Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Southern Alberta, Canada
• Horses: 0
A few weeks back, my sister, Paige, was given the job to exercise an imported warmblood for a week while her owner was on vacation. This horse is ridden by her owner in a crank-flash noseband combo, a set of draw-reins, and heavy, unsteady hands.
We took all of that off. Paige found just a tiny bit of softness remaining in that horse, and it only took a few day for her to bring that out, for the most part. This horse had probably been well started in Germany as a three year-old, before she came over here two years ago at six years.
At the end of the week, my sister cheekily said that she wanted to take Freddy for a test drive, and threw me up on the mare to cool her out. You had to be absolutely, completely soft with her, and she right away taught me about passive seat. Just at the walk, and this horse wasn't even a schoolmaster (even though she was probably an amazing prospect at one time). But just getting on something that was even remotely dressage-trained after having ridden jumper horses for my whole career was a great oppurtunity.
As much as I'm greatful to Freddy for teaching me about basic roundness and learning to deal with an attitude like his, he's still a jumper-trained horse, and he will never be a dressage horse. It's not fair to ask that from him; I don't even own him. But now I feel more like I'm teaching him, and I guess that just means he's taken me as far as he can. We're looking to lease or even buy (!) a dressage-trained horse or well-started prospect this spring, but we'll see.
My sister was lucky. She was a working student for a local dressage trainer, who had competed at the WEG and owned Grand Prix horses. Paige had just come from a hunter jumper barn, and, even though her old coach was training riders to be effective, she was still not a dressage rider.
The first time she got that horse, he started piaffing and wouldn't stop. She learned within thirty minutes of riding that horse what seat, leg, and hand really means.
I wouldn't consider myself even worthy of cooling out that level of dressage horse, not yet. But I think anyone can benefit from getting on a schoolmaster, which doesn't have to even be a top level horse. With any level of schoolmaster, you can feel and experiment with a horse that is asking you to be the type of rider that he needs and what you want to be. You can see what blatantly works, works in the wrong way, and what doesn't work at all.
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