I will freely admit, for years and years and years I basically rode one kind of horse. These horses tended to be a little heavier, such as draft crosses, Irish horses, or Haflingers. As such, they mostly shared a preference to be heavier on the forehand, require a bit more hand, and for some, be a bit slower to respond.
So when I started competing in Intercollegiate Dressage, I was wildly out of my comfort zone with the older Thoroughbreds that largely supported the Lower Training division. Treating them like the ride I was used to would absolutely backfire- these horses wanted nothing to do with a heavy hand, were more evenly-keeled than on the forehand, and their problems mostly centered around suppleness rather than sluggishness. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me an entire season before I figured out how to adapt, and once I started learning to sit quietly and focus on my position and leave the horse be, the ribbons started coming.
Fast forward several years to my time with Foster. Though I had learned my lessons from IDA, and was a much more sympathetic rider in general, I still easily fell into a rut of riding one horse. Foster was a bit tricky to ride, being occasionally heavy in the bridle, and crooked through his haunches, and I molded my riding to him like most riders do. So it was probably no surprise when I got on my friends OTTB who preferred a super light contact and a different way of posting and basically pissed him off.
Trying various sales horses has brought be back to the former days of learning how to adapt to more types of horses. Some are light in the bridle, others heavy, and all require different approaches to leg and seat and other unique touches that make the horse themselves. I won’t even begin to pretend that I am successful with all, but the exercise of sitting on various mounts and learning their ways has certainly made me a better rider. It is difficult though and sometimes I do forget that I don’t know the horse, and typically the horse calls me out quite quickly for my errors. And while no one likes making mistakes, it’s the process of messing up and learning the correction that I hope will improve my riding in the long run.
Do you consider yourself a versatile rider? What is the “feel” from a horse that you ride best? Do you have a type that you feel most comfortable on? What kind of horses do you struggle to ride most?