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School horse use vs abuse

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  • School horse use vs abuse

    I would like to know how many lessons people have found a school horse can do in a day without having a negative impact on the health, physical and mental! We are a dressage-oriented facility and I realize there is a difference in the demands of a beginner/intermediate lessons versus say a lesson at 1st level. thanks.

  • #2
    When I taught lessons at Quantico Marine Base in VA we were only allowed schedule 3hrs per day per horse. Two rings and 8hr a day for lessons Tues-Sat. They offered Trail rides on Sat and Sunday.

    The horses seemed ok but they were still burned out. Lesson horses are a special animal We had our few that stayed until retired but some just couldn't handle the constant rotation of riders and going "round and round"/arena work. I would take my students on "trail ride" lessons during the summer. Sometimes I would go on a mount but most times I would walk and do cross country lessons over fences.

    I see at some horse shows they allow their riders go in a TRILLION classes because everyone wants to ride that horse. We also put a cap on that and each horse could only do 7 classes (hunter shows... 2 divisions and hunter hack...)
    Draumr Hesta Farm
    "Wenn Du denkst es geht nicht mehr, kommt von irgendwo ein kleines Licht daher"
    Member of the COTH Ignorant Disrepectful F-bombs!*- 2Dogs Farm


    • #3
      My 20yo ex polo pony TB mare is happy giving 2, 1 hour lessons 5 days a week. She's a beginner horse so the lessons aren't all that demanding. W/T/C and a few crossrails. She could probably do more, but I put the limit there. She's supposed to be 'retired'.

      She does live outside 24/7 other than for the lessons and I think that makes all the difference for her sanity and soundness.


      • #4
        It's rare at the barn I board at for any horse to be used twice a day. The only time that happens is when the riders are more inexperienced and horses are not overworked.


        • #5
          It depends on the horse.
          We had some energizer bunny type horses that thrived with being out and lessons and treats and all the attention.
          We had others that one lessons a day and the rest of the time was theirs, thank you very much and they let you know it.

          I would think, use some common sense and if a horse is a bit off one day, give it a break, if another is wanting for more, let him have more.

          Most of our horses loved trail riding, which was mostly on the weekends.
          If we had a light weekend and some were left behind, they were wishing they too got to go.

          School horses you have for long time will know the routines and what to do and when and love that they always know what next.
          That seems to please them more than the hours being ridden or not may.

          During the summer weekly camps, our horses were at their happiest.
          They were out doing all kinds of things several times a day, not just riding lessons.


          • #6
            I was sad when I went to watch a friend's niece (young) in a show. The instructor was taking one horse into the ring and it was clearly ring sour and she decided to scratch from the class. But when she came back to the trailer I heard her say "I'm going to ride him into the ground later".


            • #7
              horses can easily work 8+ hours a day as long as they get a day off every week. Some of the soundest, healthiest horses I've ever met did 4 hours of lessons 4 days a week, then did 8+ hours per day of lessons/showing on the weekend, then a day off. Horses used to actually work for a living and they all did a full days work; this idea that being ridden for more than a hour a day is "abuse" is kind of ridiculous.
              Riding an unsound horse is abuse; riding a sound horse all day isn't.


              • #8
                When I was a teenager, I owned a school horse. He did 3 hours per day/ 6 days per week and extra if there was a show. He was injured once and got two weeks off and was absolutely a sour crab until we put him back in work (after discussions with the vet.) He did this for 28 years from 1st/2nd level dressage and Training eventing to his final days as the walk trot master. Yes, we gave him a variety with trail rides, cross country schools, flat work, jumping lessons and lunge lessons. He was NOT good confirmation and my vet told me at the PPE "you don't want to know what's in those legs even though he's only 4." Being a school horse and being worked WELL kept him sound and sane.

                Other horses in the program might only work 1-2 hours because that was all their nature allowed. It really depends on the horse but the physical work keeps them very sound if it's carried out well and with good footing.


