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That Most Precious of Dressage Horses ~ The Schoolmaster

If you are lucky, ( because nothing bad happens to him first), there arrives a time in your trained horse's career when you realize that your wonderful horse is having difficulty following through on all your demands with the same pizzazz and confidence he displayed previously.  This time arrives seemingly with no warning, as his decline in abilities due to the arbitrary nature of aging creeps forward like a bad piaffe over months and years.

This realization has arrived at my doorstep and I have opened the door and allowed it in. Ever conscious of doing 'that' right thing by our horse, Lafite, a decision needed to be made. The decision? Whether to now take all the many highs and lows which we have enjoyed together through his career that have facilitated his training from backing to Grand Prix and share their experience through him with others as their teacher. Their 'master'.

After much heart searching and deliberation, my husband Paul & I determined that despite having only been ridden by he and myself ( with the occasional ride by our daughter) for all the years, Lafite now 22, should perhaps share his knowledge with others. It was time to allow noteworthy students the opportunity to take lessons on him. Not in the form of a lesson horse, abandoned to their whims and fancies, but under our strict guidance and weathered dressage eye. And he was not to be given over lightly to any rider, but to be utilized for one or two special students who had good energy, talent and a lust for learning.

After all, most of us have been allowed this kindness by other trainers and mentors during our careers and the benefits of learning the 'feel' of riding a correctly trained horse cannot be matched. It is however, very difficult to give your horse over to another to sit upon. Or so I found it. As if on some level I was betraying his trust.

Such an exercise required the careful selection of the right students. To begin we offered one week intensive sessions and soon the news spread and we had a waiting list. The sessions were 5 days a week, and included a morning lesson each day on Lafite after he had been carefully ridden in for 15 minutes to give him a relaxed warm up, and place him appropriately on cue for the excited student that sat avidly watching his every move from their chair at the end of the arena.

To start with Lafite was a bit bemused by this new person aboard. This student was full of a different energy and ability. It was amazing to see throughout the week how quickly the rider came along. Their faults became glaring, the corrections issued quickly achieved the required correct result and their eyes would glisten with tears of happiness when they dismounted and patted their 'master' on his arched neck.

For Lafite's part he appraised the new equestrian partner surprisingly quickly. He watched me watching him, our glances at each other with soft eyes and our thoughts seemed strangely in unison.

Our horses, your teachers. And our horses, my teachers too. Just as Alois Podhasky said!


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