Stages Of ESB Training
I don't like to talk about 'breaking-in a horse' and would prefer to approach their education and development as Stages of Training, with each phase being a different lesson. These can be done at different times and ages, in different orders and over various time periods if necessary but for logical reasons it is sometimes better to have a sequence.
It does not seem to matter if there is a time lapse between lessons because if the previous lesson has been effective, it will require a minimal refresher to bring the horse up to speed. I have often found it useful to give the young horse a spell between sessions.
This should be a relatively simple procedure that one could expect most people to do, however it never ceases to amaze me how difficult people make it. The main problem is that people walk up to a horse thinking - "I'm going to get you", this translates into body language which the horse interprets as you being a predator. Older and wiser horses do not think of this as an issue but young horses when they are brought into work become quite vulnerable. They are often in unfamiliar surroundings, being asked to learn new things, often with new people and all of a sudden they are not so sure they want to play anymore. We need to become better at reading a situation and learning to adjust our strategy within seconds, especially when it comes to catching a horse we don't know. The first principal here is Set yourself up for success (SYS) by placing your arm through the halter, so that the noseband rests on your shoulder. Then fold the lead rope in half and place the loop over your shoulder so that the end of the lead rope is hanging near your waist at your front.
Approach the horse in a relaxed and friendly way, thinking - "Would you like to have a scratch today?" Once the horse has allowed you into his space then reach for his shoulder or neck and begin to rub him, so that it is a pleasant experience. Give them time to accept your presence and then slowly pass your left arm under his throat and reach for some mane up near his poll. If I think that the horse might try to run away, I use my right arm instead, so that my left hand is free to place on the nose to give me more control.
Once I have my arms around his neck, I pass the end of the lead rope over his neck, near to the poll and hold it firmly. I then pass the head piece of the halter under his throat and back over his neck into my right hand. Then with my left hand, I take hold of the noseband and pass it under his chin and bring it across the bridge of his nose. This gives you great control if the horse tries to turn his head away from you. Then drop it down low enough to slip over his nose and then pull it up by pulling the headpiece with your right hand. Connect the two together and you have caught a horse with minimal fuss and bother. This is a lot easier to demonstrate than to write about.
If the horse walks away from you as you approach, then walk after him until he stops. Keep walking and stopping (parallel to his shoulder) as he does until you see the expression on his face change to acceptance and he allows you to approach, then approach his shoulder. Persistence and Consistence (PC) is important hear.
If a horse runs away from you, then chase him away and keep agitating him until he turns and looks straight at you. Then freeze and point your finger at them, keeping your eyes on their face. Walk directly towards them. If they step to the side, then you step to the same side and stop until they relax again. Take another step and stop, talking to them all the time until you reach their space. You need to concentrate and focus on them, and them only. If they turn away from you, chase them away until they stop and look at you again. Approach again and continue until you catch them.
I very rarely have to corner a horse to catch them and usually find that I am better off alone but if you find you have a problem which is continuing, it would be better to confine the horse on its own and rebuild the relationship with it than allow this pattern of behaviour to continue.
Before I leave this subject, letting go is also important to mention. I feel that it is very important to walk away from their space rather than let them walk away from you, SO give them a pat BEFORE you take their halter off, slowly remove the halter and walk away from them while they are relaxed.
The foals get head collars on as soon as I start teasing the mares again because I don't like loose foals. Foals will often run back to their mates rather than stay with their mother, which distresses the mare no end and teasing becomes difficult.
I don't breed mares on their foal heat, so this is usually when the foals are three and a half weeks old. I place a 'bum rope' around their hindquarters so that it sits just above the hock, loops back to the wither and then threads through the head collar.
The first few leading lessons can be difficult if you are not experienced as people try to hold onto the foals head, causing them to flip over backwards, which can be disastrous.
Try to start in a confined area and place pressure on the lead at a forty five degree angle to the foals shoulder. Gradually increase the pressure and at the same time pull on the 'bum rope'. The second the foal responds with a step forward, release the pressure immediately as a reward.
Once the young horse understands the leading principals, I try not to be fixed to the left side because I believe we do too much on the left which can make them less responsive on the right, especially when we start riding them.
