We’ve pulled together a fresh batch of tips & tricks we’ve picked from some recent experiences…
It’s ok to go off plan
We’ve all been there; you’ve set out a session plan and put out your poles. You mount up only to find that the ready-to-learn youngster you had the other day is nowhere to be found. Instead you have an unwilling and stubborn baby who is not in a cooperative mood. And that’s ok because that’s young horses. They’re not always going to want to do what you had planned so sometimes you need to go off script and do something else. And sometimes that something else is hopping off and trying again another day.
Don’t measure yourself against the 4yo next door
If you’re in a big yard there’s bound to be at least one other youngster among the herd of liveries (in our case there was at least 4 at one time). When this happens there’s always the temptation to judge your horses progress against these other horses – “why isn’t my horse jumping a course of fences yet?” or “I’d love to be able to bring my youngster to their first show too” – but this is never a good idea. Every horse is different and needs to progress at their own pace. For example, Darielle & Dante did their first show a few months ago whereas Orla & Coco are yet to attempt a course at all. This is just how it goes sometimes, if you start rushing your horse to do things they’re not ready for, you risk scaring them off completely and giving yourself a world of difficulty to get them back to where they were. Just remember to go at your own pace and you and your horse will get there when you’re ready.
Max. 2 days hard riding per week
This is so important to remember when you’re bringing on a youngster. It’s so easy to forget that your horse is really only a baby and too much hard work can result in them turning sour and becoming unwilling to learn. To help avoid this we recommend: maximum 2 days hard work, 2 days off, and 3 fun or easy days mixing lunge work and hacking. You really need to be strict with yourself when it comes to this but it will pay off in the long-run.
Hack in the Arena
Given the nature of young horses it can sometimes be difficult to get out for a hack. Maybe your horse won’t hack alone just yet and you can’t find a willing partner to join you or maybe you just don’t have safe roads or a track to venture out to. If any of this applies to you, there is always the option of hacking in the arena. This is something that never occurred to me until my last lesson but I’m so very grateful for it now. All you do is walk around the arena for 10 or 15 minutes..and that’s it. Don’t be tempted to pop into a small trot or anything difficult – just walk. If you have a horse like Coco (easily exciteable by other horses/spooky/quick on her toes) this has so many benefits. Not only does it teach them that the arena doesn’t always mean work but if you’re doing it in a busy arena it helps your horse to realise that they don’t have to be doing what all the other horses are doing, that they can be chilled and do their own thing. It also gives you the opportunity to work on getting them long, low and relaxed in the walk so they can really stretch their back muscles which is always a good thing.
Sometimes you’ve just got to let them canter
This is such a simple and seemingly obvious idea, yet you’d be surprised how many people don’t realise how much simpler their life on their horse could be. Coco is a pretty buzzed horse a lot of the time and no matter how much lunging I do before I ride, she will still arrive at the arena with an abundance of energy. Ill bring her into trot and after a few strides she will attempt to pop into canter. I learned very quickly that fighting her when she’s like this is pointless and tends to result in a full blown tantrum. So I’ve discovered that the best thing to do is to let her canter. Do a few laps around the arena in a controlled but free canter and your horse will let you know when they’re ready to stop. Just be sure to warn your fellow riders of what you’re doing before you get going.
We hope you found our few pointers helpful and as always if you have any tips of your own please share by commenting below!
Orla & Darielle