Schoolmasters as School Horses

Do retired, well-schooled horses really make good beginners’ horses?
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schoolmasters as school horses
While it might not be an easy transition, some schoolmasters can be suitable mounts for beginner riders. Owners should watch carefully for signs of stress, however. | Photo: iStock

Q.Do retired, well-schooled show horses really make good beginners’ horses, even if they could be considered packers? How many of the school horses out there truly “appreciate” or enjoy their jobs?

—Gill, via e-mail

A.Now that’s a tough question, since I have not followed many horses closely from a show career into retirement as school horses. But, in general, it is reasonable to expect that for a well-schooled show horse that has been well-conditioned to reasonably consistent cues from balanced riders in relatively standard exercises and show routines, transitioning to a job as a beginner or any lower-level lesson horse is not exactly an easy retirement

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Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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