This lesson can occur at any time but it is good to do it sooner rather than later in case there is an emergency. I prefer to truck horses rather than float them. Our truck has a big step so I
load the foals with a ramp to eliminate this problem. I load the mare and leave her on the truck with some feed and by using a 'bum rope' and the leading principals of pressure and release I lead the foals on and off until they think it is fun. I try to give all the foals a loading lesson before I wean them.
Travelling a foal in a float should not be a problem providing the mare travels OK. I would never tie them up, I would put the foals on the left, I would make sure that they can't get under the chest rail and most importantly that they can't jump out the back. This has happened before and remember Prevention is better than finding a cure (PBC) !
When I give a young horse a floating lesson, I begin on day one by asking them to walk on and off a few times. I try to make the 'walking off' part as important as 'walking on' by giving them an aid first and by keeping them straight and slow. I usually use a bucket of feed as a reward and to make the whole experience more pleasurable for them.
Day two will involve a repeat session, on and off and then once they are comfortable standing in the float, I close up the back, tie them up and let them stand in there for a while - maybe half an hour. I ALWAYS tie them with two lead ropes, one normally and another one under the chest rail and attached to a different spot if available but always tied to string. This is to prevent the horse from trying to jump over the chest rail and escape through the window, which happens often more than you realise! I also park the float in the shade if it is hot.
I prefer to do this with another older horse in the float as well as with a hay net. I know some people believe that you should not use hay in floats because it causes choke but I have only ever had this happen if the horse is not usually being fed hay and bolts it down too quickly.
Day three will involve a repeat of the above and then a trip around the block for about twenty minutes. I usually stop half way and remove the hay net so that they have to concentrate on what is happening.
This method has always worked and I have never bred horses that don't load. I think that floating problems only occur once they have had a bad experience or start to lack confidence for some reason. If this occurs my methods would alter according to the problem.
This is another controversial area of horse handling. I prefer to use the Prevention is better than finding a cure (PBC) approach when teaching a horse to tie up. A horse has to learn how to pull back before it becomes a problem. So unless I have to rehabilitate a problem, I don't tend to use neck collars and 'strangle them down' due to the physical damage this can cause them long term. Instead I start my yearlings off by threading a long lead rope through a ring on a wall, usually in the stable and I run my hands over them or groom them, whilst holding the end of the lead.
This allows the horse to realise the point of attachment without stress and panic. They may resist , paw and carry on for a while but stay with them and they soon get the idea. If the horse goes to move back, quietly walk to his hindquarters and encourage him forward by placing a hand on his rump and use your voice. Keep some pressure on the lead at the same time and as soon as he steps forward, release the hold.
After a few days of this, they can be tied up. I usually have another horse around for company and sometimes, if I am not completely sure of the horse, I will tie them up with a 'bum rope' as well. If I have one that does not settle, then I may use a leg strap or pastern hobbles for a while until they learn to accept restraint but this is an exception rather than a rule.
From then on, it is important to repeat the exercise as often as possible and I will often just bring them in and leave them tied up for a few hours, whilst other things are happening.
You also need to be able to read a situation and not put a horse in a position where he feels so stressed that he will pull back. Once they learn how to escape, they will always remember, therefore Prevention is better than finding a cure (PBC). I would always supervise them, especially when they are out for the first few times.
I always tie them to string, which is another controversial point. If I know that my method works and that what I do around horses does not cause them to pull back, then the only time they would do so, is in the event of real fear or danger, in which case they are better off free than being hurt. I have had several experiences which I could use as examples but the best one is a floating accident, where my float was hit by a vehicle and it tipped over. The two horses inside were flung out through the roof. I can imagine that their injuries would have been much worse if their leads had not broken free!
As with every phase of training, it is important to 'take time'. With our hectic lifestyles, I find that I need to consciously slow right down when I am working with the young horse. This ensures that my movements are slower and more defined, giving the horse time to adjust and accept me in their space.
The grooming lesson does not usually pose a problem as the horses learn to enjoy the process and I find that it is a very useful (and sometimes necessary) way of preparing the horse mentally for the next lesson.
