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How to figure out if you've got the chops to ride an upper level horse?

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  • How to figure out if you've got the chops to ride an upper level horse?

    Because my current horse has lots of talent but zero work ethic, I'll be shopping this spring. In the past I've had the privledge to ride a couple of schoolmaster types, easy ones. How do you find out, where can you go and take a few lessons to find out if you can handle the upper levels? I've ridden for years, and I think I could be successful, and buy one on his way up, but how to be sure I can cut it?

    I'm in northern KY, and I don't want to just go try sale horses and piss people off or embarass myself. It think what I need is someone within an hour or so, that has that type of horse for sale, that would let me do more than one "test ride" more a lesson type situation, so I didn't make a purchase mistake.

    I ride well, and will compete the horse I have, but.... lets just say that while he dances solo with great joy, he doesn't want to be my dance partner. I'd like a horse that's willing, but I need to know that I'm not going to hold him back.

  • #2
    Riding school horses and riding your own will always be totaly different things. Usually because school horses are ridden by pro between the students rides. No matter how good the horse is, if you are not able to train it yourself up to a certain point, you'll need some pro rides and regular lessons if your goal is to go up the levels in a steady way.

    Actually, if you are asking yourself this question about if yes or no you might be able to ride/train the upper level horse you'd like...I'm sorry to say it is probably because you are not. Not saying you'll ever be, but from what you wrote, you don't sound much convinced either.

    What you need is a good trainer that knows you. You need a trainer that will look for you, with you and find you a suitable horse. You could go horse shopping with your trainer and have a 'lesson' on said horse while trying it. But I highly doubt that if you go shopping alone, the owner will give you a 'lesson'...I doubt an owner would let anyone on his horses that are for sale if its a prospect or upper level horse to be ride by an amateur or beginner type rider that would ask for a 'lesson'...Too risky.

    I've turn down client I wouldn't trust being able to ride the horses I had for sale. I told them to come back with their trainer.
    ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

    Originally posted by LauraKY
    I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
    HORSING mobile training app


    • Original Poster

      I'm not a beginner

      I've ridden for decades, my basis was in dressage, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I'm not green, and in fact, kept the schoolmasters going for their ammy owner, they were just quite easy horses, and it was some years ago. I don't expect to move one up without help, my current trainer rides and trains thru GP internationally. She travels frequently and her horse resides out of the country. My question, which was more geared to trainers with sales barns, is really, that I want to be very very sure I'm comfortable purchasing something that is a bigger mover than what I've been riding the past several years. My current horse was actually purchased as a field hunter, he's quite good at it. I don't expect to be able to just throw my leg over someone's 150K GP horse when they don't know me from Adam's beagle, I want to be honest about what I'm looking for, what I'm willing to spend and have someone let me ride my intended purchase for more than 3 minutes and more than once. I know there probably aren't very many UL horses out there that someone's students are getting their medals on, but there are bound to be some that would allow me to make sure that I'm still capable of sitting one, as I've had to give up jumping (knee). I'm not doubting my ability, it's my physical condition that makes me pause. Skill-wise, I'm perfectly capable, I just need to see at 50 if I still have it.


      • #4
        Now that we know more about you I could then say Yes! about trying more than one time a bigger mover horse at such price. You could get some sort of 'trial' period as well at either your barn or the seller's barn.

        My friend leased her GP horse to a potential buyer for a year at half its sale price. The horse was for the jumper ring and the buyer needed to see if she could do the higher level and be competitive with such horse. THey made a contract and have good insurance coverage for the horse. She is being trained by a good BNT and loves the horse so far. You could try to find such an opportunity.

        Not for you but as a general statement; even when shopping for the beginners on older safe horses, it is better to go see and try the horse more than once, and ride more than 3 minutes. Unless really knowing the horse prior.
        ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

        Originally posted by LauraKY
        I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
        HORSING mobile training app


        • #5
          Go for it. You'll never know until you try and you really have NOTHING to lose by trying!

          Who cares what the people selling their horses think about you? If they really don't like you, they don't have to sell you the horse. Whatever. No big deal.

          Just go out and try the horses you are actually interested in and can afford (don't do a lot of tire kicking--be serious and they'll all take you seriously).

          GO FOR IT!
          "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"


          • #6
            I have a different take on this than Alibi.

            I think you are ahead of the game ( you state you can ride) and just have lost a bit of confidence because your horse and you might not be a good match. This can happen doesn't mean you can't ride an upper level horse---just not the horse you presently own.

            I know of several people around here that can ride, eh, ok nothing to write home to Mom about ( a few have a difficult time keeping their stirrups), that bought upper level horses and have done just fine. The last one went up North and stayed for 2 weeks and rode the horse several times and had a top pro ride it too. What you are asking is not unheard of.

            Maybe some might not want to go the extra mile to make sure there will be a good match but there are others out there that definately will.

            PS OOPS! I just saw that you have not lost confidence. I also have a bad knee and only have trouble with it when I jump, dressage it is fine.


            • #7
              Go look. You're not tire kicking. You ARE actually interested in purchasing a horse. So, if you ride it a couple times and decide it's not for you, no big deal.


