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View Full Version : How should a schoolmaster teach you?



schimmel
Sep. 19, 2009, 10:18 AM
I looked at a schoolmaster recently. He tried really hard to respond to my aids but also got a bit frustrated with me when I was too harsh/incorrect (a bit of head tossing). This got me wondering...How should a real "schoolmaster" teach the student? Is it by rewarding the student for an approximately correct request by offering something-even if it isn't what the rider had in mind, or should a real schoolmaster not respond to the rider unless they ask correctly? If a horse gets frustrated by confusing/incorrect aids, is he really a schoolmaster?
I was able to do everything in my current abilities on this horse, plus clean changes, but I have a feeling he may get frustrated with me over time if I keep fussing/bouncing around up there. He has taken other riders up the levels, so maybe I am reading too much into the one "head tossing" response he gave.
I guess this takes me back to the age old question "What is a schoolmaster?"

slc2
Sep. 19, 2009, 10:44 AM
Opinions vary. Some people expect a schoolmaster to put up with everything, some expect him to get just as mad as the instructor, LOL.

Some people think a schoolmaster should be like a 'schoolteacher' horse, such as the riding school horse who tolerantly carries anyone regardless of how difficult they make the horse's job. If the reins are hanging down he should just jog along with the beginner, if the reins are picked up and the rider energizes him, he should galvanize into a perfect GP horse...the number of horses that really do that is pretty low.

Others say a schoolmaster is a Grand Prix horse, and very different from a 'school teacher' or a school horse. He not only gives the correct responses, he shows the rider's mistakes, and pushes the rider to correct himself, and is just as demanding a task master as a top level trainer/coach.

I tend toward the latter rather than the former.

I also think a schoolmaster is going to have at least some special characteristics that start to familiarize a student with adjusting himself to different horses. EVERY horse has 'problems', so a schoolmaster will have them too...he might be a little on the sensitive side and need careful riding, or he might be a little laid back and require one to energize him more, he might have some issues like being a little stiffer on one side, or a little less supple. But he won't be dangerous, and he won't be frightening to ride, and he'll know how to do the work.

I think people who haven't ridden at a higher level and trained their own horses, might have unfair expectations of a schoolmaster. Even on the BEST schoolmaster, riding the hardest work isn't a picnic. the rider really has to ride every step and set the horse up correctly and balance and collect him.

There is a place for tolerant school horses at the lower level. The definition of the word 'schoolmaster' has gotten mixed in with 'school horse' and ' lower level schoolteacher'. A schoolmaster is an FEI horse that can perform all the GP movements when asked properly, and he isn't necessarily going to suffer everyone patiently.

CatOnLap
Sep. 19, 2009, 11:16 AM
I looked at a schoolmaster recently. He tried really hard to respond to my aids but also got a bit frustrated with me when I was too harsh/incorrect (a bit of head tossing). This got me wondering...How should a real "schoolmaster" teach the student? Is it by rewarding the student for an approximately correct request by offering something-even if it isn't what the rider had in mind, or should a real schoolmaster not respond to the rider unless they ask correctly? If a horse gets frustrated by confusing/incorrect aids, is he really a schoolmaster?
I was able to do everything in my current abilities on this horse, plus clean changes, but I have a feeling he may get frustrated with me over time if I keep fussing/bouncing around up there. He has taken other riders up the levels, so maybe I am reading too much into the one "head tossing" response he gave.
I guess this takes me back to the age old question "What is a schoolmaster?"

I don't think there is a single answer. For the green rider with no effective sticky seat, a perfect schoolmaster is one who provides a good "seat" on his lifted back because he is not terribly reactive to shifts in weight, flapping legs and tugs on the reins, and is able to travel in a steady rhythm and shows no vices under saddle. He may not know much more than that, but at the start that is enough.

This is quite different from the schoolmaster for someone who is say, at 2nd level and wants to learn 3rd and 4th. That horse will have the rhythm, good posture of the first but with more education. He is likely to be more reactive to beginner imbalance, but should be able to "read" imperfect aides and try to give you what you are asking, assuming you can stay in the saddle for it.

The upper level schoolmaster, with even more education, and with more difficult moves to perform, probably should protest or refuse if your aides get harsh or if you are severely out of balance, since to do things like passage or tempis, or canter pirouettes, he needs for you to be a balanced subtle package and not throw him off.