Common-sense should prevail when it comes to the choice of brush and not using one that is too hard around their face or lower legs. Young horses can have sensitive areas, such as the girth area and these require the Persistent and Consistent (PC) principal, without getting kicked.
This is a really important lesson and one that many people seem to find hard to do. To teach a young horse to lunge, you do need to be able to concentrate on the horse's body language as well as your own. You have to be able to read, respond and react very quickly to prevent problems from occurring. Once a horse is more educated, it becomes a relatively simple procedure and can be a really useful training exercise.
Ideally, I would like to teach all of my yearlings to lunge, so that there is one less thing for them to learn later on. Younger horses are better off starting in a small, confined area such as a yard. I attach a lunge rein to the halter, position myself in the centre of the yard and start off on the left rein because that is their easy side and the one that they are used to being lead from. I hold a lunge whip in my right hand and point it at the horses tail. My left hand asks the horse to step forward by opening my left arm and leading with the rein and then my whip taps them forward. It is paramount to create a triangle, with the horse at the base and you at the apex.
The rein and whip form the two sides. The other way of maintaining this position, is to remember that when you are asking a horse to go forward ALWAYS stand behind their girth, so that you are driving the horse away from you. Your body language is critical.
The other important aid in this lesson is your voice. I believe that our voice is not used enough when training horses and is therefore often under-estimated as an aid. It is an extremely powerful tool when used correctly but you have to be consistent with the words you use as well as how you say them and your tone. For example, if we want a horse to go forward our voice should be filled with energy and enthusiasm but if we want a downward transition, our voice should be slow, calm and drawn out. I also use my voice to help establish the rhythm of a pace by counting in beat with the tempo that I want and I find this really helpful and reassuring for the horse both on the ground and when I start riding them.
I find that my voice aids help enormously with the transition from being on the ground to then being on their back because it is a constant that they can associate with, so it is important to get it right, right from the start.
So to start off, we have the horse in front of us, our rein in our left hand and our whip in our right. We indicate to the horse what we want by asking them to "Walk on". This aid is backed up by slight pressure on the rein in a forward direction and a tap of the whip on their hindquarters. If the horse trots forward do not pull him back because he has at least responded in the right direction. It takes time with Persistence and Consistence (PC) to refine our teaching. Even though our aids need to be black and white, our expectations need to have shades of grey when dealing with a new lesson, whether the horse is young or old.
Eventually we want the horse to learn to just walk off quietly, so with gentle persistence we encourage acceptable behaviour each time we practise the lesson. Given a reasonable time this encouragement may need to become enforcement if the horse is still rushing off.
Once we have some understanding on the left rein, it is time to try the right. This is often harder because horses tend to be stiffer and less responsive to the right (which is why it is important to do as much, if not more on the right rein). We need to anticipate this resistance and concentrate even harder because it is easy to relax now that we have the left rein happening. Keep your eyes on the horses face and watch for their attempt to turn away from the circle. Respond dramatically with pressure on the rein and use of the whip to go forward. Once they attempt this successfully, you have a problem because they have discovered a way out. If you are able to prevent this from happening in the first place - Prevention is better than finding a cure (PBC) and you won't have any further problems, unless someone else inadvertently teaches them!
Once the horse understands that he is expected to go around in a circle, practise some transitions, using words which you feel comfortable with. I usually ask for - "Walk, then Trot, then Walk again, back to Trot, then Canter, Trot, Canter" because I want to maintain my control as well as their concentration by not letting them think that they can just take off when they like. (I do different exercises and sequences later on, when the horse is more advanced.) This is also why I don't like free lunging, with no rein. I don't think it achieves much and you can increase the chance of injury.
Some people think that it is bad to canter a horse on the lunge but like everything, I think it depends on how much you do of the same thing and whether the horse has been adequately prepared for the exercise. I think they need to learn how to canter circles because it is quite hard for them to do it and even harder once you are on their back. A few circles in canter at this stage is not going to harm them but I don't canter them with side reins until much later. This will also depend on the size of the yard and my preference, once they understand the principals is for a round yard, about 18 meters in diameter. This is a good multi-purpose size but can be a bit big for younger horses and a bit small for lots of riding or jumping.