              • #8
                I guess I'm a little confused by exactly what is causing your hesitation. It sounds like you have the years of experience, plus the experience on upper level school masters, and maybe what's holding you back is that you aren't sure if you can ride the big gaits anymore? There are upper level horses with easy gaits, and upper level horses with ridiculous gaits (and same at lower level). I don't think you will know how much "big trot" you are comfortable with until you've been riding the horse daily for a few months! It takes a level of fitness (core strength, cardio, etc) to sit a bigger moving horse, and I don't think they are muscles you develop sitting on an easier mover. If you go try a big mover, you will likely have a hard time staying with the movement and it will make the test ride a challenge, but if you ended up buying the horse, you would adapt and build up to the movement, so don't worry too much! I've done this several times... gotten new horses to ride with movement different than what I had been riding, and I had to find new muscles! It takes a little time, but it's not really the hardest thing to do.

                If this is your concern, I'd say do some workouts to build your riding strength (in addition to riding your current horse) and go try those horses! If you know anyone (trainer? barn friends?) that has a big mover you could do a few lunge lessons or just trot around for a few minutes after they ride just to refresh your feel for the bigger gaits, that would probably help your confidence too. At the end of the day though, it probably won't feel comfortable and easy until you are riding it every day. Good luck, and have fun horse shopping!!
                Gallant Gesture "Liam" 1995 chestnut ottb gelding
                Mr. Painter "Remy" 2006 chestnut ottb gelding
                My Training Blog: www.dressagefundamentals.com


                • #9
                  Here's what I'm hearing
                  Current horse can (for example's sake) do tempis and passage when playing in the pasture but is unwilling to do a half pass under saddle.
                  Rider wants a horse that can do tempis and passage under saddle.
                  Rider has done these movements before but it's been about a decade.
                  Rider wants to ride a tempi and passage on some sales horses to make sure she's still got that muscle memory and sharp mind.... but alas the life clock can be a grand intimation.

                  My advice, tell the seller it's been a decade, tell them who you train with and not to laugh if it's ugly. Wear a helmet and bring wine.
                  chaque pas est fait ensemble


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                    My advice, tell the seller it's been a decade, tell them who you train with and not to laugh if it's ugly. Wear a helmet and bring wine.
                    This should be advice for anyone trying a horse!

                    I say go look, you're definitely not a tire kicker! It sounds like you'll be great!
                    No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle. ~Winston Churchill
                    For Hope, For Strength, For Life-Delta Gamma
                    www.etsy.com/shop/joiedevivrecrafts Custom Wreaths and Other Decorations


                    • #11
                      I'm with GallantGesture to a point. You probably will want a horse with a bit more movement than the one you have, and you do have to ride horse's with different and bigger gaits to improve. BUT you have to be realistic about just how much more movement you can handle.

                      If you go from a horse that is a 3 (pretty easy) to sit to up to an 8 (with 10 being most difficult), you are going to be overhorsed. It will be hard on you and hard on the horse. If the horse feels you bouncing around, he will likely respond by tightening his back (and possibly misbehaving) to defend himself, making your job that much more difficult. So, when you are trying a sale horse, think about just how difficult it is to follow his movement. Also, have your trainer there so that she can advise you as to whether he is demonstrating the gaits he *really* has to offer rather than what you are asking for. Big difference there as well.

                      If you are as honest with sellers as you are with us, then it is likely they will be forthcoming regarding their horse's movement and whether it's worth your time to try the horse.


                      • Original Poster


                        You nailed it!!

                        Thanks guys!


                        • #13
                          You have the chops if you just do it!

                          But the wine is a nice touch
                          See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


                          • Original Poster

                            I'm from Kentucky..

                            And I'm a former foxhunter.
                            In a flask.

                            Much easier to transport than wine.

                            Thanks guys, shopping starts when the weather breaks a bit.
                            Florida is looking better and better.

                            My horse is actually, according to my trainer, a very difficult ride. In fact, she asked me to go ride a sale horse for one of her client's that was making a video, horse is small, refined. She needed a more petite rider.

                            Her reaction after having seen me ride a green but willing horse that was size appropriate?

                            "I really didn't realize how well you actually rode!" It was actually very lovely and pleasant to watch".

                            None of these adjectives are used to describe my rides on "The Big Horse".

                            And yes, he does passage, piaffe and do perfect sidepasses, and I mean perfect, at liberty. He does 3 tempis for fun. He is brilliant cross country and outside. Over fences or in a straight line. He sees no need for 20 meter circles.
                            But when he actually gives it up and does his best, which is just often enough to keep me trying, it's so amazing it makes me cry.

                            At the last show, when he refused to get back on the trailer and took an unauthorized trip over to the mercifully unoccupied outdoor arena, the judge, who happened to be on his lunch break watched him hit "the big trot" and turned to me and said "he's got lovely gaits, he has the physical ability to be an UL horse."

                            He has an enormous personality, way more like the smartest dog you've ever met than any other horse I've known.

                            He's like the Tom Sawyer of the horse world, he'll spend 2 hours trying to figure out how to get out of a 20 minute job....

                            I really really wish I didn't like him so damn much...