I know you all must be sick of this type of post by now, but I could really use the insight of your experience.
Anyway, I am considering getting an Arabian as my first horse after leasing for around 3 years, but I'm wondering if I'm wanting to do too many disciplines with just the one horse?
I would like to work the horse in reining, dressage, endurance, english equitation, competitive trail riding, barrel riding, pole bending, and possibly some jumpers. These disciplines are so ranged out, so I'm concerned that I'm asking too much of the horse. Or can it do both english and western styles of riding?
The main troubles you'll have are between the extremes of disciplines that are very specific - namely the reining in western and the dressage/jumping/equitation in English. You really need to figure one out before switching to the other. Plus, each of those requires different tack, so we're talking some serious $$ if you're going to do both. As for games - as long as your horse is responsive, you should be good to go with either riding style.
Each discipline takes time and dedication. I'm an endurance rider and ANY horse can do at least the Limited Distance rides as long as it's healthy and fit, but most of the people in endurance are retired because they're the ones with the money and time that this sport takes. Any of these disciplines will require time and dedication, but endurance alone requires riding 20-30 miles per week to condition your horse and keep him endurance-fit, plus supplements, special gear if you really want to be comfortable and give yourself and your horse the best shot, upwards of $200-300 per event, etc.
If you're planning on giving all these a shot throughout the lifetime of a horse, then you should be fine. But focus on one at a time, or ones that compliment each other, so you don't get your (or your horse's) lines crossed.
Oh and once you decide you want to start competing at upper levels in any of these disciplines, that's when you start looking for a horse specifically bred and trained to do so. If you haven't even gotten past the lower levels of these sports, then you don't really need to worry about having the "best" horse. But the "best" horses, just like people, specialize in what they do and, though they are often capable of other things and can often benefit from cross-training, they have that one thing that they are simply made to do. But you don't need that until you're ready to move up into that level of the discipline. Until then, just find yourself a good all-around horse that you can learn and grow with :)
IMO, Arabs are one of the best breeds out there for doing a little of this and a little of that.
I would perhaps focus on one discipline per training session/make sure they make sense together (doing jumpers and a barrel run in the span of an hour might have the effect of getting him/her a little too hyped up, that sort of thing) but otherwise I think it could work. Your horse will probably excel at one thing more than another but giving everything a try certainly won't hurt.
Also, a lot of the things you mentioned have similarities - perhaps more than you think. For instance, dressage and reining are "similar" in terms of executing patterns in a precise beautiful way. Endurance and competitive trail, the competitive trail obstacles/training will only help you when you want to do an endurance race. Barrels, poles, and jumping all require speed and agility. Similarly, I've heard jumping described as "dressage with speed bumps" so obviously dressage helps there too! If dressage helps a horse jump more effectively, I certainly don't see how it wouldn't help a horse do barrels/poles better.
Not so different after all!! :)
Just to clarify, I agree with everything except for endurance and competitive trail being similar. They're not even in the same category at all. Endurance is much more demanding on the horse and requires you to have a really good bond and trust, but you don't exactly have to have the most disciplined horse as long as you can trust him on the trail.
Meanwhile, CTR is like an obstacle course, where you're judged and the horse must perform each item perfectly. It also doesn't put so much demand on the horse, though you don't want to just poke your way through it. However, training is critical in CTR since it is a judged competition and relies a lot on the horse's behavior. Often, CTR is even done in an arena. You're likely never going to find an obstacle like you see in CTR on an endurance trail because the trails are selected, marked, and cleared for the purpose of covering ground without any problems.
I'm not saying these things can't be done together - I'm going to do some CTR just because I need to have some motivation to work on specific aspects of my horse's fundamentals and training, but, other than keeping your horse busy, they're probably not going to help each other.
And.... while reining and dressage are both very technical and require you to be an excellent rider, I think you should probably choose the one you want to learn first and learn it thoroughly before you try to cross over to the other. Yes, there are a lot of the same principles, but it's to learn and master a spin and a piaffe at the same time.
Just.... take it one step at a time :)
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