The other contentious issue here is whether a horse should be allowed to turn into you. I prefer them not too because it can become an evasion from the lesson. I like to use the halt as part of my training and do a lot of transitions to and from the halt later on, so they must learn to stay on the track. If I ask them to come in, that is different but I have to be very clear with my aids.
In summary, the sequences to my lunging lessons are -
· To go around in a circle on both reins - walk, trot and canter.
· To go around in a circle with gear on, bridle and / or roller.
· To learn some transitions.
· To accept contact with the mouth, using side reins whilst lunging.
· To learn to halt on the track without turning in.
Like most lessons, this one requires time, observation and understanding. You need to be able to read the horses response from each step before you take the next one.
I put rollers on when the horses are yearlings and hardly ever have a problem or cause them to them buck. I have a stirrup strap attached to the 'D' on the roller, which runs around their chest and attaches to the other side of the roller, to keep the roller from slipping back, especially if the girth is not tight enough.
I always begin this lesson in a confined area, usually a stable because it helps them to concentrate on me. Once the horse is relaxed in the stable and with being groomed, I tie him up, let him sniff a saddle cloth and then place it on his back. This is usually accepted without question. I then place a roller quietly over their back, being careful not to slap them on the other side. I reach around for the stirrup strap and attach it to the buckle on my roller. I rub around the girth area, then reach under and bring the girth of the roller around to my side. I let them think about this for a moment or two, assessing their reaction. Once they are relaxed, I thread the strap through the buckle and just hold it, don't do it up.
At this stage, I un-tie them, and holding them with my left hand, I hold the girth strap in my right and I walk them around. This allows me to adjust the tightness of the girth according to their reaction. I find that once they are introduced to this sensation, they accept it quite easily and they only tend to buck if they are frightened or panic, which of course undermines the trust factor.
I used to start off using an elastic roller but never got a reaction, so I short circuit this now, unless I have a particularly sensitive horse. Once the horse is used to the roller I introduce the saddle which is not usually a problem and gets them used to more weight on their back. I continue using the saddle each time I lunge them from then on. I will also lunge them with the stirrups down at least once, so that they get used to them but I don't do this too often because I want them to respond to my legs when I'm on them and not just get used to them. It is also important to do this before you drive them in case the stirrups fall down and give them a fright.
Another contentious issue. I don't pick up legs on the foals for three reasons. One, my back is not good enough; two I don't have the time and three I find that it is quite a threatening procedure which requires considerable trust to be able to perform in a relaxed and positive manner. I don't find that foals have enough maturity or trust in me to accept this invasion comfortably. I have found that picking up legs when the horses are a bit older can be easier than when they are younger because they are more willing to work with you and accept the lesson.
I start by handling the legs, brushing them and then putting boots on. I find it annoying if a horse picks up his legs every time I want to put boots on. I would prefer for them to accept the pressure of handling and then wait for an aid to lift their leg.
I have had horses shod by a farrier, without the farrier ever realising that the horse has never had his feet picked up. If this situation arises, the horse can sometimes become a bit difficult on the third shoeing because they have had time to work it all out, but if you hold them correctly, they are not a problem. I find that horses can become quite difficult and are more of a problem if people have tried to pick up their legs and not held them correctly.
Putting a bridle on for the first time tends to be either a piece of cake or a really traumatic experience, depending on the horse and their level of trust. It is helpful if you gently rub the horses head first so he gets used to having his mouth and ears handled.
If the horse is relaxed and accepting then I place my right arm under his chin and hold the two cheek straps of the bridle in my right hand. I rest my right hand on the horses nose and gently dangle the bit below his lips. Once he is still, I lift my right hand so that the bit touches his mouth (my left hand supports and guides the bit). Some horses will start to play with the bit and will learn to take it into their mouth by themselves. This is an endearing and rewarding experience, so I always give them time to learn it. If they don't take up this opportunity, I place my left thumb into the side of their mouth and tickle the roof of their mouth until they open it. This allows me to lift my right hand further, lifting the bit into their mouth. Then my left hand takes hold of the bridle and at the same time I raise my right hand to slide the horses right ear forward and under the headpiece of the bridle. I then do the same on the other side, placing my right hand over their left ear and passing it under the headpiece of the bridle. This method gives me much more control over the movement of the horse head.
