Schoolmaster lessons/drawreins

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Just wondered what people's views are on this - I went for a 'prestige training' lesson on a dressage schoolmaster on Sunday, at a well known competition centre/riding school in Gloucestershire - and the horse I was allocated automatically came tacked up with draw reins attached. I did say I don't ride in draw reins and wasn't keen on them - but I wasn't really given a choice to take them away- just the comment that I could discuss it with the instructor - but the reins stayed on for my lesson. The horse went how I would expect one trained like this to go, and it didn't give a nice forward feel. Really disappointed, and I wonder if other people have found that this is normal? I havent been for a lesson at a riding school for years - we have lessons on our own horses at home, but I thought this would be a nice way to experience a horse doing changes etc. - and this is a top centre. I certainly would not spend the money again! I was hoping to have some regular lessons, so was potentially a good customer, but will now be looking elsewhere! (oh, and the lesson was £75 - which is fine if it had done what I wanted - but it didnt)
 

mule

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It seems strange, I don't know how people can learn about contact if the horse is ridden in draw reins. It seems counterproductive. Mabey some of the more knowledgeable posters might know.

My understanding is that they hide behind strong bit contact rather than stretch in to it, so, based on that it definitely seems counterproductive.

Unless they expected the animal to rear or tank off and that was the purpose of the draw reins. They'd hardle give schoolmaster lessons on a horse like that though.
 

PapaverFollis

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I went for a dressage schoolmaster lesson a bit ago and it was something of a let down too. Reputable place and thankfully no auxiliary reins involved. Horse was so different to what I was expecting. Responsive enough in a way but felt like riding a block of wood overall. Disappointing. And I don't really feel I gained anything from it. In contrast I once had a schoolmaster lesson on my regular instructor's rather special cob... now THAT was worth doing. I do think schoolmaster lessons are very valuable but you have to find the right one. And it's a lot if money and disappointment if it's not right.
 
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I must admit I was shocked! They are advertising schoolmaster lessons on advanced horses - and Carl is just down the road so sad they dont seem to emulate his training methods, which would not involve routine drawrein application. I know it wasn't just the horse I rode, as the one coming back from the previous lesson was kitted out the same! The horse I rode did nice changes - but actually, other than that, I thought our old horse at home was a lot more forward and went more correctly. And yes, this horse could not have stretched if he had wanted to - I felt sorry for him.
 

milliepops

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I think schoolmasters can be very hit and miss, the ones I have ridden have not been my kind of horses, but they have known the work which was what I needed. getting the feel then gave me the concepts that I needed to teach my own horses.

Having seen the work that goes into keeping up a schoolmaster that is used regularly for lessons, I think it's fair to say there's a degree of damage limitation that goes on, ideally everyone who has a lesson would ride them in the perfect way but the reality is they get untrained a fair degree of the time - the nature of them is that less experienced people are the ones in the saddle a lot of the time.

all that is to say, I can understand, for example, if someone wanted to work on tempis or piaffe or whatever, that the horse was tacked up with equipment that took account of a less experienced jockey and their potential limitations - it would not help if the horse learnt to do all its work above the bit, for instance.

just offering another viewpoint.
 
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I went for a dressage schoolmaster lesson a bit ago and it was something of a let down too. Reputable place and thankfully no auxiliary reins involved. Horse was so different to what I was expecting. Responsive enough in a way but felt like riding a block of wood overall. Disappointing. And I don't really feel I gained anything from it. In contrast I once had a schoolmaster lesson on my regular instructor's rather special cob... now THAT was worth doing. I do think schoolmaster lessons are very valuable but you have to find the right one. And it's a lot if money and disappointment if it's not right.
Sounds as if you had a similar experience to me - oh well, you dont know unless you try I suppose. I also felt the instructor really wasn't interested - I know it is difficult if you are teaching someone who you may not see again - but there was no attempt to get the horse going better, improve the canter or anything - really it was just a question of ticking off 'experiences' like doing changes.
 

mule

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I think schoolmasters can be very hit and miss, the ones I have ridden have not been my kind of horses, but they have known the work which was what I needed. getting the feel then gave me the concepts that I needed to teach my own horses.