I find too, that without an experienced trainer riding once or twice a week, "schoolmasters" of the latter type often lose their finesse and quality rather quickly. Especially if you are fussing and bouncing at times, this may help your horse from getting too upset with you. It is easier for you to ride the moves if the horse is kept in fine tune.

I rode a very forgiving former Pan Am Games competitor in order to learn tempis. Maxwell, because I could sit well enough, was able to do the tempis under me and educated my seat as to how my pelvis should move in these changes. It was extremely helpful, especially since I was recovering from a serious pelvic accident at the time and had become somewhat frozen in my seat. His correct execution of multiple tempis really taught me a lot. And that was possible because his owner rode him and kept him tuned up. But for other students I watched on him who were not quite so far along, he wouldn't even give a decent trot- he slowed himself to a delightful (and annoying) passage so as to keep them from bouncing...

Velvet
Sep. 19, 2009, 01:01 PM
A schoolmaster is not a beginning rider horse. Those are simply "school" horses and are generally the type that would fit in a string at a riding school. They are the unsung heros of the horse world because they put up with everything and know that their job is to take care of their rider and to also listen to the instructor.

A schoolmaster, on the other hand, is a horse that is trained to the medium to upper levels. These horses have varying personality types, but they should definitely know how to do their job and wait for the rider to tell them to do it correctly before giving them everything. They will offer less when less is asked of them (at first, when stepping down to a new rider they might offer more right away, but they will adjust down--while still retaining the information and muscle memory to do it right when asked correctly). Most of them know their job well and while being willing to do less, they will also become frustrated when things are done wrong or they feel the rider is unfair in how or what they are asking of them. This is why they are called "schoolmasters"--they help train the rider to make them more feeling and to teach them the correct feel.

Schoolmasters are teachers, and great teachers do not tolerate mediocrity. They push the student and the student has to either grow, or realize their limitations (mental, physical, motivational, etc.) and step away from going to the next level. Truly, you need to be a rider who expects to do more than be a passenger, that's why these horses are so invaluable to a rider's training.

JMHO

Thomas_1
Sep. 19, 2009, 01:16 PM
A schoolmaster horse will be so well trained that it will let you know immediately that you're doing something wrong because it won't do what you think you're asking of it.

If you're lucky as a novice and you're not on the lunge, you'll be on the sort of schoolmaster that fails safe and so tends to do a "you don't want to do that" and so it will either do what it knows you meant or at least not do anything dangerous or stupid with you. But it will let you know you weren't right.

The other sort let's you know straight away by giving you precisely what you asked for when you asked for it whether you meant it or not.

I've horses that are school masters and they're great for showing a pupil precisely what they are asking for or else when they're asking incorrectly for something they never intended.

They help me as well when I'm teaching because I know from what the horse is doing and how it's reacting what the pupil is doing - even though I might not always be able to see it.

bpt
Sep. 19, 2009, 01:31 PM
A schoolmaster should be used in conjunction with a good instructor! He may know quite alot but it still takes someone talking your own language to put you there and figure it out.

sid
Sep. 19, 2009, 01:33 PM
Ditto Velvet and Thomas 1.

FlashGordon
Sep. 19, 2009, 01:42 PM
A schoolmaster is not a beginning rider horse. Those are simply "school" horses and are generally the type that would fit in a string at a riding school. They are the unsung heros of the horse world because they put up with everything and know that their job is to take care of their rider and to also listen to the instructor.

A schoolmaster, on the other hand, is a horse that is trained to the medium to upper levels. These horses have varying personality types, but they should definitely know how to do their job and wait for the rider to tell them to do it correctly before giving them everything. They will offer less when less is asked of them (at first, when stepping down to a new rider they might offer more right away, but they will adjust down--while still retaining the information and muscle memory to do it right when asked correctly). Most of them know their job well and while being willing to do less, they will also become frustrated when things are done wrong or they feel the rider is unfair in how or what they are asking of them. This is why they are called "schoolmasters"--they help train the rider to make them more feeling and to teach them the correct feel.

Schoolmasters are teachers, and great teachers do not tolerate mediocrity. They push the student and the student has to either grow, or realize their limitations (mental, physical, motivational, etc.) and step away from going to the next level. Truly, you need to be a rider who expects to do more than be a passenger, that's why these horses are so invaluable to a rider's training.

