I am in a bit of a conundrum. I want to start riding lessons, but have no idea what discipline or level I should start in, based on what experience I already have. Since certain barns only offer certain disciplines, I'm hoping to figure out what direction to go before selecting a place to begin lessons. Please read the whole post and let me know what you think. I'm sorry it's so wordy but I don't know what is/isn't relevant. Here's my experience thus far:
Ages 0-18: Sporadic English lessons, trail rides, horse camps. Only ever W/T, but by age 18 was very comfortable with horses on the ground and could W/T comfortably, though I'm sure my form was far than perfect. I learned to post as well but not much about leads.
18-22 (College): Took 2 semesters of horsemanship classes (English), so essentially 1-2 group lessons a week for about 9 months. Learned up to W/T/C and leads. Lots of focus on using aids correctly, seat, leg, voice, and proper connection to horse with bit. I learned a lot but was never 100% confident because the group setting made it difficult for me to feel certain that I was doing things correctly. We also introduced the use of a crop as an aid but I was never good at using it (it was too fumbly and awkward to hold on top of focusing on doing everything else correctly). Two small dressage shows at the end of the year (one judging the horse, one judging the rider- I forget what they were called),
Also spent one summer working (waitressing) at a dude ranch in Colorado, where I rode Western W/T/C at least once a week.
22-24 (now): Since graduating, I've spent two years at two places- a horse rescue (1-2x a week), where I've gained extensive experience handling rescue horses on the ground. A bit of riding here and there but mostly just horse care and ground work, including free lunging.
The other place is a equine psychotherapy place where I volunteer and help with exercising the horses, who don't get ridden as a part of the program. I ride two of the horses there (once a week for the past two years) but primarily a feisty pinto gelding rescue, who I spend 2-5 hour every Saturday on the trail and ring with. I ride with another young girl but other than that no supervision or direction. The horse I ride is not a beginner horse, he is relatively green, he can be stubborn, and is very sensitive and responds negatively (buck/bolt) when the rider is not cognizant of that. I ride him in a western saddle but with direct reining using a pelham bit (as this is the tack his owner has for him). He is very sensitive to voice and leg aids, and requires only very gentle use of the reins. On this horse, I have W/T/C and galloped, both in the saddle and bareback, worked in the ring extensively and done long "working" trail rides. Him and I have figured each other out, and we have great rides, but that is just one horse! And just because I ride him often doesn't mean my form is good. (The other horse there is a small, older, completely broke gelding who I occasionally do quick little rides on, but usually the other girl rides him).
So where does this leave me? What do I want to get from lessons?
I have no desire to show (I don't have a problem with it- just not my thing), I really just want to be a confident, capable horseback rider (someday I want to own my own horse, for pleasure riding only- probably mostly trails with some arena work). I want a strong foundation- I want to be confident in my form, balance, leads, using aids correctly, moving with the horse, and helping the horse carry itself well. I think I would also enjoy learning to jump. I would definitely start with private lessons since I need to feel confident in a baseline before I can learn in a group setting.
But I have no idea where to start, lessons-wise. I enjoy western riding, but I also think a strong English foundation would be helpful. At the end of this it would be nice to be competent in both direct and neck reining. I'm definitely not a brand new beginner, as I am comfortable around and on horses, but I would hesitate to even call myself an intermediate? Though my experience is so varied I have no idea what I would be considered. Would it make sense for me to just start at level zero, since my experience is so varied that I don't have a solid foundation in any discipline? Any and all advice welcome!!