"Schoolmaster"-Type Pricing?

(I know there are folks on here who are opposed to the idea of buying/leasing older, confirmed schoolmaster types, so I’ll preface that I’m not really interested in a debate about whether it’s moral or right or legit to do so. Thanks!)

Now that I live in a place where board doesn’t make me regularly puke, we’re looking at expanding our four-legged crew to include a more experienced dressage horse (to help me learn a little faster and more correctly while my trainer and I work on my mare’s dressage education). I have a decent sense of what these kinds of horses cost in H/J land, but less so in the dressage world. Assume I’m looking for something that is older and likely stepping down, but can still comfortably do 3rd and maybe 4th level work, and is preferably more mid-teens than late teens, and we live in the mountain west. Any ideas on the ballpark price at which this kind of horse is going for near you? I’d love, in a perfect world, to lease something, but I know leases are much harder to come by in dressage than in H/J.


Edit to add: assume I’m a reasonably brave amateur with a good sense of humor – I can handle a decent level of horse antics, but nothing really hell bent on human destruction or totally intolerant of pilot error is likely to fit the bill.

They are few and far between and usually have a long list of waiting applicants. I just saw one go for $50k over the summer, and he required maintenance. I almost never see schoolmasters listed for sale, they tend to go by word of mouth trainer to trainer.

Do you have any connections in the college world? A lot of times, the horses on a college team (IDA, IHSA) go to summer leases and are really, really reasonably priced for a summer lease. Many of them are retired school masters who would be just what you need, especially if it is short term. Preference goes to students and alumnis but I have seen connections short-term lease a school master. Sometimes they are not a good fit for the program either, and are sold for market value which is usually a little more reasonable than private sales. I had a friend buy a nice retired PSG gelding from the college I attended, he just wasn’t a good fit for the program and she got him for a song.


In a personal connection/word of mouth situation - much loved PSG horse is stepping down, you are offering the horse a retirement home after an anticipated 1-3 more years and person knows you well enough to trust that you will follow through - you might get this horse for $20k or less.

On then open market, a 14 y/o confirmed at 3rd/4th level and suitable for a confident but not experienced at that level amateur would likely be in the $40-50k range. Expect it won’t vet perfectly, and will most likely come with some required maintenance (at least hocks).


6 years ago I sold my 4th level horse, < 16h, 14 yr old schoolmaster type for $35k. He didn’t require maintenance at the time, was an “off breed”, not uber fancy mover, but very forgiving and well-trained. Sold him to my trainer’s client, so a word-of-mouth sale. In today’s market, I could ask for more, but at that time I was happy with the uncomplicated sale to a forever home.


Following with interest! Although I am confused as to whether the capability to do a certain level dictates the “schoolmaster” title. At my ability and (middle) age, I would be delighted with a 2nd level schoolmaster.

OP, I can’t answer your question.

But :question: :confused:
Color me Curious.
Why would anyone be against this purchase?


I have seen a handful of folks on here (and elsewhere) object to the idea of working with a horse somebody else made, either because that’s “cheating” or because it’s unfair to ask a much more accomplished horse to tolerate the mistakes and foibles of a less experienced rider. I don’t really subscribe to either view, but, I know they’re out there.

My mare is a gem and the four-legged love of my life, and she’s doing an amazing job at learning her new gig so far. But, learning new concepts is hard for a horse that’s gone one way its entire life, and it would probably be easier for both of us if I had felt more of what some of these things were “supposed” to feel like – thus the search. I’m working with a really wonderful trainer who has been incredibly helpful to my mare and I, so we have lots of support to both train her and to keep a more experienced horse sharp, which I think is one of the other concerns folks sometimes have – horses do tend to revert a bit to the level they’re being ridden at, so if you’re just going to take someone’s FEI horse and park it in a field and not keep it well schooled, I can kind of see why that feels a little unfortunate to some folks.

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Just curious…What is there about dressage that damages hocks?

Thanks for that explanation.
I’ve had several Science Experiment horses of my own in my Dressage Journey.
Each ended nicely doing what I intended, the best reaching 3rd Level when I stopped training with any degree of Serious.
Having a Schoolmaster would have probably advanced my riding sooner.
Or not.
But I see nothing wrong in having a horse with more education than the rider, as long as there’s also competent training going on.
As for “wasting” that horse’s talent in a field, I’m sure the horse could care less :smirk:


As I understand it, as training advances and collection increases, the balance of the horse shifts from the forehand to the hindquarters so the hocks become ever more engaged. That is why one looks at hock movement in a potential dressage horse rather that flashy front legs. I’m open to correction!


It’s not just dressage. All performance sports are hard on the hocks, both Western and English. And in my lifetime, the hocks have always been a limiting factor in middle-aged horses.

At least we have better options now than the “bute and ride through it until they fuse” of my younger days.


This is correct, but I will add that it is not so much that dressage damages hocks as it is that dressage needs hocks that function at 110% (because of the increased demands on the hind quarters as you move up the levels). While any horse needs functional hocks, in dressage you might notice their health that much more quickly because they are so important to the horse’s way of going. (i.e., an upper level dressage horse needs to bend all the joints in his hind legs, and can’t just shift to the forehand or compensate via stifles or SI, etc.)

Most other sports don’t need the horse to sit quite so much, so hocks functioning at less than 110% may not even be a problem (other than discomfort for the horse).


Then i think i’ll resist temptation of training into upper levels. I’ll just train more horses at lower levels and concentrate on connection and balance.

i guess i misunderstood dressage? I thought it helped horses move/use themselves better…

Years back we got one very inexpensively via a divorce sale. Older 17h TB with extensive show record through Fourth. Schooled I-1 at home. Bombproof, good feet, even a good babysitter for colts. He cleaned my clock the first time I rode him. I think I had him bucking within minutes. He was trained such that he had to be held together from the first step. But, he tolerated advanced beginners/low intermediate riders like a saint.

So they are possibly out there, esp. the non WBs and in must-sell situations…


It does! But virtually all performance horses have some form of osteoarthritis in their hocks at some point in their lives. Whether they’re jumping or doing dressage, they’re pushing weight behind, and eventually that starts to cause some wear and tear. But as discussed above, there are much better options for keeping horses sound and comfortable despite some changes in their hocks than there were when we were kids!


Okay, maybe, maybe, asking for less collection would slow the degeneration of the hock joint that comes from age and use. But it likely would increase the stress and potential for injury of the front legs as they take more of a pounding.


It does. But a gymnast doesn’t start by using the rings or asymmetrical bars. Correct training over years and years, building strength and suppleness, then a limited time at the very top.


Yeah… I wonder what horses these purists learned on. Unless they’re stuck at first, or if they’re lucky, second level, they learned on trained horses. Anyone who has access to a schoolmaster to learn on, whether they own, lease, or take instruction on it on a regular basis, is lucky. Calling it cheating is nothing more than sour grapes with maybe some envy sprinkled on top.


A couple gals that I boarded with at a dressage facility went in together to buy a retired/stepping down GP schoolmaster. Very quickly one gal sold her share to the other as she couldn’t ride the horse. The remaining owner didn’t get much saddle time on horse except maybe once or twice a month for very short periods due to extreme lameness of said horse. The owner had a running bill with several local vets trying to keep the horse sound. Word around barn was the horse sold for $10,000 when his original trainer/owner sold him. I’m sure the purchaser went through more than that in vet/maintenance bills in a short time.

Sent you a PM.