I did go into this part of my riding career with the specific purpose of changing disciplines. I wanted to finally leave my h/j roots behind and become a real, honest to goodness dressage rider (that still jumps and gallops and stuff). I just didn't expect any of it to actually stick.
The pleasure show was full of firsts for me: first pattern class, first showmanship class, first discipline rail class. We went in with the goal of having fun, not falling off, and not letting Theo eat the competition. That seemed a bit challenging when I realized the ring the group classes were running in was very small. Like small dressage arena small. There were 6 - 8 entries in the adult English riding classes. Yikes.
Showmanship went about the way I expected. Turnout was good, we executed about half of the moves very sharply and it was obvious we had practiced, Theo trotted right off with me even without me carrying a whip, but we totally botched the 360 degree pivot. We got 5th out of 7. I will happily take that, considering we were whooped by a group of ladies in Western gear that clearly did this every weekend. I was proud that we were able to halt square and Theo didn't give me any sass. And now I've knocked something off my bucket list!
Once I put the saddle on, I realized something odd. I wanted to be a hunter, I was dressed like one, I jacked my stirrups up and put on the jump saddle, but I couldn't get my body or my horse to do it. Perching left me feeling off balance. I rode mi papi in a long frame and he wasn't sure what to do with himself. I was in the middle of the pack for equitation and pleasure and botched both left lead canters. Theo did very well with our goal of behaving himself, even with 7 other horses in the ring with him cantering. He started to pop off of the bit and get mad, but he let me soothe him through it. It also made me sit down and really ride, which he liked.
For my pattern class, I dropped my stirrups down and rode it like a dressage test. Theo was convinced the barrel at the end of the ring was going to eat him so we ended up in the middle of the pack again, but it was a very nice test. He didn't spook or bolt and went straight at the barrel that was scaring him. It just wasn't a very pleasant picture with his head jacked up that high and I didn't risk the flying change for the change of lead. The pros in our division all went for the flying change. The judge laughed and said I was clearly a dressage rider because I knew how to ride a nice circle. Trainer A was laughing and calling me dressage rider on the way out. Evidently I gave myself permission to sit up, sit down, and ride my horse for that test.
Discipline rail was our last ride and finally something perfect for us. Left my stirrups down and picked him up so we could do quick, neat transitions. I rocked him back on his hocks and put him in his higher carriage. We did a leg yield off of center line one at a time and I couldn't have asked for a better chance to show off mi papi. While the other horses protested and tossed their heads, Theo marched down center line, dead straight, then stepped over neatly for the required four steps. No change of pace, no change in frame, nadda. Got the blue for that ride. Trainer A kept whispering 'dressage rider' at me when I was cantering past. What can I say, there was no chance of me doing canter to walk if I didn't have mi papi back on his hocks, and that requires me to sit my keister in the saddle.
It's weird. I couldn't get it together for the hunter stuff, but Theo was the star when I went into my new dressage mode. I doubt we would have scored any better in the pleasure if I'd done that in the dressage frame, since that's not what they want, but my equitation probably would have been better since I wouldn't have been fumbling and trying to figure my own body out. It's just so strange to me that I'm now more comfortable sitting down and picking my horse up, especially in traffic. Theo was back swinging, tail wagging happy in his last class. I had finally removed my head from my a$$ and was riding him correctly. I had so many people want to pet him and coo at him after he strutted around the ring like the dressage pony he is. Did it actually happen? Did Trainer A break the hunter out of me?
It might be time to retire the monogrammed choker.