If the horse is a bit fractious to start with, I proceed in two stages. I undo the cheek strap of the bridle and place the headpiece of the bridle over their ears. I then open their mouth with my right thumb and pass the bit into their mouth, then do up the strap. This way we have no arguments and the horse learns to accept the bridle before we tackle the putting on phase.
It is of paramount importance that taking off the bridle is as methodical and relaxed as putting it on because if the bit hits the horses’ teeth during the process, it can be very painful and create bridle problems for the future.
Once the horse learns to accept the bit in his mouth without playing with it. It is time for him to learn about the use of the bit. It is important here to ensure that the horse has been seen by a dentist before you proceed and further. Again Prevention is better than finding a cure (PBC) and if the horse experience's pain with bit contact, it can become a major problem.
I introduce bit contact by lunging them with very loose side reins. I saddle them up normally and then place the roller with side reins attached over the top of the saddle. Once they have had a normal lunge, I face them back on the left rein and attach the side reins. You have to be careful that the reins are not too tight and that they go forward rather than run backwards and flip over, when you first start. As the horse starts to understand how to accept the bit contact, you can shorten the reins so that their face becomes vertical at the walk. Never have the reins so short that their face comes behind the vertical.
After I have lunged them both ways with the side reins on, I will sometimes leave them in the round yard with the side reins on, to think about things and work it all out by themselves. I never leave them for more than an hour because I don't believe that this is justified physically or mentally.
When I am happy with the horses’ progress and feel that they are accepting contact with the bit, I will commence the next phase in their education. This lesson teaches them how to slow down, halt and how to turn left and right, which is imperative if you want to ride them.
I will often introduce this lesson by standing next to them and putting pressure on one rein and asking them to turn their head left and then right. Then I start the lesson with a lunge, using a saddle and roller plus a bridle. I always drive with an FM bit which has longish shafts either side of the mouth. This helps to turn the horse without the bit being pulled through their mouth. I would also start this lesson in a round yard if possible but at least a confined area.
After a quick lunge, I face them back on the left rein, disconnect the side reins and connect the right driving rein to the bit. I then pass the driving rein through the right stirrup, which is down, fold the rein and lie it over the saddle. I then connect the left driving rein to the bit and pass it through the left stirrup. Make sure that the reins are folded in loops and not circles, so that your fingers don't get caught. Then slowly slide the right rein over their rump and allow it to sit just above their hocks. Stay standing on their left side and ask them to walk on.
You will find that most horses rush off to start with as they feel the rein around their back legs but they soon settle. Stay calm, talk to them and allow them to circle you. Bring them back to a walk and then using the left rein turn them onto a smaller circle. Once they are relaxed and listening, walk them onto the centre line and then walk behind them and change rein by opening your right rein, apply some pressure and relax your left. Make sure you keep them moving forward.
They may rush off as they feel the rein change sides, don't panic, just stay with them and allow them to circle as before. Bring them back to the walk and continue the lesson by changing directions, usually in a figure of eight pattern. This can eventually be done at the trot.
Once the horse starts to relax and accept direction from the rein, you can try introducing a halt, by talking to them as you pick up some contact with both reins. Once they are comfortable with this, I try one or two steps of rein back, no more at this stage. Each horse will react differently to this but be Persistent and Consistent (PC) by placing gentle and constant pressure on the reins without ripping their mouths open, until they respond and then release immediately.
When you and the horse become proficient at this, you can venture out of the confined area and explore roads and tracks but remember Prevention is better than finding a cure (PBC) so if you are not sure, don't try it.