JMHO

Exactly this. The schoolmaster I had for a brief while fit this description perfectly. It was always amazing to ask him for something and actually get the correct response. Likewise, I had to be asking *correctly*.

I learned more in 3 months of riding him than I had the 3 years prior. I often wonder how far my riding would have gotten if I'd had more time with him.

whbar158
Sep. 19, 2009, 01:58 PM
I agree a schoolmaster is not 100% tolerant of mistakes, but are still safe. My horse is somewhere in the middle as he is a school horse and tolerates bouncing, pulling, and takes care of kids, but he knows more advanced stuff but you must ask correctly for him to do those.

He is used in a hunter school program, he will canter in the canter corner for beginners, jump a small x-rail but if you start telling him to do things instead of hang on he expects you to ask correctly and can get rather pissy if you dont! I see those as the best horses because they let you know you are doing something wrong!

jaslyn1701
Sep. 19, 2009, 08:17 PM
I am currently riding what would qualify as a pony - he is a smallish quarter horse. He knows more about riding than I probably ever will - at 54, I will die before I can learn all he can teach me. Our rides are "interesting", if I ask correctly, I get a wonderful response. If I don't not so much. He does not put up with everything I do. However, he does not try to kill me. When I first started riding him, he got pissed - a lot. At some point I think he figured out that I was not screwing up on purpose, but trying to learn and he became more tolerant. He has had numerous opportunities to dump me on my deserving butt - but has managed to stay under me every single time. Having figured he has taught me quite a bit, now he gives me exactly what I ask for - nothing more. If it's wrong, I have to figure out how to ask correctly - and I am learning.

Ambrey
Sep. 19, 2009, 10:23 PM
I don't have experience on a "real" schoolmaster, my horse and I have pretty much been learning at the same time, although he remains way ahead of me (6 mos head start plus a trainer ride a week seem to keep him going!).

Obviously, with any horse you need to be sure with your aids. But with a "true" schoolmaster, it seems to me that they'd have enough miles to be more sure what the "correct" answer is to a specific aid. At least, that's what friends with schoolmasters seem to say.

Since mine is still pretty much developing, you have to have the aids exactly right in both form and strength- a little too much leg, and you'll go shooting sideways across the arena. Too little and you'll not get enough lateral movement. I think on the one hand it's good, but on the other hand without feedback from the trainer it would be hard to get an idea of the "correct" response.

I suspect by the time he's done progressing and is ready to be a teacher, he'll know "when I'm asked for a leg yield/half pass/SI/etc this is the right answer" rather than being so sensitive to variation in the aids. Now, it takes a very good rider to really put him together and get good results (unfortunately, he gets me instead! HAH!)

Mr.GMan
Sep. 19, 2009, 10:35 PM
I love to ride my instructor's schoolmasters. They are GP and FEI, but older. It is such a wonderful feeling to ride them and actually get the correct timing/movement from them. It may not be a perfect every time, but they let me know how I am doing. I can feel what it is I am supposed to be doing, I can feel what the horse should be doing and how it is supposed to move when I do things correctly. Then I can go home and practice with my hopeful first level boy.

Thomas_1
Sep. 20, 2009, 02:40 AM
One of the things about schoolmasters is that they've basically been trained and ridden correctly and so that means they don't actually know anything other than "do it right". By definition they're going to be correct and accurate because they've been intelligent and eager to please their trainer.

They've ordinarily been taught correct aids and haven't been confused by cack handed heavy legged riding and unsubtle signals. That means they don't need rough or over exagerated aids.

They never learnt those in the first place. Get on a school master eventer and try sitting too forward and taking a hand full of rein and give a heavy leg, heels in sides signal and you'll be out over the arena fencing in a heartbeat.

With a schoolmaster dressage horse, sit slumped with a leg forward and heavy on one rein because you've been used to giving rough signals to keep a horse on the outside of the track and you'll be half passing before you know where you are!

It depends on their disposition how they'll express their opinion and it may be with a slow down and stop or a shake of the head or even a turn in to look for help from the instructor standing in the middle.

With mine: I've one that does the latter. He looks to me when he's not getting correct aids. Fail safe! Three of my others love to work and live to please and they takes constant correction or niggling as them not doing it right and so they try harder and give more. They do what you want PRECISELY when you ask and no matter where or when. They're not fail safe horses!

Other thing worth mentioning is that you can't ever make a schoolmaster horse unless it's been produced correctly.