Having seen the work that goes into keeping up a schoolmaster that is used regularly for lessons, I think it's fair to say there's a degree of damage limitation that goes on, ideally everyone who has a lesson would ride them in the perfect way but the reality is they get untrained a fair degree of the time - the nature of them is that less experienced people are the ones in the saddle a lot of the time.

all that is to say, I can understand, for example, if someone wanted to work on tempis or piaffe or whatever, that the horse was tacked up with equipment that took account of a less experienced jockey and their potential limitations - it would not help if the horse learnt to do all its work above the bit, for instance.

just offering another viewpoint.
That sounds like it could be it. It would be a sensible explanation for it.
 

milliepops

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Tanta, just curious as to what kind of conversation happened when you booked it? I'm interested as I had been considering going there when I started teaching my horse one tempis, I couldn't get the rhythm right in my head and the schoolmaster where I train had sadly passed away a while back.
as it happens we've figured it out by ourselves but I'd have been quite keen to pop over for a lesson otherwise.... probably fitting in to the "experience" category just to get my arms and legs organised rather than with an aim to developing their horse ;)
 

JFTD-WS

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I feel that if you have to use draw reins to create an (incorrect, artificial) contact, in order to provide a horse that can show off its moves, there is something wrong with the concept, and the business model. Perhaps, charge more, so that the horses can be used less, and trained correctly in between lessons so that the lessons do less damage - £75 seems very cheap indeed for a lesson on a true schoolmaster.
 

Auslander

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I'm with MP, in that I think it is a damage limitation exercise. Advanced schoolmasters with all the tricks aren't as easy as people seem to think - the assumption often is that they will be like riding a clockwork toy. The reality is that a horse trained to that level is probably clever, opinionated and adept at evading things it doesn't want to do! Whilst I'm not a fan of draw reins, I can understand why someone who uses their advanced horse for all and sundry to experience the high level moves on, would do something like this to ensure that the horse doesn't spend an entire session with its ears in your mouth - having a high old time doing it's own thing. Re the "block of wood/stiffness" comments - that's often related to age - there aren't many younger horses being used for schoolmaster lessons, as they're mostly still competing.
Draw reins can easily be bypassed, even when installed, by not using them. They're one gadget that can be taken out of service by the rider - once you've established that you can get a tune out of the horse without outside assistance.
I don't teach much on Alf, as he's a bit elderly and infirm, but when I do, we don't do much on improving his way of going, because he doesn't particularly enjoy being "schooled", and people who have lessons on him do so to get a feel for the advanced movements. He likes doing the party tricks, and people like riding them. No draw reins for him, as he doesn't come above the bit - he has a multitude of other elaborate ways to take the piss out of his rider!
 

ihatework

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Firstly it would be very very rare for me to use draw reins in a schooling situation, I wouldn’t say never but it certainly isn’t a go to option for me unless other things have failed.

However I can see why they might be used for a schoolmaster lesson, especially with a rider unknown to the center. These horses have to put up with all sorts of riding and many develop a weird and wonderful repatoire of coping mechanisms (evasions). Sad but true.

I’ve had schoolmaster lessons at one top RS (no draw reins involved for me, or what I observed in others) and on 3 different other horses that were owned by the respective trainers and used for select clients. Of those 3, one was Whizz at AM (no draw reins) although the crafty bugger had my measure to start with 😂, one was elsewhere and was ridden in a leverage bit and the other was ridden in draw reins. The latter one I specifically went to for flying changes and getting my timing right - he was a crafty old dog and rode like a plank of wood but served his purpose.

I think if you want to really work on the whole package you have to invest a lot of time and money working regularly with a schoolmaster. Otherwise you might just need to be a bit less idealistic about what sitting on these horses entails!
 
