the two of us cut and ran.
Eighth instructor: English rider from South Africa who was apprenticing with a Western Pleasure rider. Meant well, but by this time my confidence in my riding was completely in the can, thanks to a couple of falls and Psycho Bitch, and after another fall, it didn't get better. Kind of suspect I'm why she stopped teaching lessons (oops).
Ninth instructor: Western Pleasure rider who was game to try teaching me English riding. Great at rebuilding my confidence, up to a point; I don't think I ever made it back to where I was when I first started. Taught me all kinds of things, very little of it dressage.
By the time I stopped taking lessons with #9, I was in college, and I'd realized two fundamental truths:
- I like dressage just fine, but it's not that exciting by itself
- I don't remember actually being scared of jumping
That's not quite my last formal instruction experience - one of the BOs and I did a clinic a few years ago for what's basically Western Dressage on video - but close enough.
So what discipline do I ride?
All due respect to those that do endurance, but I'm pretty sure if I tried to do more than a short trail ride, I'd be a miserable mess of a human being. I might could survive an intro ride without breaking down into tears or screaming at someone? Maybe?
To be honest, at this point, I've had so many confidence issues that it's hit or miss whether I'm comfortable outside an arena at all. The last time I tried, a combination of an unfamiliar (and HUGE) mare and an individual I didn't entirely trust meant I couldn't do it, even though I knew that mare wasn't going to do anything more frightening than stumble; the time before that, on a mare I trusted, I was fine to motor along on the exact same trail ride in a larger group.
(If you want to be really, painfully honest, me and my confidence issues aren't always comfortable inside an arena. *wince* We're working on that.)
So I'm not really a trail rider.
I'm not just incredibly excited by dressage. I seem to be reasonable at it, and I've got a shitload of technical, book-based knowledge bouncing around in my head that needs to be linked up with experience to really make sense, but it's not something that I sit here and go, "Whee, dressage!" I'm excited by some of the upper-level movements? And I kind of feel like I should enjoy watching it more than I do if it's "my" discipline; I love watching the freestyles, but the rest of the tests... meh.
Hunter/jumper... I like watching them. But I find myself unenthusiastic when I read about the shows. All due respect to George Morris, but there are too many appearance-based things to hunters. Jumpers might be too fast for me - speed and my confidence issues aren't always friends - but it's slightly more interesting to me than hunters.
Ask me what discipline I'm enthusiastic about, which one I enjoy watching, and the answer will be eventing. Except eventing involves at least some being outside the arena, and also immovable jumps, which is somewhat intimidating because I'm used to seeing the size of those jumps at the kinds of events that they televise - you know, Rolex... the Olympics...
I am so not prepared to be a Western rider of any sort. I have been an English rider way too long; I cannot neck rein to save my goddamned life. I get the concepts. I know what I'm supposed to do. But tell me I have to neck rein, and I am going to sit on that horse with a stupid look on my face and hope like hell I don't have to do anything other than go left and right, because "stop" and "back up" are utterly beyond my ability to actually do.
Also not all that interested in most of the Western disciplines. I don't do cows; they're stupid and gross and I'm just not interested in trying to herd or rope them. I'm mildly curious about reining? I'd like to ride a barrel pattern some time, but not if it's a pattern anywhere near 90% of the "barrel riders" I've met locally? That's about all I've got.
Play days and the like sound like fun once in a while, but I am clumsy as hell and somewhat competitive; that's gonna end in frustration for me, sooner rather than later.
I know that since I'm not really showing, what discipline I ride doesn't actually matter - except it does matter to me. I'd like to do some showing - not a lot, but maybe one or two in a year? I guess I just feel weirdly cheated by the fact that I went to all of three or four shows as a kid. And I want to have some sort of goal more than, "Putter around the arena for a while."
Me and disciplines? Yeah. It's complicated.