Episode 102- Riding one horse in multiple disciplines
How many things can a horse excel at? In this episode, I discuss riding horses in different disciplines. I talk specifically about which classes I believe overlap well as well as the order that I introduce them to my horses.
My horse Popcorn did these things, in this order: Trail, Reining, Pony Horse, Ranch, Tricks, Mounted Shooting, Summer camp lesson horse & Traditional Dressage!
Listen in to learn more.
Episode 102- Riding one horse in multiple diciplines.mp3
Announcer: [00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill, this is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple: to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.
Stacy Westfall: [00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. In this podcast, I’m going to be discussing things to consider when you’re looking at riding one horse in multiple disciplines. But before I go there, I’m also going to talk to you a little bit about something I believe I’ve been suffering with called PPL. And you’ve heard me talk about it, but without the name, in the last podcast. And PPL is a term that a friend of mine came up with. Do you remember Suzy from Episode 85? She’s crazy good at naming things. And one of the first times that I, well, the first time I ever heard any kind of a description for what I’m going through was Suzy saying, oh, you’re suffering from PPL. And I was like, what is that? And she said, Post Project Letdown. So last week’s podcast, when I was all reflective, I finally figured it out. I’m in the middle of PPL. And so what that means for me, well, Suzy defined it as that feeling that you get when a big project ends and then you’re kind of lost before that next project begins. Yep. Perfect description. And everybody experiences it a little bit different. I actually think that for a lot of people, 2020, the entire year was a giant case of PPL in a lot of situations because so much changed. But anyway, it’s kind of silly sometimes when it’s like, just a name, even something like that is so helpful. I love the idea of naming what you’re feeling, and that can be an emotion. You know, whether you’re feeling angry–I’ve talked about that in the podcast–don’t try to hold it back. But I think sometimes you’ve also heard me in the podcast when I’m talking with my good friend Ginny Telegu, who’s been on several podcasts, and I’m always collecting words from her. And that’s why. Because that ability to name things is–that’s what I experience–is that if I can name it, it just really helps me. So, this is what’s been going on. I have a case of PPL. but I can feel myself coming out of it because of the stuff I talked about in the last podcast. And the reason I’m having it is because the end of the year, I believe October almost universally represents the end of a show year for me, which I discussed, and I’m not going to go into detail there. But for sure, ending the World Show that really just kind of hit me as like boom, end of the year, weather changed, and what am I going to do? And that’s kind of what got me thinking about today’s topic. And I get a lot of questions about, you know, people saying, can you ride horses and a lot of different disciplines? How how does that work? And people see me using my horses in multiple disciplines. So I thought I would stop and instead of looking at it from an outside look where I just discuss the disciplines, let’s look at it from an inside look of what I’m considering doing with my own horses and how many disciplines I’m considering and maybe what I am and what I am not considering right now and why. So just kind of an inside out look at the same thing.
Stacy Westfall: [00:04:01] So first of all, I think it bears, you know, speaking to the fact that when I was growing up, I remember that almost every horse I would see for sale–because I always loved to watch horses that were for sale–and they would be like rides English and Western, rides English and Western very rarely, you know, like you would–you would find like a horse that was just for jumping or maybe just for barrel racing. But there was always this like, oh, it rides English and Western. And then what’s interesting is even back then, I remember thinking it kind of looks like all they did was change the saddle. And it’s true sometimes I see that still today and it’ll say, you know, horse rides English and Western. And basically that means they take a photo of it wearing Western gear, most likely riding two handed, and then they take a photo of it in English gear and they’re like, look, it rides both ways. But I’m here to tell you, it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with starting like that. I started like that. And so my pony rode English, Western and bareback, whatever you want to label that. I guess that just matters what you got on for a bridle unless you go bridleless and then I’m not sure how you determine it. But anyway, so my pony rode English and Western. My horse, I rode her English and Western. And then, you know, I started to steer more towards specific things. And that’s what I want to talk about here. So first of all, I’m going to look at this like it requires more than just simply changing the tack. So, for example, to put it into real life, right now Presto just rides. So he’s never had an English saddle on, but I ride him in a Western saddle, but that doesn’t, in my mind, make him a Western horse. Right now he’s just receiving his elementary and then just barely moving up. He’s just moving now up into high school. And it’s like he’s–he’s just kind of a horse. So he steers direct rein. He’s getting pretty good about it, but there’s nothing fancy. So right now, you could swap the saddle out, take a different photo, but there’s no discernible difference in his skill set one way or the other.
