If you were to take a look in my tack box, you wouldn’t find a fancy saddle adorned with patent leather and crystal embellishments. It is the same old saddle that I have used for over ten years. The faded cantle has seen quite a bit of sun, and the worn seat has been immersed in hundreds of rides. My saddle is nothing special, but I do have quite a lovely horse. His eyes are beautiful and kind to match his personality, and his bay coat gleams and compliments the details of black points on his knees and hocks. An arched neck flows effortlessly into his broad shoulders and through his back into a tail of wavy black hair. My handsome partner also carries with him the knowledge of third level and beyond. Some might say that he is a schoolmaster.
This gallant fellow came to me under some unique circumstances over two years ago and we’ve been enjoying each other’s company ever since. Beforehand, I took a 5-6 year hiatus from riding and topped out showing my young warmblood at first level. Suddenly I had higher level maneuvers within my reach. My time was somewhat limited so I could only take one lesson a month for a while. When you have such a cool horse that you don’t know how to ride that well yet, it is like chasing a carrot on a stick!
It took a couple of years to catch up to third level. At the pace of a level a year, we are right where we should be. Shortly after showing for the very first time at third level, I was sitting under a tent eating lunch with my husband when a nice young lady sat with us. She was adorned with her freshly pressed show shirt, along with an ankle length maxi skirt to keep her breeches clean. She asked me which test I did not that long before hand. When I told her, she said, “Oh, you’re riding the schoolmaster”. For a moment it felt that the accomplishment of my first third level test was negated. Does it still count?
Absolutely! If anything, you could say that I am the schoolmaster! I went in knowing half of what I should have to ride this horse, and came out above the level I showed him. Riding a horse that knows more than you is challenge, horses are a black hole of knowledge. Even after you are sucked through the event horizon of X level of competition, tesseracts and insanity workouts await you! It is not as simple as pushing a button, unless you are feeling for the buttons in Braille, and even then, how in the world do you know what to feel for? And what does it all mean?
A trainer can assist you to make these connections, to feel the horse in a new language. Once you learn to ride the basics, specialization can occur, same language, but different dialects. Horses have been domesticated for thousands of years, which means thousands of years of learning and perfecting. Plus, there is still so much to learn. I will never learn it all. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, none of us will. We have all started in the same place. Not knowing crap.