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The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1)















Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 30.E, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (25)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: August 15, 2022

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,876

ISSN 2369-6885


Wes is a Professional Trainer & Coach for Riverlands Equestrian Centre. He completed an internship at Landgestuet Celle (Hanovarian State Stud) in Adelheidsdorf, Germany. He has worked as a professional rider for McLean Reitsport in Tonisvorst. He has worked in Wellington, Florida for Alexandra Duncan and trained with Juan Matute Sr. He discusses: earliest introduction into equestrianism; specialization before dressage; dressage; a trained eye; the top dressage performers in Canada; selecting a horse as a rider; no training to full training; the average lifespan of a horse; the German and the Floridian context; and women compared to men.

Keywords: Dressage, Greenhorn Chronicles, Riverlands Equestrian Centre, The American Quarter Horse Association, Wes Schild.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations after the interview.*

*Interview conducted December 30, 2021.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Today, we are with Wes Schild, a professional dressage trainer and coach. He comes from Riverlands Equestrian Facility; it’s by Whistler, British Columbia. So, I want to start from the beginning, or near the beginning, in terms of the life of an equestrian for you, because of those who I know in the industry; they describe equestrianism as a lifestyle more than anything. Some prefer the term equestrianism. Some are for the term horsemanship, but in general they will speak consistently about it as a lifestyle. When was the earliest introduction into equestrianism or the equine for you?

Wes Schild[1],[2]: Well, it would have started at a fairly young age, probably when I was three or four. My mom had a passion for horses. She had a horse growing up. I always had a love for animals from as soon as I could walk, basically. So, she got me connected with one of our neighbors and a good friend of hers who ran a riding school and a boarding facility in the area that I grew up in, in Ontario. And pretty much from the time they sat me up on my first pony, I was instantly hooked with horses and from there continued to ride and train and get lessons. So, probably from the time I was three or four, I was on the horse.

Jacobsen: That’s very interesting. Did you transition into any particular specialization before dressage, or did you jump into dressage primarily at first?

Schild: No, when I first started riding, I think most young kids that get into I would say the English discipline of riding, generally start out with jumping just because dressage tends to be quite a technical sport and if you don’t really understand it, it can be somewhat confusing for people to understand. So, I started out jumping and did a little bit of pony club riding and that sort of thing. Then as I got into my young teenage years, I switched over to quarter horses, actually. So, I started showing within a breed association called The American Quarter Horse Association and focused my time on that. Then as I got into my later years in high school, I swapped back over to the English discipline again and was focusing really on dressage and jumping at that point.

Jacobsen: How do you differentiate dressage from the other disciplines within the equestrian world? I mean, there’s hunting and there’s jumping; how do you differentiate dressage in terms of a definition as a professional?

Schild: Dressage, again, it is in the English discipline of riding. Dressage is just the art of training a horse basically. So, a lot of people will describe dressage as horses that are dancing. The horses are trained to do such technical movements within their body and in the training that we do every day. And so, to the untrained eye, it looks to someone like the horse is dancing. That’s where you will see people who will say dressage is the horse dancing.

Jacobsen: And to a trained eye, what are you looking for in the moments when the horse is engaged with a rider in dressage?

Schild: Well, the end goal in dressage is always to have a harmonious partnership between horse and rider. So, when you look at a top-level dressage rider and horse, you want to see that it looks like it’s so easily executed that you can’t see any of the rider’s aids to the horse. That they’re really together as one partnership.

Jacobsen: Who would you consider some of the top dressage performers in Canada now?

Schild: There are lots of great riders in Canada. Some of the top riders that represented our country this year at the Olympics would have been Chris Von Martels, Lindsay Kellock, Brittany Fraser; those are some really top Grand Prix riders and that represent Canada really well.

Jacobsen: How do you go about selecting a horse as a rider by the way?

Schild: Selection of horses is definitely tricky. There’s so many factors that go into making a top level dressage horse; character, the right ability, their confirmation, so, basically, how the horse is put together, their willingness to do the job, the attitude towards the rider; these are all things that would affect a top horse. And generally, a top horse, you’ll hear a lot of people say that they can tend to be a little bit quirky or they have lots of character. So, they tend to be quite full of themselves, but they always are very eager. Once you can channel that quirkiness or their character into the job, generally, you have a spectacular horse.

Jacobsen: How long does it take to get a horse from no training to full training at a national competing level?

Schild: Well, for a horse that’s going to do upper-level dressage, so let’s say you’re getting a horse that’s doing like a Grand Prix, you’re generally looking at a horse that’s around the age of 10 years old. Most horses are started under saddle, so they start being ridden when they’re three or four, and then just slowly develop throughout their years. But roughly around 10 years old, you’re getting a horse that knows their job, is physically able to do the job, they’re mentally and physically fit at that point in their life. They’re coming into the prime of their life. A horse’s prime is probably from 10 to 15 years old. So, if you were to look at internationally competed dressage horses, most of them that are doing the Grand Prix are in that age gap.

