By Jordan Kelly

We all know about the struggles of starting a horse from scratch or having to re-train bad habits. We also see people who purchase experienced horses with upper level experience and make them their lower level mount. A lot of the time I hear those people scrutinized, saying that what they’re doing is a way of cheating.

If you’re new to what you’re doing, and you have the opportunity to ride a horse who has been there and done that instead of starting your own, what would you do? I personally chose to pick the “been there done that” for my first go around the lower levels.

I picked up a lease that had gone prelim. The typical pokey, “Yeah sure, even if your leg is on my flank and you’re taking a nap on my neck, I’ll jump this fence.” While it is awesome to be able to get around safely and learn a thing or two, there’s a lot of pressure that comes along with riding a well-known schoolmaster.

If you win, you’ve apparently bought your way there. When you lose you get, “She’s not good enough for that horse.” It’s a never-ending battle of pleasing the masses, and it’s hard to ignore when you’re just trying to learn the ropes. But considering how much you get to learn, sometimes the talk is worth it.

For me, it’s not about the ribbons. It’s about progression. Taking on a schoolmaster means you have a horse who knows what to do. You learn walk-canter transitions and lateral work, and easily play with striding between jumps all while feeling safe and gaining confidence. Knowing how to ask makes you a better rider for any future horses you take on.

The next time you see someone riding around on an older 2* horse someone has already taken around the block, instead of immediately assuming they did so just to take home a ribbon, consider the fact they’re taking a different learning opportunity to better themselves and their riding. If you had the chance in your younger learning stages, wouldn’t you do the same?