The Equestrian World- A Wonderful Array of Breeds and Disciplines

The number of riding and driving disciplines and breeds of horses is really astounding to me. I find it so interesting to read or hear about a group of people who are working with a type of horse that I had never heard of and in a way I had never considered. The beauty in the variety of it all is amazing.

I wonder about the average backyard horse owner (if there is even such a thing?). What saddle do most use? Do most only ride at home? How many compete on a show circuit? Do most keep young horses or senior horses? I could go on and on. I am curious about how others chose to incorporate their love of horses into their lives.

I like to try out different disciplines and meet different breeds of horses. Of course, what is “different” to me might be perfectly normal to you. It all depends upon your point of reference. Of the six horses I have owned, four have been gaited. So gaited breeds are quite normal to me, but I certainly know they are a novelty to others. While there is nothing wrong in sticking to one breed or style of riding, if you have ever wondered about venturing outside your comfort zone, you certainly have lots of choices. The following is a sample list of different breeds/disciplines that I have tried. Maybe they will spark your own interest in trying something new.

Miniature Horses
These guys and gals are so much fun! I used to be employed at a therapeutic riding center where they regularly incorporated minis into their services. One of the minis was trained to drive. I got a kick out of watching him trot while I was in the cart behind him. It was such a blast to drive a mini. I have never owned any, but if I had the right set up, I suspect I wouldn’t hesitant in adding some to my herd.

Draft Horses
That same therapeutic riding center where I worked with the minis often kept a draft horse or two for riding and driving. I never rode one of the drafts, but I did do some driving with a handsome black Percheron. What a feeling directing all that size and power.

This was my view from Frosty the mule’s back- I loved looking down at those ears!

I have never ridden or driven a donkey, but I did once ride a mule named Frosty. He was for sale, and I made two offers on him, but lost out to another buyer. If Frosty’s new owner is reading this and if you ever want to rehome him, please let me know!

Hunt Seat (hunters and cross-country)
I basically grew up taking huntseat lessons and loved to jump as a youngster. Most of my jumping was within the confines of an arena, but on several occasions I got to canter a lesson horse through cross-country courses in woods and open fields. Super fun.

Here is the Friesian gelding, Dutch, and I during a Saddleseat lesson.
Check out this striking Saddlebred gelding, Necco. He is like 17 hands tall!

Saddle Seat
As an adult, I started taking saddle seat lessons during the Winter when weather made it hard to ride at home. I have ridden several Saddlebreds as well as a Friesian, a half-Dutch Harness Horse and a Hackney-Arabian mix. I also took several driving lessons behind a Hackney pony and a Saddlebred. Not easy riding mostly very big horses in flat-seat saddles!

This is the discipline that I’ve had the least formal instruction in unfortunately. I very much appreciate the principals of dressage though and try to incorporate my limited understanding of it in my riding. I sure would like to learn more.

Barrel Racing
I have taken a handful of barrel lessons. Getting the right approach to the barrel, the bend around it and the take off away from the barrel is really challenging. At my level, I was just doing the barrles at a walk/trot, but I still thought it was hard. Can’t imagine at a gallop!

Trail Riding
There is nothing like enjoying nature on the back of a horse. Enough said!

Bear and I working to catch up to the cows . . .

Western Riding
Most of my riding at home has been in a Western saddle, but I don’t have much formal instruction in the Western disciplines. I must say that the funnest thing I have ever done in a Western saddle is work cows.

Let’s not forget about bareback riding either. I don’t do a lot of it, but when I do, it is usually during Winter. Bareback ride in the snow anybody? These are unearthed scrapbook photos of my horse, Blue, and me.

So what breeds/disciplines to you enjoy? Anything you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t gotten around to yet?