So often when I meet a new rider, they tell me that they are a dressage specialist, or a showjumping specialist, or an endurance specialist. So many specialists. And often, when I ask a showjumper of dressage rider if they have tried any other disciplines, I get a queer look, and they tell me that they are Specialists, with a capital S. And I usually think, “How boring it must be to do only that one thing all your equestrian life.”
A rider needs a proper foundation in equitation. Once you have that, you can enjoy all sorts of disciplines.
But first the basics. A good jumping rider needs an excellent grounding in flat-work. That’s dressage. Some good dressage riders occasionally pop fences. Many came from specialization in other disciplines too. While Dr Reiner Klimke, father of the German event rider Ingrid Klimke, won six Olympic gold medals in dressage, he also was a member of the winning West German three-day event team at the 1959 European Championships, and finished 18th in individual eventing at the 1960 Summer Olympics, making him the best German combination. Dr Klimke also won a Grand Prix show jumping competition in Berlin.
There are novice riders who try different things till they find their thing. Or you might just enjoy the variety, after all, it is the spice of life.
I have enjoyed different disciplines at different stages of my life. I did things backwards competitively, starting amateur flat racing when I was 15 years old. It was not till I was 16 that I started polo, after which I joined the Pony Club and went into equestrian sports with eventing, showjumping and dressage. With 12 South East Asian championship golds, I suppose you could say I specialized in showjumping. I have won SE Asian golds in combined training and 1-star eventing as well. Had dressage been a medal sport in ’83, I would have been given that as well, having scored the best test.
Off the horse, I added showjumping course designing (FEI Level 3), stewarding, national dressage judging, and got certified as an instructor. I was a founder of the South East Asian FEI World Cup Jumping League, and the RMPA Polo Leagues. I started Equestrian.Com.My and PoloEquestrian.com, and Zack’s Tack. It has been an exciting journey. I wrote a little about it in this blog in 2012: Free Your Mind.
Am I unique? I don’t think so. We have many polo players who have competed at a good level in other equestrian sports – Shaik Reismann, Quzier Ambak, Asad Jumabhoy, Dato’ Mohamed Moiz, Jennifer Too and Lim Siu Tin to name but a few.
Some classical concepts – balance, rhythm and impulsion – for example, are a constant in every discipline. On Santa, the first horse I ever owned, I played A grade polo, raced, evented and showjumped 1.20 classes.
The point is that if you and your horse have a good foundation, you can dabble in different disciplines and enjoy a variety of specializations. There is a lot of cross-over of ideas and techniques, something I use in my polo life today.
Free your mind, and don’t be so specialized that you can’t have fun and keep learning.