The Role of the Schoolmaster
 
 

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The Role of the Schoolmaster

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  • Riding a schoolmaster
  • Role of schoolmaster

 
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    09-28-2010, 10:49 AM
  #1
Started
The Role of the Schoolmaster

A young lady taking lessons was concerned about how lethargic and unresponsive a horse had been at the riding centre where she has lessons. Her main query had been whether she had been giving the horse the correct aids or Qs. When thinking of how to reply, I realised that it was important for the novice rider to understand the function of the schoolmaster horse. The novice doesn’t so much go to a centre to ride a schoolmaster as to learn to ride a schoolmaster. The schoolmaster’s role is to teach the brain of the pupil how to cope with the stresses generated by motion when circling the arena. The rider’s body must learn how to respond by ‘rote’ ie by going round and round in constant repetition. It is not natural to the human to be carried.

All novice riders before they mount up on a horse should be shown the correct seat and importantly the reason why sitting correctly from the very beginning is extremely important. The physiologies of the two species namely equine and human, and Newton’s law of motion, determine why there is only one optimal way to sit on a horse.

The human brain is a magnificent creation and one role of it is to silently manage and control the mechanics of body and the functions of the internal organs. For many of the things which a human does, he/she needs not to think of what to do, the brain will have done them instantly and instinctively. Have you inadvertently touched anything hot recently? Note that the hand will have withdrawn seconds before you even feel the pain. Likewise with the reactions involved in horse riding. The brain will react long before the conscious thinking brain comes to realize that an instant reaction had been necessary.

When mounting the novice should instinctively adopt the correct riding posture - ie bottom evenly balanced on the saddle, front to rear, side to side; with thighs and legs hanging down on the flanks on either side; the balls of the feet lightly resting on the stirrup iron, toes up, heels down, feet pointing forwards; back held erect with the spine in its natural curve; head and neck held high and facing forwards. In this posture the rider is in position for the horse to carry him/her in the optimum manner as dictated by the horse‘s physiology. Horse and rider should stand still together in perfect balance The problem arises that instantly the horse moves, the ’inter’ balance of both horse and the rider is disturbed and it must immediately and instinctively be re-established. When in motion the need for the rider to come back into a state of balance on the horse’s back is continuous. Similarly the horse must continually rebalance the mass combination of both itself and the rider and particularly at speed.


The big problem with the human brain is that it is always important for it to learn correctly from the very beginning a sequence of movements because should it need to modify that sequence it must first unlearn the incorrect movement. And as Dr Alexander will say, the process of unlearning an incorrect movement is a lot more difficult than the process of learning the correct movement. In short, if you don’t learn to sit a horse properly from the beginning, then the chances are that you never will learn to sit a horse correctly.

So where does the schoolmaster fit in this dialogue? The role of the school horse is to present to the inexperienced rider a stable platform on which to practice the seat and the placement of the body, the legs and the arms. The school horse should be phlegmatic, calm, obedient, regular and above all rhythmic. For the rider to learn to rise to the trot calls for a horse with a regular and constant action. Equally for the rider to learn to sit to the trot calls for a very forgiving horse whose back is about to be pounded by the unschooled, and inevitably clumsy, rider.

It is cannot be surprising that horses used only for teaching novices becomes dull. On a daily basis, round and round in the arena they circle with an incompetent human bouncing up and down on the back whilst jerking the steel bar in the mouth. By all means dampen the blows from clumsiness by fitting thick pads under the saddle and fit thick vulcanite bits in the bridle to soften the jerks of the inept riders hands but the overall discomfort experienced by the school horse cannot be fully compensated for. The horse must learn to bear its discomfort with stoicism. The schoolmaster must forgo the luxury of sensitivity. There can be no such thing as subtlety in the equestrian arena of novices.

My own mare would sense from the moment a novice grasped a handful of mane and rein that she was about to be mounted by a novice. I am sure she would step aside in protest as the rider’s leg swung over her rump. She would have moved forwards as the boot dug into her flanks and the clumsy rider dropped down onto the saddle whilst jerking the reins and through them the steel bit in her sensitive mouth. She would feel she was being violated. As a result the inexpert rider would not be safe because my horse would want that novice off her back and as soon as possible. There again, my horse is no forgiving schoolmistress and never ever will she be.

Always be nice to a schoolmaster horse. Give it a stroke and speak to it softly. It is there to teach you to ride. The instructor in the centre of the arena merely tells you what to do. It is the poor horse that does the work of teaching you how.
     
