Friday, February 13, 2009

Jack of All Trades, Master of None?

My husband and I have had a long-standing disagreement about the versatility of a show horse. He feels that a horse ought to master one discipline and compete only in that class at a show. I feel that a horse, if it has the mind for it, ought to be versatile and be able to learn and practice at least, if not compete in, multiple disciplines. Now by this I don't mean dressage, barrel racing, 5-gaited, and reining all in one day. I mean a horse ought to be able to be worked or even shown in saddle seat, hunt seat, western pleasure, and driving, if they have the mind for it. And they ought to be proficient in ground work such as showmanship, and be able to do some basic dressage and trail riding. Granted they will probably learn one or maybe 2 disciplines at a time, not all at once, but that is my idea of what a versatile pleasure horse should be able to do- if they have the mind and physical ability to do it. It seems that much of the Saddlebred show world agrees with my husband, as many show horses go to shows to do 2 classes at most. This seems like a bit of a waste to me. However, if you have ever been to a pinto show or an all-breed open WSCA show, you will see how versatile horses can be. The question I have is- does a horse have to be a "master of none" if they can compete in more than one discipline? Is a horse really more successful if you concentrate all their energy into a single seat or disicpline? Does versatility really decrease the horse's ability at each individual discipline? Can we have a "jack of all trades master of many?" Of course, my horse is a "Master of Illusion," so we'll see what that means. ;)

8 comments:

  1. It's an interesting question. My feeling is that all horses have some ONE thing that they really excel at and really LOVE to do, and a smart trainer focuses on that - but that a horse who is a naturally talented, intelligent athlete can by all means cross-train, sometimes to its advantage in its discipline of choice. I think we've seen enough horses bring home world championships in more than one discipline to know that's true!

    For myself, I happen to prefer a more well-rounded horse, if you're talking pleasure horses. I'll probably avoid the saddle seat disciplines with Quattro (even though I love them) simply b/c the specialist training required for saddle seat is kind of "polar opposite" to what's required in the sport horse disciplines, and that particular switch I do think is one that's very hard to make.

    I've often thought it would be fun if the ASB shows would have something along the likes of the AQHA Superhorse competition, though! :-)

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  2. Yeah wouldn't that be cool- I believe TWH have a versatility type event as well. I think, if the horse can do it and likes it, why not give him the variety? I just don't think there's any reason to hold a horse to one discipline JUST because that is the thing he is best at if he likes to do other things. Every horse is so different, so of course I will have to feel out what Louie likes and wants to do, but it's just an interesting debate when I bring up- "oh, I'm hoping to teach Louie to jog this spring so we can try a western class." Being versatile in my mind is a GOOD thing. But we're all different.

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  3. I know one thing - even old trainers used to ride their show horses out on safe trails. It helped to keep them up and bright in the bridle. I'll bet a horse that is versitle is never bored!!! Good post.

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  4. Horses are really smart, so they can excel at different things, and cross-training is good; most athletes do it.

    Line dancing is also good for horses :-)

    Check out the ClickRyder blog.

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  5. Of course the Saddlebred CAN do EVERYTHING – he was bred that way. But his superb show ring performance has set a standard others aspire to!! In that arena he is an athlete extraordinaire. And just as race horses do not run in more than one race a day (or even a month!) neither does the Saddlebred compete in more than one class. Experts have worked out that a five-gaited Saddlebred performing at top level classes uses as much energy as a Thoroughbred in a race. Also there is the matter of the rule book to consider which often does not allow cross-entering and the demands of each class differ too – some require loftier motion, others require superlative manners, some require speed with form. Having said all that, I think the ASb shows would benefit from having classes available to the amateur owned/trained ASb doing other disciplines.

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  6. I love taking my show horses out on trails, I think it gives the a nice change of scenery, not to mention it's good for conditioning. As for actual cross-training, I think that every horse can benefit from basic dressage - I'm planning on teaching my guy some this spring.

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  7. Here is a different thought process. I want everybody to think of the greatest athletes this world in modern era has seen..... Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky....etc. All of these athletes are the best the game has had to offer and all of them are exceptional. Yes they all cross train and they all can do other sports, but do you see them earning a living doing these other sports/activities?? They are the best for the simple reason that they found what they exceled at and took it to the next level. they could probably have been good at a lot of things but not great. So are you looking to just be good enough to maybe get a ribbon out of 7 placements or more, or do you want to win a Championship? Personally, I want to win big or lose big. Sometimes the best memories come from losing when somebody comes up to you and tells you that you have an incredible animal and keep doing what you do. A comment like that is worth way more than a 5th place ribbon.

    If somebody could produce an animal that exceled at everything and could change gears on the drop of a hat, that would be priceless. Just like people animals have strengths and you need to know how to leverage them.

    When you have an animal coming down the rail with that extreme power and movement, and the rider is right on the edge of disaster or perfection.......... It makes my hair stand up just thinking about it....

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  8. I think like you, that showing one or two classes / show is a waste of time. Plus, I keep my pleasure mare at a public stable where I am unable to train with the whips, chains and pyrotechnics of most saddlebred-only facilities.To keep her fresh and engaged I vary our training regime between SS, HS, W, and trail riding/ obstacle training. Saddlebreds are so smart I can't imagine how people keep the 1-class horses from souring. I have turned her on some slow barrels and had her free jump low grid patterns... Generally whatever the other boarders have set up to do in the arena, she is so curious and watches the other horses do it, then loves to try her own version. I only had problems after the barrels, trying to reclaim a sensible canter... she really loves the speed! I do not regret it though, as it provided a training problem for us to work through that highlighted some learning gaps and in the end created more bonding.

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