Stacy Westfall: [00:06:33] Now, as I move up with my other horses, so then that’s where it starts to get kind of fun, in my book, for thinking about how this overlaps. So when I look at Gabby, Gabby has a lot more training than Presto, and she’s been trained with that really solid foundation. So she for sure is a great trail riding horse. I would say she’s had more of her training done in a Western saddle, but she’s actually spent a fair amount of time in a dressage saddle. But again, instead of just looking at it like the equipment, I want to look at it more like her skill set. What’s interesting about Gabby right now is that because of the mood I’ve been in while I’ve been training her, she’s almost equally balanced between the English world and the Western world. And what that means to me is that she is understanding concepts that are slightly unique to each of those two worlds. So some of those overlap way more than you would think. For example, neck reining. Neck reining to me is fascinating because the more I take dressage lessons and the more I read articles and that book that I mentioned, Dressage Masters, I just love that book. When I read more and you watch things and they’re like, you need to ride the horse, you know, inside leg to outside rein. And you need to be able to steer that horse. And I’m like, I can do that because, in a different set of terms, that is largely what neck reining is, is being able to ride that horse forward. And that you’ve heard me talk in multiple podcasts about having them respect all the aides, but frequently I’ve said the inside leg is the most underused one. And so knowing that and having balance that out, my horses know how to go up and ride and I can scoop that energy off that outside rein, and turn them in, or I can bring them out. And therefore they are working on their neck reining, but they’re also pretty skilled at being able to do shoulder in and half pass and some different things that are much more traditionally in the dressage world. And Gabby knows how to spin and she’s kind of gone back and forth with having sliders on. So she’s interesting because she’s kind of headed in both of those directions at once, which is kind of a personal thing I’m curious about. So when I look at the different options and I think about next year, let’s hit pause and and rewind a little bit and look at Presto and Gabby at this moment before I go on to Willow. So when I look at what’s on the table for disciplines to possibly do in 2021 with with Presto or Gabby, Presto’s is a little bit easier because of what I mentioned earlier, which is he’s a little more basic. So in 2021 I would predict that he’s going to be continuing his education in general, which you could look at as being English or Western, because, again, that solid foundation to me is crisscrossing about across both worlds. That’s why Gabby to me feels really balanced, because she hasn’t distinctly left one world and gone into another. And so, Presto next year I would have trail riding on the table. And I would have Western dressage and traditional dressage both on the table of–as options that he could do. And so I know that when I–I made a post on Facebook a while back when I decided to enter the Western Dressage World Show with Presto and a few people said it seemed kind of fast. Because it kind of did come out of nowhere that all of a sudden I was going to like, show him. But you have to keep in mind, I was in my own indoor arena basically riding a pattern. And I picked a level that he was already comfortable being ridden. Basically just walk, trot or walk, jog, lope transitions depends on which world you’re in, whether you say trot/canter or jog/lope. So I mix these freely. But it wasn’t hard on Presto because it was already the skill set and if I had come off camera, changed him into a different tack and then gone and done the same thing again, it would not have been hard for him because I could do the basic level in Western or the basic level in traditional and essentially ride him exactly the same way. And for that reason, trail riding, Western dressage, and traditional or classical dressage will all be on the table. Let’s look at some things that would not be on the table with Presto. Things that would not be on the table with Presto would be reining. Are you laughing at me? If you’ve seen Presto, some of you are laughing at me. Yes, I’m talking to you and Presto would not be a great candidate for reining next year. Yes, I did say next year because I do think someday, for fun, I will probably have my husband put sliders on just because he keeps teasing me about Presto not being a reiner. But I would put that easily to 3 years out, maybe more due to the fact that his coordination and the fact that he’s going to be really weak at it. But that’s OK. Like, I don’t care that he’s going to be really weak in that area. I still think he could go and do it. Now, I’ve got a list of different things here…so I’m looking like, speed games. Probably never going to do any speed games. No barrel racing, no pole bending that I can see in Presto’s future. Maybe I’ll surprise myself. I have more recently done mounted shooting. I could potentially train him to accept gunfire. And I guess that could possibly lead to like trotting around a course or doing some kind of a trail course that required that shooting. None of those are in any future that I can clearly see at all. They’re kind of behind the fog. So if I look off into the future, I can see next year and the possibilities somewhat clearly. Maybe it’s a little foggy once it gets past June. But, yeah, me trying to look out far enough to be able to tell you when reining or mounted shooting or any kind of speed thing would happened with Presto–it’s so far in the future, I can’t see it. This is how I determine some of these overlap.
