Well I've never had a chance to ride a dressage schoolmaster yet, but I expect it to be a great learning experiance. To have a horse that knows more than you can be a challange is so true, but it is also a challenge to learn how to (for example) leg yield on a horse who doesn't know how to leg yield. It can go both ways.
I've been fortunate enough to ride a couple of WP "schoolmasters," truly trained for their discipline and well, but I've never gotten a chance to ride a dressage schoolmaster, here in the land of backyard WP and barrels. Although I think that it would be a fantastic experience, but I'd be afraid I would mess something up for the owner .
I'd expect that it would take some time to get used to the "buttons" on a schoolmaster. I'm working on my seat, and learning more every day about how I can better ride from my seat, but I know I'm not nearly as educated as a schoolmaster's back is. A ride on a schoolmaster for me would definitely have a major lesson included. There would definitely be no jumping aboard and heading off in piaffe down the rail.
I would love the experience of riding a dressage horse who knows more than me (taking the extreme liberty of calling Scout a dressage horse). We're doing okay for learning together and not having 24/7 to devote to the learning, but we have a long way to go, a long ride to enjoy. Most of our issues are his greenness and my feeling my way along (Thomas Jefferson said that "He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors"; granted he wasn't a horse trainer...). I think both of us would benefit from my taking a few lessons on schoolmaster, but it would definitely be a different kind of challenge, as IslandWave said.
I have sat for few times on -not schoolmaster dressage horse, but horse with ST grade in both dressage and jumping (we have Z-L-S-ST-T-TT grades). It was nice experience, because it was opposite to the horse I had been riding in that stable-Niel was hard to push even to trot, he was not able to do leq yield, or shoulder in, or to canter on circle under saddle. Just schooling horse. He was absolutely reliable, you could shoot next to him and he will just look what's disturbing him from eating. But it was bad for me as "later beginner"-I was supposed to learn correct aids but he was ridden mostly by mouth. And when I sat on Fin? I didn't have to use reins at all. But if I kicked him too hard, or got out of the balance, he just got me down without any debate If I turned him with reins, he got me down, on the other hadn, while I was balanced, didn't disturb him in mouth, didn't kick him, he was w/t/c absolutely perfectly...
For me it really was something. I think it's good at least from tim to time to sit on some qalified horse, which will teach you not to be too hard as you are used to be on school horses...
I am grateful to Niel that he tought me how to sit and to be sure in w/t/c, but really, he didn't have anything to teach me then and since I really desired to ride him still, I just sat from time to time on some experienced horse. Because from Niel I had too much bad habits-turning with too much reins, halting with too much reins, too kicking in aids (-->uneasy legs and seat generally, heels up,...) and these horses put me back to normal
I have. I may have pictures somewhere. I will have to go through my old stuff. When I lived in Germany I took lessons at a dressage school and my instructor let me ride one of his horses. It was really awesome. I can't remember what it was, I want to say a Rheilender? Is that how you spell it? Anyway it was awesome. The horse rode collected. He had so many buttons that I couldnt really do anything exciting, other then walk, trot, canter and pop a few jumps. The horse had buttons out the whazzoo!
I've ridden my current trainers horses on occassion. Her english ones are easier to ride then her western ones. The western ones have a lot more buttons.....
You are right, it is very difficult to ride a "Schoolmaster" absolutely.
I would consider Nelson one - why, you may ask? Because my opinion, a School Master is a horse that has gone to a level where you have not, and done successful at his/her sport with his/her rider at that level.
For example, Nelson went A Circuit Hunter/Jumper with his first owner and became a very well known horse that wins in the LMHJA. And then he was sold, and went to a dressage barn where his 2nd owner competed him to 3rd level dressage, and then sold him and his 3rd owner took him Prelim Eventing.
I, have not gone A Circuit Hunter/Jumper. I have not gone to 3rd level Dressage, nor have I been anywhere near Prelim in eons in the sport of Eventing.
When I met Nelson, he was stunning! Just stunning! His previos owner, took lessons from his dressage owner and watching their lessons made me drool. Nelson would be soft, supple, light, rounded, engaged, moving beautifully - then, when I got on him.....it was crap.
