Is that a saddlebred?

It's become a running joke to see how many people ask me this. Either at shows or visitors to the barn. People never think my horse, being the breed that he is, should be able to do the things that he does- mainly, jumping.

Let me just start by saying that our barn is extremely inclusive... we offer saddleseat, western, and huntseat lessons. We have saddlebreds, thoroughbreds, a warmblood, a halflinger, an arabian, morgans, and many other types of horses deeming us extremely inclusive. I have watched saddleseat and western lessons given on thoroughbred horses and huntseat lessons given on saddlebreds. We definitely don't discriminate and I love it.

Before I had Coco, I knew that the top jumpers are breeds like thoroughbreds and warmbloods, but I never really understood how strange it would be for me to ride in jumper classes at shows and actually do well on my saddlebred. And let's get this straight from the beginning, he's a jumper, not a hunter, a jumper. He loves to jump WAY too much to be controllable and sensible in the hunter ring.

Anyway, here's our story. I got my horse, Coco, for my 21st birthday in September of 2009. During Christmas break of that year, I had a medical scare and needed to be on blood thinners for 6 months. My doctors specifically told me 2 things to avoid: no drinking alcohol and no riding. After about 2 months of trying to limit myself to groundwork, teaching him tricks, and loungeing, I had had enough. Being a junior in college and in absolute love with my horse, I told her that I couldn't possibly avoid each of those activities. The lack of horses and depression would eventually drive me to drink. So... I made a deal with my doctor- absolutely no drinking and no jumping, but I could ride, as long as I always wore a helmet.

Soo.... we started to do saddlebred shows, in western pleasure and hunter under saddle classes. I even bought a cowboy hat that has a helmet in it! It was actually a very fun show season given that almost our entire barn at the time would go to saddlebred shows together. I got to know a lot of really awesome people and go to fun places. But towards the end of the year, I began to grow sick of the fact that we never won anything. My horse was a hunter (at the time), who could jump the moon with good form, so it was frustrating to place lower than saddleseat-looking horses wearing hunt seat saddles.

Over the winter we worked on jumping and my horse and I both fell in love with being daredevils. After having him for about a year and a half, we finally felt like we trusted each other. We started to do show jumpers. Quite the leap from western pleasure to jumpers, but we don't judge!

During this time, something drove me to search for famous jumping saddlebreds. I did a variety of google searches. Clearly, if Hickstead, one of the best jumpers in the world is a PONY, there MUST be jumping saddlebreds out there in the Olympics and high level competition. My search yielded nothing. I only found articles about the grand possibility of saddlebreds in jumping but no concrete evidence of actual saddlebreds competing at high levels of jumping, eventing, or even dressage competition. I was (and still am) convinced that we would be the first!!!

We had a lot of success doing jumpers at the beginning of this season, until we started to get restless again. I have always wanted to do eventing, so I looked into shows in the area and found Queeny Park. People from my barn had been there before for hunter trials, but no one had ever done eventing- so we would try something new. At first, it was really hard to find someone to go with me, just because the fees for an event seem to be outrageous! However, I don't think they acutally seem too terrible when you consider all the fees they tack on at other shows. Plus, what other shows are there where you can do CROSS COUNTRY!!!???!!! My dream. Eventually, I was able to talk my friend Abby into going with me and another friend, Amy, to haul us there. It all worked out fabulously. The show went really well and Abby and I were on a horseshow high for about 2 weeks after the show had ended. We proceeded to find our next event, Hunter Oaks. It only made sense. Both of us are originally from the Chicago area and have friends in Bloomington- we would know where we were going and have people to stay with, so we decided to do it.

As they say, the rest is history. We're all obsessed. Me. Coco. Abby. Lena. Kris, our trainer. And even people from our barn who were jealous of our endeavors in the eventing world.

And I'm finding that eventers are much more inclusive than other types of horseshow people. At the saddlebred shows, we would always get docked in the hunter under saddle classes because he moves more like a thoroughbred than a sadddlebred. In western pleasure classes at saddlebred shows, we wouldn't do well because he carries his head too low, more like a western quarter horse than a saddlebred. Conventional hunters and jumpers always ask what breed he is and examine him like they've never a saddlebred before. Eventers, however, are turning out to the be most inclusive of all the different disciplines- at Queeny Park, only 3 people asked about his breed (one of which was amazed that he did so poorly on dressage and was convinced we wouldn't be able to raise our scores with cross country and jumping), and at Hunter Oaks, there was only one person who asked! It was incredible! Maybe part of the reason we're both so drawn to the sport of eventing is because of the inclusion offered to a variety of breeds. No one cares what breed your horse is, as long as you both love what you're doing. Sounds like the perfect equestrian sport to me! :D