More Than a Lesson?
It's been a mixed week. Lessons and lots of enquiries for lessons - preferably on Prazer. Several from far away, even the US. It does seem there's a dearth of schoolmasters in this country . The ideal is a horse sensitive enough to point out people's weaknesses without over-reacting -.but keen enough to give people some amazing 'feels' when they get it right.
Planning ahead for a year which is rushing past a bit too fast for comfort can test you. How much can one take on, how to make space for family and friends, how to prioritise? I have been self employed for the past 40 years but I must admit, it gets harder and harder to slow down or to say no !
When Henry and I opened the first Lusitano School in England in 1979, we never seemed to have enough students and it was tough. With no internet, no PR person behind us, and no knowledge of Portuguese horses in England to inspire people, we had to rely on regular Horse & Hound advertising. This cost a bomb and it was a constant juggling act hosting our classical dressage courses and paying the bills.
Looking back, we made some big mistakes. As well as luxury hospitality (clients even got breakfast in bed!)..and 3 course candle-lit dinners no less ...people got 2 lessons every morning, plus another full session in the afternoon - all on fully schooled horses. There was even an optional hack!
We never stopped... Neither did the working students who (all 7 or 8 of them) enjoyed a lesson every afternoon too! No wonder we needed so many horses and felt exhausted at the end of each 6 day Course! Then one day off and the next guests would arrive. We even employed a boot -cleaning boy!
It's probably human nature to give away too much when you're struggling to make a new business viable. In those days there was no real demand for 'classical' riding and to entice people we just offered too much. I now know that 2 lessons a day is ample for most people ... And many are quite happy with one. Its Quality not Quantity that matters but desperate to make a go of things, we provided more.
Roll on 35 years. Although the Lusitano horse has really taken off in this country, I am still surprised there are not more riding schools using them for lessons. These horses and their cousin the Andalusian (PRE) are wonderfully giving horses, they are natural schoolmasters and love to please. Riding an Iberian, will set the student up to get the feel of collection, lateral work, changes etc but it's up to the trainer to keep the horse balanced and 'sweet'. Maybe that's why we don't see more.
The old saying 'less is more' would certainly have made our own lives a little easier in those early days. No real regrets though ...Henry was proud of what we had achieved and we both realised we were just a little ahead of our time.
Stranger perhaps, I am still doing it. The horses themselves demand it.
Uh, uh ... Is that another email?