Back dropped, head high = CRAP. I couldn't get him to soften. I couldn't get him to track up, lighten up, round up - nothing. He growled at me alot too - LOL.
Then his previous owner would get on him - and BAM - BEAUTIFUL.
I mumbled profanities.
But, over time - I learnt his buttons. He learnt mine. I learnt how to ride him the way he needed to be rode.
We've been together 3 years now, it'll be 4 this April - and I still cannot get movements out of him, that his previous owners got out of him.
It is very hard to ride a "School Master" if you don't know how to. If you don't know how to ask for the movements, how to ask for those rides that the horse is trained to compete at - it is difficult.
Makes you soon realize, how uneducated you are. That isn't a bad thing - that just means, you have alot more to learn.
I had a wonderful learing experience with an old dressage instructor's schoolmaster.
I still had vestiges of my old hunter riding style, where I had a cruise control mentality, that I would set the horse up where I wanted it and leave it alone - I resisted the idea that I had to ride every beat of every stride.
So I was on this wonderful warmblood 3rd level, schooling 4th horse, trying to do the serpentine from the second level tests - 2 loops in true canter, 1 loop in counter canter. Counter canter kind of breaks my brain anyway. The *second*, and I mean the *second* I stopped riding the aids for counter canter, the lovely horse would execute a flying change to the true canter. I was screaming in frustration; and I remember my instructor saying "Dressage horses just have more buttons than hunters." It took me 2 or 3 lessons to be able to ride that serpentine correctly. The horse was dead correct, dead honest and a very good instructor - he only held the counter canter when my aids were exactly right, and switched to the true lead as soon as I relaxed my aids. The human instructor could have probably left the ring and gone for coffee and just let the horse teach me.
That horse was also the first horse I rode in *true* collection; with him sitting behind, and the feeling that there was a lot of horse in front of me and I was riding uphill. Felt like revving a sports car - all that coiled energy, waiting for me to tell it where to go.
I am forever grateful to that instructor and that horse for teaching me two key concepts of dressage that I would have struggled with at length otherwise.
I rode a GP schoolmaster at Jayne Ayers', and that was interesting. Ask for canter - get passage, get into the canter - the horse is doing 2s and I can't get him to stop. I was so unbalanced that I couldn't do basic things like transitions, the horse was so sensitive to slight weight changes.
By the end of the second day, I had him though. We got to school all the fun bits
I was also fortunate when I had really just begun showing dressage to be able to ride and show a PSG schoolmaster. He would get very hot in his changes and you needed a lot of core strength to half halt that horse back to you.
I'd make so many mistakes in tests and we'd still come out with a score in the 60s, with like 2 "6"s on the page, the rest are 4s and 5s where I screwed up and 7s and 8s where I didn't. I got my first goose egg on that horse too!
I have also warmed up/cooled down my current coach's horse a few times. He is in contention for WEG, so if they make it I'm going to point and say "I rode that horse" :)
And when I was like.... 10? Maybe.. I sat on a schoolmaster to "feel" some piaffe. My legs barely came past the saddle hahahaha and I have almost no recollection of the event..
I went back to Spyder's original post and it's asking more about expectations than experiences, so....
I guess my expectation of a schoolmaster would be a horse with more "buttons'' than I actually know how to use. Not a horse I should be riding on a regular basis, or capable of riding successfully on a regular basis, but a horse that can show me, vividly, what the next level or levels I should be striving for are like and what I have yet to learn.
I think often times people equate 'schoolmaster' with GP, or Upper Level, or successful performance horse etc....
I think schoolmasters come at all levels and are simply horses who demand the rider uphold their end of the partnership.
"Push button horse" = automaton, NOT a schoolmaster.
A horse that continually fills in for a rider, ignoring rider inadequacies = generous, often times on it's own mission, a good mount for a beginner/novice rider to get on and stay alive, but NOT a schoolmaster.
Schoolmasters are created from a combination of superior training, intelligence, attitude/dominant personality/call it what you like, and the inherent need to want to be understood on an entirely different level and demanding it.