Stacy Westfall: [00:13:49] So Gabby. Gabby, when I’m looking at 2021 and I’m looking at how I love to do all kinds of different things with my horses, easily trail riding is there. She’s been doing that now. I’ve shown her in Western dressage so that’s on the table. I would really like to show her in some classical or traditional dressage. So that’s on the table. But I’m almost equally torn that I really want to show her in some reining. And so I’m going to continue over the winter kind of training both of those, but I am going to have to come to a point where I make a decision, and that might be as late as that. You know, I told you, I have several different points throughout the year and kind of that, you know, spring, April…I’ve got this January, April, June…I’ve got a whole bunch of different checkpoints. So I’ll probably keep both of those on the table, because there’s not a lot of difference in the lower levels. Now hear me say this again. Just like I did with Presto, I could literally ride him in basic Western dressage, come out, switch the tack and go in and ride him in basic traditional dressage and essentially have no difference in the training. So for Gabby, the foundation that I would show her in, in first and second level and even third level traditional/classical dressage, there is no conflict with that and reining. Now, if I show her next year, I probably wouldn’t go up that high in the traditional. And so especially if I show her in like first level, second level, I see virtually no reason why she can’t do it. Basically, what I start running into is more of a time driven thing. Two things I start running into would be a time driven thing because of overlapping show weekends. So there’s a challenge there. And then I could say a teeny tiny bit, the fact that she’ll be going to, you know, classical shows with sliding plates on, if I want to do that in the same weekend. So I have to consider that. But training wise, fitness wise, training wise, she could go begin to dip her toe into the reining world, because when I first take her and show her in reining, I won’t be asking her for 100% of everything. I want to introduce her to showing in that world easier. And so the first shows that I would go to would be, you know, going and just getting in the pen and going through and just kind of seeing how all that goes while I would still be doing the dressage. And I think that’s actually going to work pretty well. So those are things that are on the table with Gabby. Now, again, similarly, like I’ve got some other things that would be off the table. And–and those would be any any of the speed games or the mounted shooting or the other one I’m going to talk about more Willow, which is working equitation. So those, I’m going to say, are kind of off the table for Gabby because in my mind, she’s not quite high level enough to start considering really, really mixing the different training. And I’m going to talk more about that as I talk about Willow and then Popcorn. And so most likely on the table for Gabby next year would be trail riding, Western dressage, traditional dressage, reining. That’s a lot of things on the table. This is what I tend to do. So–so you’re going to hear me putting a lot on the table and then deciding which ones to focus on–which one might be primary, which might be secondary.
