Saturday, November 5, 2016

When do you label your horse?

I feel like I float around between disciplines maybe more than the average rider. A lot of people aim for a specific area in the equestrian world--eventing, reining, jumpers, etc--that they focus on and try to, maybe not necessarily reach the top levels of, but excel in to the best of their abilities.

I like to compete in all the disciplines.

I've done all the gaming fun, eventing, dressage, we've dabbled in the hunters, and I briefly stepped into the jumpers on Red. I've taught Bobby to drive, and we've worked through trail obstacles at home.

But the downside to this is that sometimes I have a hard time labeling exactly what it is I'd call my horse. When someone asks "What discipline do you ride in?" I usually answer along the lines of, "We event, but I do a lot of dressage, too." Well is he an eventer or a dressage horse? Can I even really slap a label on him since he embodies the "jack of all trades, master of none" saying?

certainly not the master of posing.

Also though, say you are focused on just one area. We'll go with dressage since that's where we played most this year. At what point are you confirmed enough to call your horse a dressage horse? Do you think you have to be actively competing to give your horse that title, or can you just be focused on doing dressage at home?

Following that train of thought, when do you feel your horse is confirmed enough at each level to go out and say, "This is my Second Level horse"? Is it a certain number of competitions or completions (Do you get to call your horse a Training horse in eventing if you haven't finished a full event?)? Does rated and unrated come into play?

I started a similar discussion to this at the very beginning of last year when talking about green horses, so I guess this is just taking it a little farther.

Let's assume for the sake of argument we can't circumvent this whole thing and say, "He's just a riding horse! He's an all around horse! You don't need to call him anything else!" Let me hear your thoughts. When is your horse too legit to quit?


  1. I was JUST thinking about this the other day! We are in the same boat of doing a little bit of everything (albeit, poorly). I've been labeling us as 'eventers' for the past few years since that's where our main focus has been, but now that I've started hunting and Dino has shown such an incredible aptitude for the sport, I'm tempted to call him a 'foxhunter' even though he's only been out a couple times. Despite his relative inexperience, he is just as professional as the seasoned hunt horses out there - it's just the type of pony he is, and he's very suited to the hunt field. So while he's been a lot of things, "hunter," "jumper," "eventer," and "dressage pony," "foxhunter" really fits him best. But calling him that also feels a little premature and inauthentic, so I don't know that I'll take up the practice quite yet. So... I think what I mean to say is that horses have a discipline in which they just FIT - despite what we ask them to do - and that's what their label ought to reflect. Dino behaves an awful lot more like a foxhunter that I happen to event and do dressage on than an eventer that I take hunting sometimes. That's where HIS heart and talents lie - on the trail or hunt field - despite being a good enough sport to tote me around at horse trials! I don't know if that was the answer you were looking for... but it's what was rattling around in my brain!

  2. I love this question! When it comes to dresssge, I think you can call any horse a dressage horse that is schooling it. Then clarify with the level. I think a horse needs to be confirmed at lower levels to actually be called what it is (don't call your horse 3rd level if he won't ever do a change, okay. And if you can't go to a show and get a 60%, or you don't know? Don't.).

    That said. In my mind, Pig is now a 4th level horse. I would take him out and show him 4-1 tomorrow (maaaaybe not, cause I have pneumonia. But he can do it!). We struggle with the multiple changes thing, but can get it done. The rest of his work is there. So, 4th he is.

  3. I have similar issues. Most of the time when people ask me what Gavin does, I tell them I purchased him as an all-around mount (trails, jumping, dressage, anything really). But when people ask me what I do, I say I rode dressage almost exclusively for about 10 years and am now trying to learn to jump, but have little to no technique.
    It's hard because he and I aren't really "confirmed" at anything; like you, we sort of dabble in a little bit of everything. My adult ADD wouldn't allow anything else ;)

  4. I'm picky about dressage. I won't call my horse a First level horse until I have walked into a rated show and gotten a score above 60%. Until then he's schooling Training, schooling First, etc.

    From 2011 to 2014 I had shown Grand Prix but not scored in the 60s yet. I was not a Grand Prix rider, I would be careful and say that I was a rider who had shown GP but never would call myself a GP rider. Now I feel better about saying that, though still sometimes feel weird about it since I've only taken the one horse to GP. Impostor syndrome and all that.

    I'm not picky about disciplines though. You can swing it all sorts of ways with an all-around horse. Like he's your dressage horse who you happen to event sometimes. Or your event horse who you also do dressage and games on. Or your trail horse who you also show. Whatever!

  5. I've kind of struggled with this as well. I don't show, not sure if I ever will (we shall see) but Red and I do a lot of work in the arena, and I've even gotten my trainer out a few more times to work on getting our disciplines down. I've done western dressage and recently we're focusing a lot on western and ranch pleasure. We don't go on trails much at all anymore, and I struggle with calling him a trail horse. I've always wondered, if I don't show, could he still be considered a WP or WD horse? Hmmm...