Novices do not produce schoolmaster horses...... EVER.

Likewise under a novice rider or driver trying to work alone, a schoolmaster horse becomes just confused, average or difficult.

You have to have a level of ability and good tuition to work effectively with a schoolmaster horse.

kdow
Sep. 20, 2009, 03:56 AM
They've ordinarily been taught correct aids and haven't been confused by cack handed heavy legged riding and unsubtle signals. That means they don't need rough or over exagerated aids.

I still remember that one of the most rewarding things about taking lessons at the stable where I started was coming in and finding out that I had been given permission to ride one of the more advanced horses - because that didn't mean they did more for you, it meant that they were much more in tune to your aids - frustrating when you got it wrong, but SO rewarding when you got something right and it felt like you just had to barely 'whisper' with your aids to have them do whatever movement you were after.

Plus it meant that the head instructor, who was a stickler for basics, felt that you were good enough with your aids to start with that you wouldn't 'ruin' the more advanced horses with too-heavy or accidental cues. They were, of course, still 'tuned up' regularly by even more advanced riders, to keep them from getting dull, but there was a VAST difference between the intermediate/advanced lesson horses and the new-rider horse that would tolerate all kinds of thumping and bumping[1] and wasn't expected to ever be as sensitive in his responses.

None of those horses were FEI level schoolmasters, either, so I can only imagine how educational a horse of that caliber could be in the right situation.

[1]- Their ultimate new-rider horse was also their vaulting horse for teaching vaulting, so he was incredibly tolerant of all kinds of things and very good on the lunge, so he was very good for first learning balance and starting to get the idea of how to control your hands/seat/legs independently and so on. He was also used for EVERYONE who came for lessons - even the advanced students - to make sure you could do an emergency dismount properly, since he wouldn't hold it against you if you made a mess of it and ended up booting him in the rump. I think he was just perfect for the job he was doing, so it's not just schoolmasters that can be useful for learning. :)

Thomas_1
Sep. 20, 2009, 04:48 AM
^ Agreed.

Though I happen to think that too many horses are too saintly and forgiving. So much so that they're not acting in their own interests.

All too often many switch off and allow a rider to be heavy handed and heavy legged and become so familiar with discomfort that they give up resisting and doing it right.

I personally much prefer a horse to express opinion.

When I teach I do a heck of a lot on a lunge line. Yes the horse is going to be biddable but for me that means it's going to want to look after itself and be forgiving of slight mistakes. It will err on the side of stopping but most of all it will listen to me no matter what the rider is telling it.

All mine will long rein and are voice trained and trained for lessons. I still do the "old fashioned stuff" like "round the world", "half scissors", "full scissors". The horses are trained so they know what that is and don't spook or become alarmed if a rider does that.

Lessons with me aren't the quick and instant result stuff that so many folks want nowadays. I'm a stickler for "independent seat first". My pupils don't even get to pick up reins until they can do a rising trot without them and without wobbling or leaning and until they can do a simple serpentine using leg and seat aids and a halt and transition down and up with seat and weight alone.

This means they can indeed get started on horses that are good teachers but I've got the reins and control while they get balance and their leg and seat aids sorted and then tuned.

For my pupils its the point where I show and tell them how to pick up the reins and then release them from the lunge or long reins that I'm endorsing their competence and ability to go it alone on one of my horses.

I also don't believe it's even possible to learn to ride if you're put on a horse that doesn't know what it's doing or has switched off to all proper aids and totally fails to react to something wrong.

Likewise I'm constantly saying you can't teach or train a horse if you don't know what you're doing and don't know how to ride/drive.

Folks too often kid themselves that a novice owner/rider can train a novice horse. It doesn't happen! You may well get to a situation where the combination isn't too mad, bad or dangerous considering the circumstances. You may even get a polite horse that is rideable. But it's not ever going to be a schoolmaster. Not a snowball in hell's chance!

goeslikestink
Sep. 21, 2009, 01:53 AM
A schoolmaster horse will be so well trained that it will let you know immediately that you're doing something wrong because it won't do what you think you're asking of it.

If you're lucky as a novice and you're not on the lunge, you'll be on the sort of schoolmaster that fails safe and so tends to do a "you don't want to do that" and so it will either do what it knows you meant or at least not do anything dangerous or stupid with you. But it will let you know you weren't right.