Stacy Westfall: [00:17:53] Now, again, let’s look at a horse that’s starting to get a little bit more complicated to do this with, that would be Willow. So when I look at Willow, she is much more trained than the two previous horses I talked about. And at this time–so we look at the list of, like we say trail riding and dressage. She’s already really good at trail riding, loves it. We do a lot of it. Traditional dressage. She’s already–she helped me earn my silver. I mean, I’m getting ahead of myself. She helped me earn my bronze medal in traditional dressage. And I would like her to help me earn my silver medal in traditional dressage. And so that is something that I’m thinking about doing. But she’s also fairly well trained in reining. And so she’s definitely got the concept. She just basically hasn’t been finished off and shown. So I really want to show in reining. I thought I would have been doing that this year, but she went and did a funny belly flop thing at the beginning of COVID. And so I’m so thankful she’s sound. But now I think she’s on track and I really want to get my silver medal on her, but I also really want to show her in reining. And then if I’m showing in the classic–classical dressage, I might as well show her in some Western dressage. And then there’s working equitation. Have you seen working equitation? If you have not seen working equitation, you need to go to YouTube and Google it. I’ll go ahead and put a link in the show notes to a couple of rides that I particularly like. But basically for working equitation like it–it kind of comes up. I first found it when I met Pedro Torres and he is from Portugal and he really, he’s the top of the game. And what he–what it is, is basically it’s got 3 different phases and it has a dressage phase and then it has a trail class, like a trail obstacle kind of class phase that’s judged more like dressage. And then it has that same trail obstacle phase that’s judged at speed once you get to a higher level. And when you do that YouTube search, you’re probably going to mostly just see the speed phase because it’s the most exciting phase. But basically you do all 3 of those phases and and then, you know, the overall score creates the the winner. And I’ve audited this a couple of times last year and it looks fascinating. And it is secretly one of the reasons I haven’t told Willow yet–that’s why it’s a secret. It’s secretly one of the reasons why I really, really want to do so much of this solid foundation work with Willow of the dressage and the Western dressage and the reining. Because to me, when I look at those, they’re all very related. Yes, there might be a different level of contact in, you know, the bridle, but I’m telling you, it’s not that different. It’s so similar. But as Willow’s understanding has gone higher and higher, I can transition easily between the different bridles and I can and transition easily between the tack and transition easily between the different styles of doing things. So there does start to be some differences in the way that these English versus Western things start to look. So Willow and I have been playing around with Canter pirouettes. And that’s not something that lives in the English world, I mean, in the in the reining world. So we’re doing Canter pirouettes, but we’re also doing spins and slides. So we’re kind of working both sides of it. But what those disciplines–what dressage, Western dressage and reining do all have in common is kind of a similar mentality that’s required of the horse and rider. There’s a level of precision and there’s a level of control and you work with speed, but it’s within more specific boundaries, maybe if that’s the way that I want to describe it for now. And because of that, they they all kind of complement each other. They all work well together. Now, looking at doing the working equitation, I will for sure go into that at the appropriate level, which I will determine by going to a clinic and riding with somebody more experienced than me and having them, the clinician, evaluate me and say, this is what I think you and your horse should enter at your first working equitation show. And–and so then that’s what I would enter and I don’t remember where the levels start, where you start doing the speed, and even when you start doing the speed, it’s not the full blown fast, fast, fast that you’re going to find on YouTube. The speed can be simply trotting, but at the upper levels it is one handed and it is fast. And that’s what I really, really want to someday do with Willow. But I’ll go about it carefully, meaning I’m putting a lot of money in the bank right now with Willow by doing all of the training I have, because when I transition to something really fast, like the speed phase of working equitation, it’s very similar to–I’m going to talk about Popcorn in a minute–but it’s very similar to when I transitioned and and started doing like mounted shooting. And there is a difference when you start going a certain speed with a certain level of challenge and freedom where I need the horse to be making some of these quick decisions with me. And that’s what it feels like to me more when I’m doing like barrel racing or mounted shooting or some straight up speed games like that. There—there’s a speed point where when you break over it, there’s just a different level of energy that’s called up. And yes, you can definitely find this in other places, like you can find this in–when I watch eventing, even though I haven’t done it, I can see that that lives there. And sometimes when Willow and I are out trail riding, we go to that energy level for fun out on the trails. So you can take it to different places. But I know that when I open up that door and start doing more and more of that at a show environment that there’s more questions the horse will ask. And so Willow has lots of things on, lots of things on her plate, because I’m sure I’ll be mixing in trail riding. I would really like to get my silver medal on her. I’d really like to do reining and earn some money in reining with her. And, you know, and I’d really like to still do the Western dressage with her and then the working equitation. And as I say, that list, it’s starting to sound like a lot. One thing that crosses my mind is that when I showed her in 2019 and earned my bronze on her in traditional dressage, I did that in the spring from like April to June. So it’s not necessarily that all of these have to overlap, even though I might do them all in the same year. If I go into that with my plan, then even if I go into it with, that is the plan, there can still be sections in the year. So I might, you know, go distinctly towards classical dressage at the beginning. And then the Western dressage complements that perfectly and then transition into more of like the reining and the working equitation a little bit later. I haven’t decided that yet. I’m not putting that deadline on myself until a little later, maybe by January. But that would be an idea for you to think about if you’re doing any of this, thinking how I might do that without having all of it going on at the same time.