This lesson is fun and very rewarding if the horse has been well prepared. I start the backing lesson by leading the young horse off an older horse, called ponying them. I do this with them fully tacked up and once they get the hang of being led from a different angle, I lean over their back, pushing down on the saddle and playing with the saddle flaps and stirrups as we go. This part of the lesson requires a good lead horse, an extra horse and rider to follow them up with a dressage whip and sometimes a "bum rope" just to begin with. The more you can do this the better and the young horses benefit physically and mentally from getting out and about a bit.
When I think they are ready to back, we start by sitting on them bare back in the stable. I will usually hold the horse and bunk someone very gently and quietly on to them. I will get the other person (wearing a crash helmet) to just lie across the horses back while I lead them around because it is easier for them to slide off if there is a problem.
Once the horse finds this acceptable, we progress to actually sliding a leg over their back and sitting astride. I support the riders left leg because it is easier and then get them to stay crouched low over the horses’ neck for a few seconds before sitting up. This ensures that the whole process is gradual and gives the horse plenty of time to absorb what is going on, so that there are no surprises.
When the rider is in the upright position and the horse is relaxed, we lead them around and then finish on a good note. Depending on the horse, we might do this a few times before getting on them out in the open and actually riding them.
Riding principals - The riders’ position needs to be effective and not just pretty, to be able to ride a young horse for the first few rides.
The pelvis must be square to the horse and in the centre, with equal weight in each seat bone (ischial tuberosity) and equal hips. It must be stable enough to support the upper body in an upright position as well as allow the legs to swing from the hip joints. If the rider tends to lean too far forward and / or look down, then too much weight is transferred onto the forehand and the horse starts to lean on the bit for support, ultimately affecting the way he goes, becoming heavy in the hand and lacking in self-carriage.
If you want your horse to be consistent in his movement and frame then you have to ride him consistently! This means not just in your aids and communication but also in your rhythm. The power of the 'Half halt' is also underestimated and under used, in order to keep the horses’ tempo. The half halt cannot be performed unless the rider has an effective position.
Hands MUST be vertical not horizontal, in other words, your thumbs must be on top not facing each other. Otherwise you will not have the necessary finger control or sensitivity required. Flat or horizontal hands become very fixed and hard.
Arms MUST be elastic and swing from the shoulder and elbow. Walk the walk with your hands, so that you follow the horses head and neck movements with a contact. Imagine your arm and rein as one long piece of elastic.
Riding - Stage 1
Once out in the open, we start in the round yard with the lead horse. We put a head collar over the bridle of the young horse and attach a lead rope. I position the lead horse at right angles to the young horses head, keeping a short lead and holding the young horse in front of my leg. The rider stands on a stool and quietly pats the horses shoulder, saddle and behind the saddle. They then mount the horse, talking as much time as they need to, to ensure that there is no adverse reaction. Once in the saddle, we just sit for a few moments and quietly pat the horse in front and behind the saddle.
We then walk off, with the rider just sitting quietly until the young horse is relaxed with the new feel of having a rider on his back. We then start introducing the basic riding aids. I will use my voice to stop and the rider will also use their voice with a 'Whoa', followed by their blocking seat and then a blocking hand.
We walk on by using our voice, followed by a moving seat and then pressure from the leg. We practise this a few times and then change direction. The acceptance and understanding of the aids start here and now, there is no reason to change the rules later on. So to change the rein, the rider should change their flexion aids with their inside leg to the girth and their outside leg, just behind the girth. The outside rein remains constant but still follows the head and neck movement and the inside rein opens around the turn.
The turn to the right can sometimes provoke a response from the young horse as he sees the rider on his back out of his right eye for the first time. The lead person should be prepared for this and keep a short hold on the lead. We practise a few walk - halt transitions and then change the rein again.
All going well, we should be back on the left rein and ready to try a trot. Before we do this, I get the rider to rise in the saddle a few times at the walk, just to prepare the young horse for the extra movement. We then use our voice to trot on, the rider sits quietly at first until the young horse is settled and then starts rising. We do the transition from walk to trot a few times and then change direction and repeat the exercise, then leave it for the day.