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Tanta, just curious as to what kind of conversation happened when you booked it? I'm interested as I had been considering going there when I started teaching my horse one tempis, I couldn't get the rhythm right in my head and the schoolmaster where I train had sadly passed away a while back.
as it happens we've figured it out by ourselves but I'd have been quite keen to pop over for a lesson otherwise.... probably fitting in to the "experience" category just to get my arms and legs organised rather than with an aim to developing their horse ;)
I probably made a mistake just booking it via email and answering their standard questions about what I wanted to do in the lesson, and I didnt have a lot of dates I could make so took the instructor they offered me rather than waiting for a specific one. One of our liveries had a lesson there on another horse and with another instructor (one who specialised in dressage not SJ) and she had a better time - and the horse a good although if anything perhaps over-sensitive for her. She also had the draw reins, but they did remove them part way through. So I am not saying they might not be good for some people, but on the day the instructor/horse/reins were not for me. But if you speak to them and specify the instructor you want may well meet your needs - good luck!!!
 

nikkimariet

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I think schoolmasters can be very hit and miss, the ones I have ridden have not been my kind of horses, but they have known the work which was what I needed. getting the feel then gave me the concepts that I needed to teach my own horses.

Having seen the work that goes into keeping up a schoolmaster that is used regularly for lessons, I think it's fair to say there's a degree of damage limitation that goes on, ideally everyone who has a lesson would ride them in the perfect way but the reality is they get untrained a fair degree of the time - the nature of them is that less experienced people are the ones in the saddle a lot of the time.

all that is to say, I can understand, for example, if someone wanted to work on tempis or piaffe or whatever, that the horse was tacked up with equipment that took account of a less experienced jockey and their potential limitations - it would not help if the horse learnt to do all its work above the bit, for instance.

just offering another viewpoint.
Agree.....
 

chaps89

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I share a horse who is schooled to AM level. Prior to riding him I hadn't ridden beyond prelim.

He is a crafty beggar and you fix one evasion, he gives you another. I have regular lessons with an instructor and every now and again we pop draw reins on. Tbh I barely need to use them, sometimes having them there is enough (as has been said, they are a good tool in as much as being able to dictate how much they come into play).

For him, it's so I can work him more correctly through those movements. For example we were working on canter half pass the other day and he kept bogging off through his shoulder instead. The draw reins meant I was able to just check him and keep the energy being applied by my leg contained in the right way - then funnily enough it was no longer an issue. (They don't excuse poor riding and I don't see them as a long term solution but as a short term giving him a check and a) reminding him that that is not ok and b) letting me work out how to apply the aids more effectivley so in itself that helps the problem, I think they can be a useful tool)

In a schoolmaster lesson as you had I'd expect it to be to give the rider most chance of success at learning/perfecting those aids/movements (still applies to me!)
Because as said, these old schoolmaster can be somewhat crafty!
And if the point of the lesson is to learn how to do changes (as an example) but the clever ole horse has worked out his pilot doesn't really know what they're doing, if there's something that helps the rider in that situation I can see why they would.
(Ideally the horse would still get enough regular schooling from someone who does know what they're doing to counteract any impact of the draw reins)

Just my 2 pennies anyway.
 

milliepops

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I probably made a mistake just booking it via email and answering their standard questions about what I wanted to do in the lesson, and I didnt have a lot of dates I could make so took the instructor they offered me rather than waiting for a specific one. One of our liveries had a lesson there on another horse and with another instructor (one who specialised in dressage not SJ) and she had a better time - and the horse a good although if anything perhaps over-sensitive for her. She also had the draw reins, but they did remove them part way through. So I am not saying they might not be good for some people, but on the day the instructor/horse/reins were not for me. But if you speak to them and specify the instructor you want may well meet your needs - good luck!!!
Thanks for the info.
At the moment I think we're muddling along ok but will keep that in mind, it was def their dressage specialist I was interested in having a lesson with :)

There's been some good replies to this thread and I agree with those who say schoolmasters are not a breeze to ride usually! The first schoolmaster lesson I had, I couldn't keep the damn thing in counter canter , it made me soooooo aware of things I was doing without realising. They really are crafty, can also be sensitive, tricky, set in their ways and hugely generous to put up with us lot bumbling around ;) it's no surprise that they aren't beautifully tuned up ready for competition imo.
 
