A schoolmaster, in the simplest of terms, is a horse that is well trained and has a lot of experience within a discipline (or multiple disciplines). In most cases, beginners start taking lessons on a schoolmaster because these horses allow the rider to make mistakes and still be safe. They have the ability to get an idea of what the rider is asking of them, even if they aren’t very clear.
When I started to get really involved in dressage I owned a five-year-old Oldenburg gelding who was still in training. While he was in the process of going through equine boot camp I still wanted to have the ability to show and advance my own skills. So, with that in mind, at the beginning of my first summer as a working student I started leasing an Andalusian schoolmaster, named Locero, who is twenty-five years of age. Twenty-five is pretty up there, but trust me, he can still jump around like a yearling and let me know how he feels about that misplaced neon cone on the side of the arena.
Even though I was taking dressage lessons before Locero came along I still had a lot of work to do in terms of my quality as a rider. I don’t consider myself a bad rider, but there is always something to improve. In just a short span of three – four months Locero helped me build confidence, improve my seat, and gain strength overall. Having him as a teacher is something that I am definitely grateful for, which is the basis behind the following reasons for why you should look into getting a schoolmaster of your own.
Schoolmasters teach you the fundamentals. When I first started taking dressage lessons this “Pyramid of Training” (shown above) was something that my trainer encouraged me to reference during every ride. Basically, each level builds onto the principle beneath it. So, you start with the intent of having a consistent rhythm. Once you’ve established that you move on to relaxation, then connection, and so on. As the pyramid moves upward the tasks get more advanced. With the help of a schoolmaster you would be able to learn each of these aspects, which is truly the backbone of the sport. As you comprehend and execute the levels and move up the pyramid, your horse has the ability to move up with you because they already have the knowledge to do so.
Schoolmasters are safe. When I say these horses are safe I don’t mean that there’s no fire left in them. Believe me when I tell you that Locero has thrown some sass my way on more than one occasion just for his entertainment. The difference is that even though he can get hot I have never felt like he was trying to throw me or run off. He’s just trying to show me that he still has spirit (probably because he has heard me call him an old man and he wants to prove me wrong). The point is you can really trust schoolmasters because they’ve been around the block a thousand times.
Schoolmasters have amazing personalities. I’m sure this reason sounds pretty biased, but I am not lying when I say that schoolmasters really do have the coolest personalities. They can turn on the charm in the show ring and dazzle the audience with their fancy movements. Then, they can suddenly decide they want to hold your whip in their mouth and hit you with it for fun once you’re back at the stable. Schoolmasters are pretty perfect because they know their job, but they like to have a good time too.
Overall, schoolmasters are great teachers, they’re fun, and they’re more than suitable for riders at any stage in their training.
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