  6. This is actually a topic I've wondered about a lot - esp as it relates to how we identify as riders. For instance, last year when the first big to do went down about ML at Fair Hill, I read one comment saying she wasn't a real eventer anyway. Now love her or hate her, I'm not commenting on her or her training here - I'm just saying. If ML doesn't count as a real eventer, wtf does that make me?

    Similar idea but different view point: I've never competed in a recognized or rated event, whether eventing, dressage, hunters or whatever. And who knows if I ever will. Does that make me less of a rider of those disciplines? Idk.

    Personally, for me, it matters more how I identify in my own mind and which sport or discipline comes closest to matching my own style and preferences. I identify as an eventer bc that's the purpose I'm training for, that's the discipline that fully encompasses what I want to do with my horse.

  7. I hate labels. I dabble in everything, but haven't done anything rated. We will rock schooling shows all day long. When people ask me what my horses do, usually I recite a list, haha. We do a lot of dressage, sometimes we jump things, I push cows, we sport traditional Spanish attire, we do rail and halter classes, sometimes I just dress them up to take pictures of them. Basically whatever makes me weird little heart happy :)

  8. I just laugh and say he is green and follow it up with we mostly dabble in dressage and eventing. Although saying he is green isn't really true any more, it is easier to say than, "My horse worries too much and sometimes his brain falls out of his head."

  9. For me, what I label my horse as depends a little bit on the audience. For example, to non-horsey people I just say that we're jumpers. Cause WTF else am I going to say that they will even remotely understand?

    To other equestrians it's easy for me, because I pretty much ride and show hunters only. But really... I think any answer you're comfortable with is right. If someone really cares, you can always go into more detail.

  10. Hahaha. I think about this all the time. I see a lot of very Fancy Horses at work, and I'm always terrified owners will ask me what kind of riding I do. I mean, I could say I ride dressage, but I've literally never ridden a first level test. We used to "do hunters," but we never coursed above 2'6" and never showed. Inferiority complex fo' lyfe.

  11. I usually just go with whatever our focus is that year. I bought Jampy to be my jumper, but now he is... well he's lame... But I refer to him as my equitation horse. Rio was also a jumper for a long time, but eventually he became "my hunter". And now "my retired horse".

  12. I have wanted to do the jumpers since forever, and bought Roger specifically hoping that he would love the jumpers (he does, he definitely does). We've competed in the jumpers, our lessons are jumper-focused and all of my goals for us are jumper-related, so in my mind, that makes us jumpers. IMO, you have to train in a discipline and compete in that discipline at a show to "be" that discipline, if that makes sense.

    However, I will go on a tangent and say this: I don't think you can call you and your horse something if you've never actually competed in that discipline before. Example: if you are a hunter and your horse is a hunter and you've only ever competed in the hunters with that horse, please don't tell (non-horsey) people that you're a jumper "to make it easier to understand". Tell those same non-horsey people that you and your horse jump over obstacles in a ring, but explain that there is a distinct difference in jumping over jumps in the jumpers and in the hunters and eventing. I get that the hunters is tough to explain (and sometimes understand...) but don't claim a discipline that you've never actually competed in. Conversely, I would never tell people that Roger and I do dressage just because we throw some lateral work into our rides once a week, or because Roger gets ridden by a rider with a mostly dressage background.

    Sorry for the novel, but claiming disciplines you'eve never trained or competed in makes me insane.

  13. To non-horse people, I describe Simon is my pet that I occasionally show. To horse people, I label him a jumper because that's what he's happiest and most competitive at.

  14. For Yankee, as a 14 going on 15 year old horse who has spent the majority of his life life eventing....he is obviously 100% an eventer. Yeah, he's moderately OK up to 2nd level dressage, and can and does win jumper classes that I've dabbled in, but if he were to compete above 2nd or 3'9 we would absolutely fail with the big boys. However, dude can smash some XC. That is his shit. Moderately good at 2 disciplines and fuckign creaming everyone in XC helps a bit in eventing. If that makes sense?

    Then theres B. I don even know what he is. I bought him on a whim because he had a bangin' trot, but he's so spooky I don know if he will ever be good at eventing. Dressage rings he absolutely cannot relax in and he will eliminate you on XC @ the first fence. He's a beast of a jumper but also spooky. So I say he's my project jumper. HAHA.

  15. For dressage I say a horse is at a certain level when they are reliably scoring qualifying scores at the highest test of a level. I personally hate when people call their horse a such and such level horse just because they school certain movements in that level. I mean I am schooling renvers but my horse is a Training level dressage horse who is successfully schooling first level.

  16. Eh, we do everything. Only unicorns can do everything ;)


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