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I had a ‘prestige’ schoolmaster lesson at the same place and was also incredibly disappointed.
I was stepping up to Adv.Medium on my mare and wanted to improve my feel and responsiveness for changes and more intricate lateral work.

The horse was in draw reins which I purposely kept very loose but the horse was obviously very used to them and sat a cm behind the contact for the whole lesson and never felt like he moved his back.

It was really disappointing as I went to improve my feel and timing which is impossible on a horse which isn’t supple and simply runs through his repertoire of moves but without being on the aids- more of a trick pony than a schoolmaster.

It was good in a way though as saved me a huge amount of money as if it had gone well, my plan was to go regularly for schoolmaster lessons followed by lessons on my mare.
 

tallyho!

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There is serious lack of proper schoolmistresses and masters in the UK. Is there brain-drain going on? Where are all the trained horses gone?? Or are there no trained horses?? Is the proverb coming true? Shortcuts prove nothing.

Strictly speaking a schoolmaster horse is one that is obedient to all aids and forgiving to none. He/she does not need extra auxiliary aids as a failsafe. Can carry anyone at all ages (providing the can reach stirrups!) If there is a requirement for extra gadgets then, no, I’m sorry the horse does not qualify as a schoolmaster.

The only schoolmaster in the UK I am aware of available for lessons is Prazer. Owned by Sylvia Loch. He will teach you what is right and wrong with kindness. He is kind, affectionate and will absolutely teach you what you need to know. There are no extras. Just you, him and double reins.

It would be nice to expand on this number... please if you own a schoolmaster, teach people.
 

milliepops

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I'd say that the average freelance trainer who happens to have a horse suitable will not advertise this, my understanding is that if you teach on your own horse then you have to be registered as a riding school with all the extra hassle that entails.
 

Cortez

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Schoolmasters are often fiendishly evasive and inclined to take the pee with less experienced riders. I'm not sure what people are expecting when they go for lessons that are a big step up from what they've experienced before, but it is rarely easy to ride an advanced horse and there is a huge amount of work involved. I'm incredibly privileged to have ridden a lot of very highly tuned GP and high school horses (lately in Spain and Portugal, but also in Germany and Denmark), some are easier than others but all will test you, and you have to stick with it so one isolated lesson will not really be of benefit.

I have seen people use de Gogues and even side reins for the less secure riders, more to help the horses stay round than for the riders benefit really. I very, very selectively sometimes teach on my advanced horses, but only if the riders are ready, and I'd never make it a regular thing as nothing messes up a horse's mental and physical equilibrium faster than being better trained than his rider.
 

Red-1

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I learned posh moves on schoolmasters at Snainton. They were commonly used for the novices and when a novice rode them they were very... wooden. When I rode one, I asked for 'proper' worked and the horse bucked loads, put his foot through a board and then did my first canter pirouette and loads of changes. When I insisted on work, sat the bucks, and still insisted on work it was like I passed his 'test' and was worthy of his work.

The other schoolmaster there taught me changes and piaffe/passage, but he was also the kindest horse for novices...

I also rode a Grand Prix schoolmaster at YRC. She was FAB and I was privileged to ride her. I was told that some riders were not able to even steer her around the school but she was kind to me. I did changes, passage and lateral moves, but I failed at 2 X changes. My issue, not hers.

None of them wore draw reins.

I felt very privileged to ride them all. I did marvel at the Snainton horses, ridden by all comers, most of whom had no idea what the horses were capable of. Jayne's horse was not often used for students, that was just a experience to behold.

None of those people promised anything. If I was good enough I could ride the 'tricks' but if I was not good enough I would not. 2 were horses that were not 'kept up to scratch' but could do the stuff if you were able to impress them enough. One was kept up to the mark, but there was no force if I could not do it.
 

Bernster

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The replies above have been educational in understanding why this might be. I’ve never ridden I. Draw reins and don’t feel like I’m at a level to do so properly. I’d want an instructor to have either sussed that out or spoken to me first about it so wouldn’t want to ride in them.