Stacy Westfall: [00:26:24] Along with this, I’m also answering some questions as I go. One of which is, for example, with Willow, she’s playing at a higher level in the classical dressage and in doing reining. Well, this brings up the question of shoes and shoes, meaning like when she does the reining, she’ll have sliding shoes on, which, by the way, are totally fine for trail riding in what we do. Like–and I have pretty advanced trails, but we trail ride with sliders all the time. But where I can see the difference would be I can feel a difference when she goes to push off to do some of the things that we do in dressage and they want this crisp, push take off. And I can feel where she can lose a little traction with the slider. Unless I go to one of the traditional dressage shows that has that grippy footing, I should have a technical term for it, but I’m calling it grippy footing. And then certain shoes are not fun to ride in the grippy footing because they grip even more. And that causes her to be a little bit panicked when the footing starts, you know, sticking and her feet stick because she’s not used to that, because I ride in mostly sand. She’s used to that little bit of slip when she lands or pushes. So there’s actually starts to be some technical things like that where I’ll be curious to see. If I feel that I have to change something like that along the way, and I just won’t know until I get into some of that, maybe I’ll discover that in February or March or maybe I won’t discover it until I’m out of show. But when you’re playing with different disciplines, sometimes that’s how it goes.
Stacy Westfall: [00:28:02] So the final horse I wanted to bring up is Popcorn. And because I’ve done this stuff before in the past, it’s actually one of the things I love doing is kind of, I want to do everything. I remember being a little kid and I remember wanting to do everything with my horses. And I know that there is this very popular thing to, like, specialize. But I’m telling you, I think if you overlap it, especially in complementary ways like I’ve talked about on the way up through with horses like Presto and Gabby and Willow. When you can start to see how they can complement each other, you can realize that they don’t really take away from each other, especially depending on the level that you’re playing at. But when you even going to a higher level, which is what I did with Popcorn. What can really happen is the horses can get really smart. I love to think about each discipline, like being a different language and like Popcorn was fluent in multiple languages. Listen to this. So Popcorn is the same horse that I won the Road to the Horse colt starting competition with. That means I met him and he was unhalter broke and we were in a coliseum and in 3 hours he had to go from 3 hours of training, had to go from unhalter broke to me, riding him through an obstacle course, dragging a log, riding over a tarp, weaving through things, walk, trot, lope, pick up his feet, obviously saddle, bridle, that kind of stuff. So he did a lot right off the bat. And then I took him home and I made him into just the general riding horse, including trail riding. And then the next thing I put on the table with him was reining. And we did reining to a reasonably high level, meaning I showed him at AQHA American Quarter Horse Association shows and earned his Register of Merit, which means he had to earn at least 10 points in the discipline of reining. And so he earned his Register of Merit and he was a hot horse, naturally hot, wanted to go fast. And so I had said I would never go fast on him until I earned the reining points because I wasn’t quite sure if he was going to come back. And that means that sometimes when you wind some horses up, if they’re more prone to being wound up, sometimes they don’t come back down quite as well. And I knew that in the back of my mind was a possibility. And just like I’m talking about with Willow and investing a lot in her before I go try it, she’s a little bit zippy, a little bit hot, not quite as hot as Popcorn, but she’s definitely zippy. And so I’m investing a lot in her so that I can hedge this bet on making–having it work. Oh, I did that with Popcorn and I earned the reining points with him. In the meanwhile, I was also riding him and using him as what could be considered a ranch horse, meaning specifically I was using him as a pony horse to pony other horses with and just do it. He was like a very good using/working horse and I did show him in ranchy kind of stuff. And then along the way I was also teaching him tricks. So he learned some liberty work and to bow and to lay down and to do some–and sit. And so he learned some of those things. And to