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Lessons vs. Training Sessions

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  • Lessons vs. Training Sessions

    I have a new five year old mare - I'm absolutely in love with how wonderful this horse is and how lucky I am to have found her.

    She's been really well started in her training and has a really good brain for a warmblood - advertised as amateur friendly and has been great with me so far. She's trained to first level and hasn't showed before. I'm in a very lucky situation where I'm part-leasing (3 x a week) a 20 year old former GP schoolmaster (I've been showing him 3rd level this year successfully, after not having shown in over a decade), and I just purchased this young horse with the idea to bring her up myself, with the help of my trainer.

    I work full time and can only get lessons before work Monday to Friday. I'm trying to figure out a good schedule that balances lessons with the school master, lessons with the new horse, and training sessions for the new horse with my trainer. It's not as important to me to "do all of the riding" on the young horse - I want to preserve her training as best I can, and considering her age, want her to progress well and have a solid foundation. When I was younger I really didn't like to give up riding my own horse, but I have some PTSD from a psycho project horse I had in my early twenties who almost killed me (multiple times...) and being 34 now, with a career, and not wanting head injuries so much as to enjoy myself - I'm ok with training sessions and just doing my best with getting back into competitive dressage and keeping my confidence up. I never used to be a nervous rider, but the PTSD is real and I want to stay on the right track with the youngster so no naughty business develops.

    My tentative plan would be 3 lessons a week on the youngster (with 2 training sessions for her), and 2 lessons a week on the schoolmaster. Maybe swapping out occasionally for one more lesson instead of training session, etc. Does this sound good? I don't want to be greedy with the lessons instead of training sessions, but also I bought the horse to enjoy myself and if I'm in lessons (with one light ride or hack on my own on the weekends) I figure I can't do too much "damage". I could be overthinking this. Now that I love the horse so much, I want to just ride all the time, but I also want her well developed and happy. In terms of balancing what's best for the horse, what seems like the right balance?

  • #2
    “Balance”. That is the best word in your wonderful post. I am happy for you, wish I had that situation, though mine is not bad at all. I would discuss this with the trainer and keep in mind that some weeks you may feel like swapping out a lesson for a training session or vice-versa. I was on vacation last week and my trainer had my horse for a week. What a difference. I do all my own riding, or most of it. Last month I dismounted to allow for a ‘correction’. The month before I dismounted to let my trainer show me and my horse how the horse should be moving forward off the leg within the canter. As much as I bought a horse so I could ride, sometimes that is not the best thing at the moment. At some point an extra horse, or a lease, or half lease sounds just perfect for me.

    With the schoolmaster your riding should stay tuned up. Having multiple lessons and training sessions sounds like heaven to me. Keep the balance and an open mind.Normally I would say, as others might, that you are “lucky”, but in reality you have set your own luck into play with your lease, purchase and attitude. Good job.


    • Original Poster

      Thank you - that is great advice! That's true that she could also hop on as needed during lessons, and would also take up more of the training anyway when I'm traveling or too busy with work. (Very aware of how lucky I am! Luck to have found this trainer, this lease, and this horse - I'm almost worried about all this good luck and pinching myself haha). I only worked so hard to get this difficult job so that I could have the money to ride lololol.


      • #4
        That sounds like a good plan to start. Once you get used to each other, you may make some changes. Some young horses do best working 4 days a week - in which case I'd suggest you do 2 lessons and 2 training rides, and then 1-2 hack days where you two just relax together and go for long walks.

        You may find that she goes better for you the day after a training ride - so trainer would ride Monday, you'd ride Tuesday, you'd hack Wednesday, trainer would ride Thursday, you'd ride Friday.

        There may also be periods of time (like starting the changes), where she needs to stick with one rider for a week or two straight (except for hacking).

        Have fun with her!


        • #5
          As "joiedevie" mentions, do not forget play time. Hacking out is good not only for their brains, but their bodies, and is an important part of their development. As they get fitter, a great deal can be accomplished by trotting up a hill or cantering across an open field.

          Too many dressage people get stuck in the "it's a dressage horse" it can't hack out, it can't be turned out.
          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.


          • #6
            Ditto merrygoround comments about "play time." When my pony was younger, most of our time was spent on the trails on my property, hacking out. WTC on the trails is a great way to work on forward. You can do all sorts of things (except 20-meter circles) like baby leg yields, shoulder in, haunches in, stretchy walk and trot, working walk and trot, a little collection, etc., but without being in the confines of an arena. I much prefer that, myself. I think my horses prefer it as well. I've got my show pony in a training barn right now and while it is good for being able to have the trainer ride her, I miss having her at home and going trail riding and hacking out. When the show season is over she'll come back home for some mental R&R.

            If there's any way you can get out of the sand box and do other fun stuff, it will be good for both of you. Clinics, camps, trail walks or rides, anything to sort of hit the "reset" button for a change of scenery is good.

            Personally I really enjoy having fewer lessons and working on my own (and I've had my share of PTSD from horse accidents). It lets me get to know my horse better, trust my own instincts, and ride what I feel versus what someone is telling me. Right now Pony gets two training rides, I have one lesson, then I'm on my own for two days. After all, when I'm in the ring, it is just the two of us and I have to count on what we've done together to get us through.

            Sounds like you have a lovely horse - enjoy the process!

            "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


            • #7
              I just love this thread and your attitude, OP! I wish that more ammies had this outlook instead of the "It's my horse, I must ride (ruin, lol!)" attitude. I have a dear friend with this misguided outlook (also, she's always trying to save a buck ;-) ). As a result her wonderful horse, purchased at the same age is now 20 years old and maybe 1st level on a good day. Sad. Even professionals get regular help, and it's great that you recognize you're going to need it with this nicely started 5 year old. Even better that you have access to a schoolmaster!!! I suggest discussing this with the trainer to get some input from him/her. Off hand, I'd say that the trainer rides should be more like 3/2 or I've even done it where the trainer rides the horse the 1st part of the ride and then I get on to finish the ride. You can get creative with it, just always do what's best for the horse and you will succeed.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks all! Yes I want to slowly get her used to trails and hacking off property, so she gets used to a variety of sights and experiences.

                I think I’ll try out the 3/2 lessons to training to start and see how it goes - back in the day I did young riders/PSG and trained a lot of babies at the barn I used to work at, so while I’m an amateur and getting back into it I don’t feel like a total novice who would ruin her with too much of my own riding 😊. It’s nice to have the lessons/training balance to keep us both on track and not developing any bad habits.