I think I had a lesson at the same place, and was equally disappointed.
 

JFTD-WS

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I’d want an instructor to have either sussed that out or spoken to me first about it so wouldn’t want to ride in them.
From the website it looks like they don't demand an assessment lesson before you can book onto a schoolmaster lesson... On that basis, I'm not surprised they have issues keeping their schoolmasters really on the aids.
 

humblepie

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I went for a school master lesson to I imagine the same place fairly recently. I told them what I was looking to work on which was understanding some movements I haven't ridden before which my own horse and I are progressing towards. The horse had draw reins on (or something very similar). It didn't worry me and the horse was lovely for helping me understand the aids and then working on something else which again made me realise how it felt on an experienced horse. I went for a second lesson and I can't remember whether that horse ( a different one) had draw reins or not. Whilst I preferred the first horse, this horse again was lovely and really helped me with a couple of points which I have carried forward onto riding my own horse. I used to ride a show jumper about 25 years ago in draw reins but haven't used them at all for years but as above I didn't have an issue with it for the purposes of my lessons which I found very helpful.
 

mule

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I went for a school master lesson to I imagine the same place fairly recently. I told them what I was looking to work on which was understanding some movements I haven't ridden before which my own horse and I are progressing towards. The horse had draw reins on (or something very similar). It didn't worry me and the horse was lovely for helping me understand the aids and then working on something else which again made me realise how it felt on an experienced horse. I went for a second lesson and I can't remember whether that horse ( a different one) had draw reins or not. Whilst I preferred the first horse, this horse again was lovely and really helped me with a couple of points which I have carried forward onto riding my own horse. I used to ride a show jumper about 25 years ago in draw reins but haven't used them at all for years but as above I didn't have an issue with it for the purposes of my lessons which I found very helpful.
I notice lot of the showjumpers seem to use them. How are they helpful for showjumping?
 

Goldenstar

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Schoolmasters are often fiendishly evasive and inclined to take the pee with less experienced riders. I'm not sure what people are expecting when they go for lessons that are a big step up from what they've experienced before, but it is rarely easy to ride an advanced horse and there is a huge amount of work involved. I'm incredibly privileged to have ridden a lot of very highly tuned GP and high school horses (lately in Spain and Portugal, but also in Germany and Denmark), some are easier than others but all will test you, and you have to stick with it so one isolated lesson will not really be of benefit.

I have seen people use de Gogues and even side reins for the less secure riders, more to help the horses stay round than for the riders benefit really. I very, very selectively sometimes teach on my advanced horses, but only if the riders are ready, and I'd never make it a regular thing as nothing messes up a horse's mental and physical equilibrium faster than being better trained than his rider.
I agree with the above and millipops sums it up beauifully .
Draw reins what can you say ,I am lucky I was taught to use draw reins by a proper proper expert .
I use them if I want to and dont get wound up about it , I had them on Harvey last week he had had five weeks box rest and I had to get on him without any turn out did the trick put him off any nonsense .

On the lesson these horses can be wily and just have the draw reins on can be enough to give the person having the lesson a more constructive time .
Just because a horse wears a draw rein does mean you have to use it .

But then 90 % of the time I see them used badly .
I do understand why they use them in schools .
One very well respected school that I trained at used market harboroughs extensively in group lessons it take the pressure of the horses when carrying beginners .
There’s equestrian nirvana where people like Carl live ( although I am prepared to bet he knows one end of a draw rein from another) and then there’s the slightly imperfect real world .
 

humblepie

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I notice lot of the showjumpers seem to use them. How are they helpful for showjumping?
I think they helped me at the time as the horse I had was fairly unconventional - this was many years ago and our jumping was hold hold fire at fence - that said she was an ex racechorse who jumped up to Foxhunter/Grade C. She is the only horse I used them on so I wouldn't want to spout any fountain of knowledge. Interesting also re the comment on market harboroughs - I had one of those on my 13.2 jumping pony back in the day as he was strong for me but a snaffle and a market harborough worked well but very seldom see them used now other than on some racehorses.
 

