The Lesson Horse Lifestyle

A good lesson horse is a valuable member of any riding program. Our sources share tips on keeping these trusty steeds happy and healthy.

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Lesson Horse Health
While many lesson horses peform at low intensity levels, they often put in several hours of hard work a day. | Photo: iStock

Keeping school horses happy and healthy

A good lesson horse is a valuable member of any riding program, safely carrying and patiently teaching newbies of all ages. To keep these schoolmasters happy and healthy, we must take into account factors unique to their situation, from carrying different riders to sharing saddlery.

Harry Werner, VMD, founder of Werner Equine, in North Granby, Connecticut, has been honored with International Equine Veterinarian Hall of Fame induction and the American Association of Equine Practitioners Distinguished Life Member Award for his work, and has seen a lot of lesson horses over the years among his patient population. He says not all riding programs are equal in terms of horse welfare.

“In my experience, there’s a tremendous amount of variability in lesson horse life and care. There are programs in which you look at the lesson horses and think they lucked out; unfortunately, that’s not universal,” he says, explaining that much of this is due to school horses tending to be more of a commodity than privately owned horses. “It doesn’t mean that they aren’t still animals that people love and care for, but they have to go to work or there is income loss

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Freelance journalist Natalie DeFee Mendik is a multiple American Horse Publications editorial and graphics awards winner specializing in equestrian media. She holds an MA in English from Colorado State University and an International Federation of Journalists’ International press card, and is a member of the International Alliance of Equestrian Journalists. With over three decades of horse experience, Natalie’s main equine interests are dressage and vaulting. Having lived and ridden in England, Switzerland, and various parts of the United States, Natalie currently resides in Colorado with her husband and two girls.

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