The other sort let's you know straight away by giving you precisely what you asked for when you asked for it whether you meant it or not.

I've horses that are school masters and they're great for showing a pupil precisely what they are asking for or else when they're asking incorrectly for something they never intended.

They help me as well when I'm teaching because I know from what the horse is doing and how it's reacting what the pupil is doing - even though I might not always be able to see it.

agrree

AFierceArmadillo
Sep. 21, 2009, 12:50 PM
I recently went back to taking lessons in search of a schoolmaster- I had some time off and some time riding very informally and felt like I'd hit a wall with my skills. I knew I was making mistakes, but I couldn't figure out what they were and none of my other casual riding friends could tell me. So I found a place full of schoolmasters- all of whom are worked every day by the instructors and trainers so that they stay perfect.

The first one of these horses I sat on was a disaster- for me! My balance had gotten so bad and uneven that the mare basically ignored me and kept walking around the ring. If she hadn't been a schoolmaster, she might have just bucked me off. I probably deserved it! The next one was a little too tolerant- he was a beginner pony, and he was so used to being a steady eddie that he didn't react as much when I got off balance or gave mixed signals. The one I'm riding now is, of course, just right! He lets me know when I'm off balance IMMEDIATELY- which is great, because then I become more aware of where the center is. He tells me when my leg pressure is uneven, and he warns me when I slow down my posting because I'm too busy thinking about my hips and toes... He's as schoolmaster because he tells me when I've screwed up but doesn't hold it against me or dump me on the ground. When I get it right, he goes correctly... and everything is instant.

But I agree that you need the instructor to go with the schoolmaster- without some direction, you and the horse both end up frustrated.

So how should a schoolmaster teach you? With reactions to subtle cues that do NOT result in injury.

suzier444
Sep. 21, 2009, 03:25 PM
I think there are two general types:

1) Upper-level push-buttons that allow you to feel what correct feels like no matter how bad you are, so that you know the end goal that you're working toward. Then you can work on another horse to try to achieve the same feeling. I had the luck to ride a horse like this a long time ago and I still think it helps when I'm working on stuff now...I could be working on collection, or a proper shoulder-in or lengthening, and if I think back to how the schoolmaster felt, I can feel the contrast between then and now, and it helps me to diagnose what's wrong with what I'm currently doing.

2) Upper-level horses that will not respond unless asked correctly, so you absolutely must learn how to ask correctly (but they also have to be patient enough that they won't kill you for asking incorrectly, either!!).

The first one is kind of like a tricycle or bike with training wheels, and the second is kind of like a fine-tuned porsche with a megaengine and supersensitive steering. jmo.

InsideLeg2OutsideRein
Sep. 21, 2009, 07:26 PM
A schoolmaster should be used in conjunction with a good instructor! He may know quite alot but it still takes someone talking your own language to put you there and figure it out.

Absolutely. And the more good instruction, the better.

A few years back, when I was a novice and could not sit the trot properly, I had the opportunity to lease a schoolmaster. I very quickly learned that even though the horse has proven that *he* knows how to do things, *I* would still have to learn how to ride. This horse was a saint. I did learn that unless I had him straight, forward, and on the aids, all I got was 17.2 of rubberboy meandering about the arena with his head sticking up in the air. I learned what a canter needs to feel like to ask for a change. I learned how to sit the trot (BIGGIE!!!).

I just started leasing a schoolmistress again, and now it's all happening at a much higher level. I don't think this mare would have tolerated me then. Now, she and I are "clicking" and she is ultra sensitive, I shift my weight -- she responds. In a previous lesson I was asked to do counter canter serpentines, I lost my focus and moved my legs, she gave me a nice change (probably much nicer than I deserved). She always tries hard.

In either case, without good instruction, I would have gotten nowhere. Especially with the first one, one of the instructors got me to nearly quit. She made me feel like a complete idiot, sitting on this nice horse, not being able to do the simplest things. Luckily I got the benefit of another instructor who within a few lessons had me on the path to learning to sit the trot later that year.

WW_Queen
Sep. 21, 2009, 08:43 PM
I would think there are different types of schoolmasters, each suited to a specific level of rider.

If I got on a confirmed schoolmaster and was unable to make him do anything correctly, I would assume that I was not quite at the level to take advantage of all the "bells and whistles" he may have, and downgrade to a simpler but knowledgable mount.