Schooling in Horse Riding and Shows

girl schooling her horse
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To school a horse, or schooling a horse is to practice whatever you are training it to do. Generally, English riders tend to use the word schooling more than western riders. This may be because the roots of the word in reference to horses comes from the military riding schools of Europe such as the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, where the famous Lipizzaner dressage horses are trained. The term haute ecole, which refers to high level dressage movements, comes from the same background, ecole being the French word for school. A ring that is used for training may be called a schooling ring. This is especially common at horse shows, where the warm-up or schooling rings are available for getting a horse ready to compete, separate from the competition area.

Where Does Schooling Take Place?

The practice of schooling can be done wherever you need to practice with your horse. Typically it occurs in a ring but can also mean a trail if you're interested in trail riding. Schooling on the trail will probably mean you are paying more attention to your horse's behavior, teaching it how to carry you over the terrain and deal with the distractions that can happen when you’re riding out. This will make the horse safer and more fun when you just want to relax. Lunging or ground driving may also be a type of schooling. Or, it can be as simple as a trailer if you need to school your horse to calmly and safely step in and out of one.

Riders too can be schooled, put through exercises that make them more limber, balanced, and sensitive as they ride. This can be done with someone lunging the horse, or with the rider riding independently, usually with an instructor watching and offering guidance.

Schooling movements might include upward and downward transitions (from walk to trot and back or trot to canter), halts, circles, rein backs and other more advanced exercises such as leg yields, side passes, and turns on the forehand. A rider may practice trotting over cavalletti or jump patterns as exercises that prepare a horse for competition. These changes of direction and speed, striding, and lateral exercises help your horse learn to be more responsive and balanced.

Re-Schooling a Horse

Re-schooling a horse means training it in a way that will break unwanted behaviors. It can also be called re-training. Schooling can be done with a horse of any age and at any level of training. Many people never regard their horses as fully trained and there is always something new to learn or to refine. Perhaps riders should think the same way of themselves!

Schooling Shows

A schooling show is one where the competition is geared towards inexperienced riders and horses in preparation for more serious showing. Think of these competitions as training, or practice shows. The rules might be less strict and the dress code may be more casual. Jumps might be lower, dressage tests might be simpler, and riders may just attend for the experience and not the actual competition.

Schooling tack and clothing is more colorful and less traditional than show clothing. Bright colors and patterns can be worn for everyday schooling, rather than the more formal attire and tack worn at a horse show. Schooling helmets come in a variety of patterns and styles. Half-chaps and jodhpur boots may be worn rather than tall boots.