Take 5 Things- Points to remember when starting out on a young horse

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

Welcome to this weeks edition of Take 5 Things, this week we have Alice Lamming, an amateur eventer who with the help of her mum has brought on many young horses and introduced them to the exciting world of eventing, here she givers her top 5 tips that everyone should remember when working with young or inexperienced horses.

Alice and her young horse

About Team Glenview

I’m Alice and run the page Glenview Farm Equestrian on Facebook or Dark Horse Eventing on Instagram. I have been riding since day dot, mum evented with me in her stomach in fact! I grew up in Devon, spending most of my time outside on mum’s yard or at work with my dad who’s a vet. Despite the competition yard environment, my brothers and I were not remotely interested in competing, we enjoyed gymkhanas and countryside jaunts or building sandcastles in the arena! I had a bit of time out from horses as a teenager, but it soon found its way back to me. After university, I ended up in Cornwall and mum and I took on a yard to start competing and bringing on a couple youngsters.

Alice using poles to teach a young horse

Tips for young horses

Here are some handy tips I’ve learnt over the years.

1.Groundwork- This is the basis of starting a youngster and forming a partnership. Long lining is really beneficial to teach your horse to accept commands through a bit and rein contact and to get them to listen to your voice, the same can be said for lunging but it’s important to not overdo lunging at a young age and keeping them on a larger circle than normal. Lunge in different locations- fields and arena’s, away from home, so they learn about new experiences and don’t get comfortable in the same routine. Any form of in hand work will teach your horse to trust you. Some horses may fear noise - like the farrier working, ask your farrier to tie up a more experienced horse being shod next to their stable so they get used to the noise (and smoke), you can also ask your farrier to shoe them in different places on the yard so it’s not always the same. We had a youngster who hated plastic bags, so we hung them around his stable until he got used to them and eventually was able to walk over them. De-sensitizing training will set you up for the principles of ridden work.

2. Little and often -“Slow and steady wins the race”, I think this is relevant to all horse training but even more so with youngsters. Keep their workload light in the early years (3 – 5 years) but varied, don’t overdo the schooling in a school as it becomes boring and too much physically and mentally. How about if you’re going to school them, take them for a 15-minute hack beforehand or do 1 day of schooling a week and 2 days hacking then 1-day lunging or set up a small jumping lane to loose school.

3. Leg not hand- This applies to all riding but with youngsters they have teeth still forming and are still learning about accepting a bit. Sometimes the baby horses can throw their heads around when they are a bit tired or don’t understand what’s being asked of them. I’ve found that by not asking for a constant outline and relaxing the contact but keeping your leg on and sending them forward will install much more confidence than pushing for an outline. Always remember leg should come first.

4. Treat as an individual- Like people, every single horse is different and learns in a different way and with a different timescale to another. Just because one may have progressed quicker than another, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong, different breeds of horses learn in different ways and their frame forms at different stages. The Connemara’s tend to be very level-headed in their attitude to work but sometimes can be babyish on the ground. Remember to reward them when they understand and try for you but don’t be afraid to be firm when required.

5.Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional - There’s no shame in saying you need help; you can learn a lot from another person’s perspective and experience, and the EquiNation app is perfect for helping you to find the desired professionals in your area.

Alice during her training

Alice Lamming

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