                • #9
                  Like others have mentioned, it depends on the intensity of the work in the lesson. The last place I taught had amazing, well-looked after school horses that were suitable from walk-trot/longe line lessons to schooling 2'6 in private lessons. Owner put a cap on jumping the schoolies over 2'6 for fear of too much wear and tear on the horses. If students wanted to jump higher, they had to full or half lease a more advanced school horse or buy one of their own.

                  The general guideline was 2 1 hour lessons a day. Occasionally the lessons were back-to-back, but that was only if one lesson was a walk-trot very beginner lesson where they only cantered once or twice around the ring (if even) and no jumping. Rarely did the horses get used in two intermediate lessons back to back.

                  Sometimes the horses were used in 3 lessons a day, but never consecutive. Usually a morning lesson then two evening ones, with a break in between. Again, that was only if one or two of the lessons didn't involve much advanced work (going on the bit, etc.) or much cantering/jumping.

                  It also depended on the energy of the horses. Some of the younger ones were perfectly capable and happy to do two intermediate lessons a day but the oldies weren't. They'd get sore or cranky and the BO and I were able to fine-tune the expectation with what they could comfortably do.

                  I have never taught in a barn that had such care for their school horses. Yes, it was a money making business (VERY successful) so only horses that could pay their share were kept as school horses. But the ones that stayed were managed according to their individual needs.

                  We had an awesome, responsive little packer jumper mare that could only be ridden and jumped 3x a week so she was kept for the more intermediate riders (who wouldn't be scared of a little forwardness). Another horse started getting a little weak in the back end and uncomfortable jumping so we restricted his work to walk-trot lessons with light riders. Others didn't like doing grid work so there'd be no grids when they were in lessons, etc. We really tried to tailor the lessons and schedule to the individual horse. All horses were in 24/7 turnout with free choice hay and one round bale of alfalfa a week. They each got 2 days off a week, too.

                  Some of the lesson horse stables around here treat their school horses like machines. There's one barn that has dual rings so their horses are working straight for 6-8 hours at a time. There's 6-8 horses in the rings and they all go along nose-to-tail for 10 min of flat and then it's 45 minutes of jumping. When the lesson is done, they go to the next rider, then the next and so on. No surprise, those lesson horses have a span of about 2-5 years and all are miserable with ears pinned in their stalls.


                  • #10
                    The barn that i grew up riding at and eventually worked at for a while had an army of school horses and, IIRC, we would cap them at 3 jumping lessons per day - although on occasion they would maybe have one additional beginner lesson, too. The barn offered lessons 6 days per week (Tuesday through Sunday) and we'd try to rotate so that the horses only worked 5 days per week max. They were all generally happy, well-adjusted horses that had been there for quite a while. Occasionally we'd get a new one in that couldn't handle it, and after determining they were better suited to a private owner, they would be sold.
                    Adversity is the stone on which I sharpen my blade.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by wendy View Post
                      horses can easily work 8+ hours a day as long as they get a day off every week. Some of the soundest, healthiest horses I've ever met did 4 hours of lessons 4 days a week, then did 8+ hours per day of lessons/showing on the weekend, then a day off. Horses used to actually work for a living and they all did a full days work; this idea that being ridden for more than a hour a day is "abuse" is kind of ridiculous.
                      Riding an unsound horse is abuse; riding a sound horse all day isn't.
                      That may well be for a horse handled or ridden by one handler or rider. But for a schoolie coping with different riders, all with different talent (some none) and capabilities (again some none) an eight hour day pushes their limits into "sour horse hood".

                      Under those circumstances a two hour day is reasonable. They bear no resemblance to motorcycles.
                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                      • #12
                        If I remember correctly, the CHA maximum for horse use was 6hrs in an arena or 8hrs on a trail. At college, I think the horses did up to 2 advanced lessons/day or 3 beginner lessons. I agree that horses who are turned out so the rest of their time is "their's" do better than horses kept tied or stalled when not in use.


                        • #13
                          I think 2 or 3 hour-long lessons per day is reasonable, provided the lessons are not all in a row, jumping heights are limited, the horses also get sufficient turnout time, and they have at least one day per week completely off.


                          • #14

                            Riding an unsound horse is abuse; riding a sound horse all day isn't.

