Not every senior horse is a schoolmaster, and not every schoolmaster is a senior horse. But in many cases seniors and schoolmasters are one in the same. Over the years, I've had limited opportunities to ride schoolmasters and learn from them. For the most part, my horses and I have learned together. But earlier this year I had a chance to ride and learn from one of these special horses, and they were some of the best lessons I've had in a long time.

In March my boyfriend and I took a trip to visit my trainer and former boss, Corinne, in Aiken, S.C. We were both excited to take some lessons with her during the trip; I'm still working on training my Thoroughbred and Adam is still learning the basics.

Even though she had several horses to choose from, Corinne selected the same horse for both of us to ride in our lessons: a 20-something-year-old Irish Thoroughbred schoolmaster. In his younger years, Fibber competed successfully at the Advanced level in eventing. He now belongs to one of Corinne's students, who's learning all she can about eventing at the lower levels from the big horse.

During my lessons on Fibber, I learned what real collection felt like and how to "fluff" the canter into jumps. I learned how to adjust strides between jumps seamlessly and what a finished horse should feel like. Fibber didn't "give" me all the answers to the questions I asked of him--he made me work for them and taught me how to properly ask for the answers. Only schoolmasters can do that. I took all skills I learned on the schoolmaster and applied them to my own equine senior, who amazingly picked right up on everything.

Fibber also reminded me not to get discouraged by the fact that my competition horse is 16-years-old. Even though an Advanced cross-country course might give him a challenge today, Fibber is still competing successfully at Training level and kicking younger horses' tails on a regular basis.

During Adam's lesson, Corinne brought the longe line out and helped him build a more secure base in the saddle. By the time we left, Adam could walk, trot, and canter on the line with no reins. He left Aiken more confident in the saddle than ever and looking forward to his next chance to climb into the tack.

I marveled for days about how two riders of such different experience levels could learn so much from the same horse. Even now I smile when I think about how much we both learned from a single horse.

Schoolmasters really are worth their weights in gold, and I'd like to hear about your experiences with the special senior horses. Is there a special senior schoolmaster in your life? What have you learned from him, and what makes him so special to you?