me, again, this is all different languages he was learning to speak that had good overlap. Then after he had quite a bit of training, he traveled a lot. He was really solid. I could still feel that hot horse under there. I took him and I did mounted shooting with him and he took me from a level four–a level 1 mounted shooter up to a level 4 mounted shooter. And there are 6 levels. And so we were competing and won our regional, you know, won our regional belt buckle doing the mounted shooting. So he–we were doing it at a pretty high level after doing the reining. And I felt like that had been a good stacking order of doing that. Then I think it gets even more interesting because I took him back down from the mounted shooting and rode him just like a regular horse. And then that’s when we sold our house and moved around. And he actually went to a summer camp and was a camp horse and gave lessons. Yes. After being a reining horse, a ranch horse, a pony horse, a trick horse, and a mounted shooting horse, he then went and spent the summer doing summer camp lessons. And then I took him back from being a summer camp lesson horse. And that was the time that I was beginning to learn more about classical or traditional dressage. And he was the first horse that I showed in that. And we earned our qualifying scores in training level in the first, you know, how many shows did I go to? I know I had–I needed 5 scores and it took me 6 classes. I think that was 3 shows, 6 classes to get the 5 qualifying scores for regionals. And so to me, I’ve done this with a lot of different horses, where I experiment with different things, different disciplines. I love to put all the options on the table. I love to look at the horse’s strengths and weaknesses, like I just specifically talked about with Presto, not going to be a great reining horse. But you know what? I could still put sliders on him and do a little bit if I want to. I just have to have a reasonable look at what I make my expectations and then, you know, but I love experimenting with it. I think that when Popcorn learned to speak the languages of trail horse, reining horse, pony horse, ranch horse, trick horse, shooting horse, camp horse, dressage horse–that’s 8 different languages. OK, maybe some of them are just different dialects of a similar language, but still it made him a super fun horse to have around and to use. And he legitimately understood things across different disciplines that are not just sharing the same foundation stage that you heard me talk more about with Presto and Gabby. He went above that and he branched out into all these unique things. And I absolutely love proving that that’s possible at a higher level. So I often start the year with a lot more than I’ll probably be able to do. So, like especially with Willow, you can hear that I have a lot stacked on there, so I’ll have to really kind of start looking at what people are going to be offering for shows, because I kind of want to go do it at a show and I don’t know what 2021 looks like. But I can start out the year–I would rather start out the year with a lot of different ideas or, you know, maybe one big primary one like maybe that’s just for example, getting my silver with, with Willow. But I love if I can find any that will crisscross. So if I’m getting my silver with her, I for sure should be showing her in some Western dressage at the fourth level. And I still just think, why not do the reining too? It just sounds fun. So you’ll get to watch all of that as it unfolds and see what I do. But I hope that helped you understand some of the different things to look at when you’re considering riding one horse in multiple disciplines, whether that’s within one year, like I’m talking about for next year or whether that’s over a horse’s lifetime, like I’m reflecting on with Popcorn.
Stacy Westfall: [00:35:42] I hope this has been really helpful to you. And if you have a minute, would you possibly consider leaving a rating or review in your podcast player? Because I love making these and I want them to be heard by lots of people. So you could share them with your friends, you know, the old fashioned way of just telling them or a newfangled way, like texting them. But if you find it useful, would you consider leaving a reading your review in the podcast player of your choice, however you’re listening to me? Otherwise, I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.
Announcer: [00:36:28] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos, and tips to help you and your horse succeed.
Links mentioned in podcast:
Working Equitation! Pedro Torres: https://youtu.be/4kW7-l9Y79c
SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST HERE:
WHY IS MY HORSE...?