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    09-28-2010, 05:51 PM
  #2
Weanling
A most excellent post barry :)
Made me think back to when I was a kid learning to ride on my cousins shetland. He was a deamon when he wasn't on a lead line with a beginner, but everyone loved him no matter how many times he bucked them off to run home. No matter how bad I was thrown i'd always end my rides giving him a big hug and say 'thankyou'.
A good schoolmaster is worth their weight in gold.
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    09-28-2010, 06:38 PM
  #3
Banned
Maybe there is a difference in terms on the different sides of the pond as what Barry described is a school horse only...NOT a schoolmaster.

The typical school hose as from what Barry states is the as he said to be a steady horse that teaches the novices the basics of riding without the fear of it running off or doing anything naughty. They should give the novice rider some degree of confidence so the rider can learn balance and the aids required to make the horse function appropriately.

Now a School MASTER is another whole ball game and their job is not to endlessly do canters because the rider sort of made an effort in asking for that gait. They should be sensitive and WILL NOT perform what is asked if the asking is not done correctly. They are there to TEACH and novice riders usually do not do well with a true Schoolmaster. Typically these horse have competed to a reasonably high level and "know" everything. Any owner of a true master will be selective in what rider they will allow on their horse.

It is actually harder for a rider that has graduated from the novice ranks and has started to understand the correct functions of their discipline to obtain a true schoolmaster and start showing with it. It takes time to unlearn some of the faults that have crept in from riding a school horse that just "goes" to one that will not just "go" but requires the rider to apply the correct aid in the correct manner and degree.
     
    09-28-2010, 09:08 PM
  #4
Trained
Quote:
Now a School MASTER is another whole ball game and their job is not to endlessly do canters because the rider sort of made an effort in asking for that gait. They should be sensitive and WILL NOT perform what is asked if the asking is not done correctly. They are there to TEACH and novice riders usually do not do well with a true Schoolmaster. Typically these horse have competed to a reasonably high level and "know" everything. Any owner of a true master will be selective in what rider they will allow on their horse.
Totally agree with this. I once sat on a highly schooled dressage horse. That horse would not budge an inch if any part of your body was not perfectly lined up. If anything was in front of the vertical, forget it. It was an insanely humbling experience, and I ended up being thrilled just to produce a working walk and trot before calling it a day and iceing down my burning stomach muscles. A true school master has no problem telling you that you asked the question incorrectly.
     
    09-28-2010, 10:51 PM
  #5
Started
Quote:
Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck    
Totally agree with this. I once sat on a highly schooled dressage horse. That horse would not budge an inch if any part of your body was not perfectly lined up. If anything was in front of the vertical, forget it. It was an insanely humbling experience, and I ended up being thrilled just to produce a working walk and trot before calling it a day and iceing down my burning stomach muscles. A true school master has no problem telling you that you asked the question incorrectly.

I LOVE horses like this! They show just how amazing these beasts can be. I ride some horses with lots of buttons, and it's truly amazing when I learn to use them. Humbling. That is a good word for it.
     
    09-29-2010, 03:12 AM
  #6
Started
Spyder
You are of course correct. I had not picked up on the difference between a school horse and a school master and I should have outlined the difference.

WHen I was a much younger man I went off for a weeks schooling with Lord Loch - the first husband of Sylvia Loch. He was a superb teacher.

The regular sequence of training was that first we would see a demo given by his staff whilst riding his stallions. Loch would explain the principles being illustrated.

Then we would have a lesson on his stallions, whilst our own horses were being schooled by Loch's staff.

Then we would have the same lesson on our own horse whilst Loch's staff
Rode the stallions to make sure that we had not inadvertently taught them bad habits.

His stallions were indeed 'school masters'.

I have never forgotten the week my brother and I enjoyed with Loch, In truth we were still very inexperienced and our own horses were self schooled,
But Loch modified his lessons to suit our level of expertise.

B G
     
    09-30-2010, 03:43 PM
  #7
Weanling
And then there is the good-natured MASTER task-master, who knows just what's going on. . . I once got to ride an FEI-level Hannovarian to learn flying changes, but he knew the routine so perfectly, changed exactly where he was supposed to (probably felt a wiggle on his back, and knew it was supposed to be an aid)--- I didn't learn a thing, ha ha! But he was fun to "ride', and so sweet!
     
    10-01-2010, 01:49 PM
  #8
Showing
A very good thread. Something that should be posted in every riding facility that teaches lessons. I think a lot of young riders, or beginner riders should have a chance to learn about this. Even those parents who sit on the sidelines, or anyone wanting to know more about horseback riding would get a whole lot more respect for both the sport and the experience those horses provide.

A very enlightning and refreshing read.
     

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