This lesson will be repeated until we feel comfortable taking the horse out of the yard. We then continue to work the horse this way, on a lead until we feel that the horse is ready to ride without it. To test this we use a longer lead and start to encourage the horse to walk on their own track and not close to the lead horse. We also swap sides and lead the young horse off the left of the lead horse, instead of the right. These two steps develop independence and confidence in the young horse.
Riding - Stage 2
Before riding out without a lead attached to the young horse, it is useful to reinforce the aids as well as the independence in the young horse.
So we go back to the round yard for this exercise. One person rides the young horse and another, who is used to lunging the horse stays in the middle. Practise some transitions with the lunging person taking the lead and the rider backing up with the correct aids for that transition. Once the horse is accepting of the rider and relaxed (usually after the second ride) then the rider takes the lead by giving the aids for the transition first, backed up by the person in the middle. This is all done with the lunge rein attached to the horse until both people feel comfortable and safe to remove it. We practise walk, trot and canter during this exercise and is a valuable step in their learning.
Riding - Stage 3
Out through the bush in company. As always it is important to use the right GEAR - preferably a stock saddle, breast plate, running martingale and a FM bit or hannoverian noseband. A dressage whip is a good idea as well (use this in the round yard first before you go out). These may vary with the horse but for the first few rides they assist as precautionary measures by increasing the riders’ level of control.
Riding out should always be with at least one other horse, which is quiet and reliable. The horse tends to go through stages whilst getting used to the rider on its back and developing the necessary independence. At first they appear lazy and unresponsive to the leg but it is just part of their lack of understanding which takes a while to sink in. They experience considerable physical changes as they learn to carry a rider, which can make them quite stiff and even sore. Schooling starts to take place once the horse is going forward confidently and encouraging a long & low outline is useful to alleviate physical and mental stresses. Commence transitions, including within the selected pace, such as shortening and lengthening the stride. Leg yielding and shoulder in exercises are also possible along a road or bush track.
Out through the bush on their own is the next stage and requires a confident and competent rider It is important that the young horse learns to develop greater independence once he has been prepared adequately.
Riding - Stage 4
Once the young horse has been hacked out for a few weeks he is ready for the next step in his education - going out.
Outings to appropriate events can be very threatening with noises and levels of activity, not experienced before. One should start with a small, low key club rally, clinic or small event and preferably not an Agricultural show with side shows etc. The first outing should involve no more than being led around (either on foot or off another horse) and being tied up (supervised).
Clinics are the next step, so that the young horse can get used to being ridden in a strange environment with horses around him. It takes a while for them to get used to horses coming up behind them or at them. Don’t expect too much and keep it simple.
Riding - Stage 5
Once you have established the flat work and you feel your horse is ready, then select an event which is inviting, safe and low key. All the hours of preparation will finally pay off when you finish your first event without incident and your young horse has taken the quantum leap into the world of competition with confidence and understanding.
Horses already know how to do this in the wild but now they have to carry a rider as well as go over strange looking objects. So the horse has physical AND mental challenges to contend with. The physical challenge can be overcome by starting with trot poles and gradually introducing little cross rails or better still small logs. This way the horse can build the muscles and develop the co-ordination necessary to progress onto bigger fences in time. As the horse becomes fitter and more supple with correct riding and schooling, they will be capable of more.
It helps to approach the mental challenge of jumping with a willing and trusting horse to begin with. It can help to lunge them over a few poles before riding them and then go out with an experienced horse as a lead and approach each obstacle in a straight line with forward, no fuss riding. If all the preparation and conditions are right, there should never be a problem BUT don't expect too much too soon. This seems to be the most common problem, where the horses are just so trusting and generous that they go on giving and the rider gets carried away and does not know when to stop. You need to stop on a good note and not before they start to lose confidence or get tired and sore.
Variations to obstacles, such as water or plastic often need to be approached with considerable thought. DON'T approach either type of obstacle thinking 'I wonder what he'll do?' If the water is too small in area and the horse can step around or over it, then don't attempt to make an issue of it. Remember prevention is better than finding a cure. Try by starting out with a large puddle on the road or track, have a lead horse with you and just walk through it as if it wasn't there. Repetition is important so that the horse gets used to doing it and it is part of his routine. Build his confidence, don't make it an issue.