Jacobsen: What is the average lifespan of a horse who is performing in dressage? What is the breed of horse too?

Schild: The average age; that’s really changed over even my lifetime because of modern medicine for them and the quality of feed and understanding of health that we have for the horses now. But probably, the average age is somewhere between 30-35 and most horses now are being retired anywhere between 20 and 25 years of age. They’re not being ridden anymore. They’ve done their job. They get to spend some quality time just relaxing with their friends out in the field or a nice retirement life. And the breed of horse that tends to be used again in international Grand Prix or dressage; you’ll see is a warm blood. There are multiple different types of warm bloods; Hanoverian is a very popular one and Dutch warm blood. Those are the two that you hear a lot. There’s Oldenburg, and then also there are some countries that have very good success competing the Spanish horses. That’s the PRE and the Lusitano; you’ll see those as well in dressage.

Jacobsen: You did some traveling in the midst of your career to Germany and to Florida. What were the lessons from the German and the Floridian context for equestrianism? What were the lessons that you could take from the differences? What were the lessons you could take from the similarities between the two contexts?

Schild: In Germany, it is a huge industry over there. The equestrian industry is very big and it’s the epicenter for horses. So over there the structure was a very big one; they had lots of very classical riding styles, old school riding styles that have made very successful riders over many, many years. So, that was something that was very interesting for me. I learned a ton over there from some fabulous trainers that I could bring back to Canada and implement it in my daily routine here at the barn and with my clients and horses.

In Florida, it’s less of an industry Florida-wise. So, in the winter, lots of people head to Wellington, Florida. That’s the horse epicenter for winter and there’s multiple competitions within a span of three months. So, it’s a very busy season down there, many people come from all over the world. It’s fun because it’s like being at a resort with 10,000 of your equestrian friends. There are lots of different varieties of training; if one way is not working for you there’s someone down the road that might have a different idea, a different way to fix the problem. So that was interesting as well. It definitely opened the door to a different type of riding. You’ll hear a lot of riders say in dressage that they were trained either in the German system riding or the Dutch system.

So, when I was in Germany, obviously, I was riding with many German riders. That’s where I got my background. And when I went to Florida, it just opened up my eyes to different trainers that were from around the world that had different ideas and opinions on how to get the horse to the same place, but with a different method. And I also got to ride with a wonderful Spanish teacher Juan Matute Sr. down there. So, I got to have many lessons with him, which was really wonderful because he was German trained – but he was also an Olympian for the Spanish team. He just had a different view because he trained also in Spain with some of the classical riding masters there, so he just brought like a new energy and a different way to see things, which is always nice.

Jacobsen: Within some of the demographic research, which I’ve had the time to do a little bit, there’s approximately 7 out of 10 equestrians who are women compared to men. However, I remain uncertain if this is in the North American context or the Canadian, or the North American versus the European context. Regardless, there is a skew and from what I can gather based on reading interviews, there is a skew more in North America than in Europe. Why is this the case? How long has this been the case?

Schild: Well, I would definitely, probably, say it’s the skew for North America or like North America to Europe, probably. It would be that 7 to 10 number, and as long as I’ve been working with horses. That’s probably like 25-26 years now. It’s always been that way in North America. It’s always been a female dominated sport over here; whereas, when I was in Europe, I would say it’s probably closer to 50-50, 60-40 over there. There’s a lot more men representation, especially in dressage over here in North America. There’s not as much. I don’t really know why in North America there’s not as much. My one guess would be that in Europe every little town has a riding school that every kid goes to. They have riding clubs, so from a young age boys and girls are going to these riding clubs over there. So, there’s a lot more exposure to the horse industry over there; whereas, here, not every town has the ability or has horse farms. Also, it’s much more expensive over here to get your children into equestrian sports. Whereas, it’s easier and much cheaper to probably just put your young children into like hockey or soccer. So, I think that’s part of the problem as well too.


[1] Professional Trainer & Coach, Riverland Equestrian Centre.

[2] Individual Publication Date: August 15, 2022:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022:

Image Credit: Wes Schild.


American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1)[Online]. August 2022; 30(E). Available from:

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2022, August 15). The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1). Retrieved from

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E, August. 2022. <>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E (August 2022).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.E. Available from: <>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.E.,

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 30.E (2022): August. 2022. Web. <>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 14: Wes Schild on Dressage (1)[Internet]. (2022, August 30(E). Available from:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Based on a work at


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