Laafet

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For my birthday present a few years ago, my trainer gave me a lesson on her Spanish Inter II horse. It was with the caveat that if he was not happy, I was to get off straight away. He did not suffer fools gladly. I had at that point ridden to Elementary consistently with some experience of AM moves. She got me to ride him in just a snaffle as he can become very 'Spanish' when he's excited. It was awesome, she said he appreciated my quiet hands and balanced seat (which is why she let me ride him). We ran through the sideways tricks, which I am fairly solid on a horse that knows and just beginning to teach a horse that it is new to with regards to half pass. Then we moved to changes. I have only ever achieved one at a time and more through unbalancing the horse than the 'true change'. We did fours (OMG that is hard), 3's and then 2's on the long side of her 20 x 40 arena. That was hard and made me really think and become so much more aware of how little moves affect the horse. Then as he was going so well for me, I was allowed to try a bit of piaffe. I have never ever even considered what you do to get a horse to piaffe. A trainer on a posh yard I used to livery on used to tell his clients just to pull their reins and put their legs on to make the horse trot on the spot! The result was much different looking to what I achieved. The feeling of power as he lowered his quarters was amazing and massively hard work to maintain.
I massively appreciated the opportunity to ride a horse that is at the top of his game and it taught me a lot, shortly afterwards my jumping trainer gave me her old mare to compete in dressage as she was retiring from Grade A, she was the most amazing horse to jump and her changes at the beginning were 'too good' for me at the start, so it was frustrating at Elementary trying to do counter canter. However it was me subtly telling her to change not her being cute. Once I learnt to control myself, she stopped doing it. Riding her helped me ride my own horse much better.
I don't think I could have found horses like that in any sort of school to be honest. I looked at the site with the 'prestige' lessons and I would have been massively disappointed too if I had had a horse led out with draw reins.
 
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I had a ‘prestige’ schoolmaster lesson at the same place and was also incredibly disappointed.
I was stepping up to Adv.Medium on my mare and wanted to improve my feel and responsiveness for changes and more intricate lateral work.

The horse was in draw reins which I purposely kept very loose but the horse was obviously very used to them and sat a cm behind the contact for the whole lesson and never felt like he moved his back.

It was really disappointing as I went to improve my feel and timing which is impossible on a horse which isn’t supple and simply runs through his repertoire of moves but without being on the aids- more of a trick pony than a schoolmaster.

It was good in a way though as saved me a huge amount of money as if it had gone well, my plan was to go regularly for schoolmaster lessons followed by lessons on my mare.
sorry you had a bad experience - but glad it wanst just me! Like you I was thinking I could become a regular client there as reasonably local - but there is no way I would want to repeat the experience. Interestingly one of our liveries is going this week - specifically to practice her changes - so I told her to phone in advance and ask about the draw reins - and perhaps agree what she wants. It is just too late when you are stood there about to start your 'lesson'.... Like you I wanted to experience the feel of the horse, but it wasn't possible in the circumstances - and I didnt want a lesson on how to ride in draw reins!!!!
 

AdorableAlice

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I think I know where you are talking about. I went to watch a friend have a lesson a few years ago, 3 dressage schoolmaster lessons going on in the school and not one of those horses were sound, and I don't mean just a tad stiff. I was very unimpressed.
 

blitznbobs

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There are very few safe dressage school masters out there... I owned one but only. Because he turned off with a novice on his back - I’d put a baby on him quite safely but if someone wanted to get a tune out of him he needed to be woken up ... which could lead to the odd explosion - nothing horrible just moving forward quickly from nothing —- his favourite evasion was ‘piaffe’with his chin on his chestwhich he could do all day rather than move forward.. but damn do I miss that horse. As for the draw reins it’s probably just a safety precaution with an unknown rider he may get strong and F off... sometimes intermediate level riders are the hardest to get it right for - good enough to wake them up - not good enough to deal with the consequences! And the riding school don’t know how good you are...
 
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