Once you have done all of your foundation building work with your horse and you feel that trust, respect, and communication are strong (translation: you have a decent handle on your horse) you being to wonder “what else can we do?” Then with a simple Google search, the floodgates of information open and all the possibilities rush forth.
It can be intimidating. It is also exhilarating and FUN!
The trail of discovery has many opportunities. How you explore these possibilities is up to you. You (and your horse) might be an “all in” personality who dives in and swims around in an activity or discipline or you could be a “toe dipper” personality who likes to slowly wade in an activity or discipline. Depending on your resources and support network, either of these “exploration styles” is fine. You do you. However, if you are like most equine enthusiasts, your resources and your time has limits. Cost-effective approaches are needed when exploring new and exciting possibilities. Here are some tips on cost-effective ways to explore the Equestrian Arts.
· Local Schooling Shows: Interested in competing in Western Pleasure, Dressage, Trail Class and so on? Cool! Check out your local schooling shows. Classes are usually inexpensive and the atmosphere is laid back and friendly. This is the place to try out a discipline without breaking the budget. Plus the judges will usually give you advice on how to improve. Going to simply watch first is a good idea. This is an inexpensive way to see if the discipline is something that speaks to you and your horse.
· Auditing Clinics: Bring a chair, a camera, a notebook and your lunch. Invest some time and a little money to audit a clinic on an activity or discipline that you have interest in. Often times you can speak with the participants and even the Clinician during breaks and at the end of the session to gather more insight into the activity, approach or discipline. You can learn a great deal from watching.
· Volunteer: Oftentimes the organizers of an activity, show or clinic need help. See if they are willing to take on volunteers to help with set-up and tear down, scorekeeping or general assistance. In return, you can watch the activity or clinic while gaining some valuable insight in the area of possible interest.
· Clubs and Practices: Find a local equine club that explores various activities or focuses on one thing and join in their practice sessions. You may have to pay a haul-in or participation fee but it will normally be much more cost-effective and you can build up a support network. Plus riding with others is just plain fun! You can also attend discipline focused practices. Whether it is working with obstacle challenges or sorting cattle, there are facilities that host open practices. These are cost-effective ways to try something out, get a bit of advice and have fun with your horse.
· Equine Expositions: No matter the scope of these celebrations, equine expositions are probably the most cost-effective way to explore the equestrian arts. At these events, you can see a variety of activities, disciplines, and approaches. You can interact with Clinicians, Groups and other active equestrians who focus on what you are interested in. You can network and build connections as you gain information. You can also learn about the latest trends in training, gear, healthcare and more. Equine expositions are like a library, filled with all the information you could want on the equestrian arts. The bigger the exposition, the more diversity will be on hand and the more notable the Clinicians and Trainers will be. Some of the bigger expositions in the nation are the Western States Horse Expo, Equine Affair, and the Mane Event. Your region will, most likely, have smaller expositions for you to explore. Just be ready for a more “entry-level” exposition with more regionally based talent and exhibitors. A simple Google or Facebook search can often reveal some interesting opportunities.
Exploration in an investment that will pay back in many impactful ways. By taking a little time to plan out your exploration activities you will be rewarded with more information and a much clearer idea of what you and your horse are the most interested in. Have fun and enjoy the trail to discovery. You will be glad you did…and so will your horse.