Admit it. You, the ultimate dressage competitor, have always wanted to ride in a competitive trail class. You "trail ride" your horse, don't you? Open a few gates without getting off. Walk over the railroad ties or logs instead of around them. Make your horse go through the creek and up to the "demon-possessed" stump.

Or you, the reining horse champion of the region, with a roll-back that makes big-rig drivers sit up and take notice, you've always wanted to jump over something more challenging than the pipes left from putting up that last section of fence.

Or how about you hunter/jumper competitors. You're out there day after day, weekend after weekend, training and competing on a horse which you think is as fit as can be. So, you wonder, how can I get in one of these shorter endurance rides just for a change of pace?

We sometimes forget how versatile horses can be. It's often the owners who are one-disciplined, not the animals. Now it's probably true that you're not going to take a Western pleasure horse and make a grand prix jumper out of him, but what would it hurt to teach a Thoroughbred or warmblood show horse how to walk across a wooden bridge or open gates? That could be challenging enough to the horse and rider to make their normal competition routine more enjoyable.

Or, if you're not horse-poor and time-challenged enough, how about taking on another discipline?

The point is, horse people should get out and enjoy other horse people and learn about other disciplines.

My grandfather had me on a horse before I could walk. He was always trading or swapping horses, keeping a few favorites for working the cattle, working some draft horses, and breeding a mare occasionally. As a kid, if I could catch one of the horses, I could ride. (I learned if you have enough patience--and sweet feed--you could always catch one.)

"Pop" had worked out West as a youth, and his love of rodeo was passed on to me through numerous trips to the Calgary Stampede or to Cheyenne Frontier Days. It was during one of these trips to Calgary in Canada that I was bitten by the bug that caused an itch I finally got to scratch (and it just made the itch worse).

I was about 10 years old and watching a demonstration of a world champion cutting horse. The rider, as I recall, was a long, tall Texan who was not averse to letting his horse work a little bit. (Friends have since identified the rider as probably being Matlock Rose on 1967 National Cutting Horse Association world champion Peppy San.)

I was amazed that he could cut these half-grown, completely wild calves with such ease. Then he got to showing off a bit. He had been standing by his horse talking to some buddies by the fence and one of them must have offered a bet.

So, he stripped the bridle off his horse's face and hung it over the saddle horn, stepped up into the saddle, and started to work the herd, finally getting the calf he wanted.

The horse was working hard, and during a stop, the cowboy as gracefully as you please stepped off the horse and sat on the fence, leaving the horse to cut the calf all by himself. And that little horse didn't quit until the cowboy came walking back out.

Even at 10, I was impressed. Right then, although I didn't know how or when, I promised myself that someday I would ride a cutting horse.

Well, thanks to Jerry Black, DVM, of California, and his friends Billy and Rita Cochrane of Salinas, I finally made good on my promise. She was as kind a little mare as one could hope to have a first ride on. And I'm hooked!

I had a friend in college who tried to teach me to ride Western pleasure. It wasn't that I couldn't get the seat or reins right, it was just that at nearly 5' 9" tall, I always looked a little like a gorilla on a Greyhound. Some of the little Quarter Horses we had around I could nearly kick in the cannon on both sides at once. And, with all the NRFE (not running fast enough) Thoroughbreds in the Central Kentucky area, there were always more and bigger horses around which easily could be trained to a more-familiar English discipline.

Today, however, disciplines are not restricted by geography. You can rodeo in the Northeast, ride English out West, and do endurance just about anywhere. The point is, if you've always wanted to try something different with horses--not that you have to give up what you're doing--then look for a local group and join in just once. Welcome other horse people to come and try your sport. You never know where it could lead.

Now, where did I put the phone number of that cutting horse group here in Lexington...

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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