                            With that approach you will soon find that your sound horse doesn't stay that way very long.

                            "Simple: Breeding,Training, Riding". Wolfram Wittig.


                            • #15
                              Growing up in Europe half a century ago, our horses may give two lessons a day at most or one trail ride a day, that were around two hours.

                              Jumping was a special case, because we thought horses only had so many jumps on them, you didn't want to push a horse jumping so much it break down.
                              I found the same with race horses, where you train very careful for the greater athletic effort races are, just as jumping is for a horse.

                              We never jumped a horse more than 3-4 times a week and if showing, once and at the shows.

                              Jumping, there is a fine line with conditioning your horse for good technique, muscle memory and jumping fitness and asking their bodies for the greater physical effort jumping is so much you cause repetitive motion type injuries.

                              A rider training as a jumper has to ride more horses than one to get enough practice because of that limit on the horse.
                              Just with what you can jump one horse you don't advance much, a horse doesn't has that much jumping in it.

                              Riding schools had many school horses because those horses were not overused.
                              That is also why our horses were good for many years.

                              Our ranch horses may have some 12+ days, but much of that is walking or standing around with breaks and water offered regularly and if working harder, there is a change of horses in the day provided for.


                              • #16
                                ....And here I am having a fit of guilt because our 12.3 hand angelic pony worked a total of about 2 hours and 15 minutes yesterday with the 6-8 year old contingent, half in the morning, half at night, 80% of which was w/t with a few crossrails and a little cantering on the longe line. I should probably calm down...

                                My thought is always that she is SUCH a good pony that for us to take advantage of her would be pretty unthinkable.

                                I think it boils down to knowing what is a realistic expectation of the individual animal and to put their welfare, comfort and happiness ahead of monetary gain from cranking another lesson out of them.
                                Katie Gardner ~ Otteridge Farm
                                Visit us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Otteri...12757628746926


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by FlyingSwap View Post
                                  ....And here I am having a fit of guilt because our 12.3 hand angelic pony worked a total of about 2 hours and 15 minutes yesterday with the 6-8 year old contingent, half in the morning, half at night, 80% of which was w/t with a few crossrails and a little cantering on the longe line. I should probably calm down...

                                  My thought is always that she is SUCH a good pony that for us to take advantage of her would be pretty unthinkable.

                                  I think it boils down to knowing what is a realistic expectation of the individual animal and to put their welfare, comfort and happiness ahead of monetary gain from cranking another lesson out of them.
                                  Good point.
                                  I forgot to specify that a jumping lesson as one on the flat popping over a few cross rails or a low gymnastic here and there is not what we considered the kind of jumping lesson that used a horse, but part of some of the better than beginner regular lessons.
                                  The jumping lessons that you didn't want to overuse your jumping school horses were the lessons over bigger jumps and combinations and putting a whole short course together eventually.

                                  Yes, there is jumping and there is jumping.
                                  I would not worry about popping a few cross rails regularly being abusive to your pony, but part of the fun, for horse and rider.


                                  • #18
                                    Physically the school horse can work more hours than it can mentally--you have to be careful not to overwork school horses to prevent them from becoming sour with all the different riders.


                                    • #19
                                      I teach saddle seat lessons:

                                      Max. 3 30 min. Lessons a day for a walk & trot only beginner horse.

                                      Max. 2 30 min. Lessosn a days for advanced beginner/intermediate lessosn with cantering.

                                      1 30 min. Lesson a day for an advanced lesson, in the full bridle, possibly with pattern work.


                                      • #20
                                        Are you doing things to maintain this pony?

                                        IME, that's the first place of skimping that happens for most school horses. The money isn't often in the budget for joint injections and such. Horses who are NQR and would benefit from these can keep doing stuff that doesn't required "show ring sound" for a long time. But doing a job with predictable pain wears on them mentally.

                                        If I could change two things for school horses, it would be more genuine TO and high-end maintenance. With both of these in place, we extend horses' willingness by leaps and bounds.
                                        The armchair saddler
                                        Politically Pro-Cat