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Top Tips For Training a Young Horse

Bringing on a young horse can be a very rewarding process but also a big responsibility. After all you are working with a blank canvas and the final picture will be the reflection of your training.

This post is by no means an extensive ‘how-to’ guide but it offers a number of useful insights for those who have already started their journey or are thinking about buying and training a young horse in the future.

1. Everything is abnormal

Nothing we do in horse training is ‘normal’ from the horses point of view and we must take great care to introduce new things slowly and give the horse time to adjust. For example taking the horse away from his buddies to work in a school is a big ask on its own. Horses are social animals and will always prefer to be near other horses. It might be the case that initially you will only be able to work your horse next to a field where he can see other horses or while a friend of yours is present in the arena with another horse. Taking your horse to a show is another big step which should ideally be broken down into other ‘mini steps’ – more about this topic in another post (watch this space).

2. Progress over perfection

While we should train our horse with a goal in mind, we should also break the training into small steps and reward any effort and progress the horse makes. The horse does not know what is right or wrong. They simply try different ‘answers’ to your ‘questions’ (aids/cues) and over time that response becomes conditioned (meaning: if you ask, you get the same ‘correct’ answer). The initial ‘answer’ will not be perfect but you should learn how to recognise when the horse has tried and structure your training in a way that allows your horse to understand what the ‘right answer’ is.

3. Rewards are key

So how does the horse know what the ‘right answer’ is? Great question! The simple answer is that you need to tell them 🙂  In most cases, this is in the form of a reward for the correct response. For example pressure release, either relaxing the reins when the horse slowed down (even if they slowed down only a little bit) or relaxing your lower leg when the horse moved forward.

The key is to reward (pressure release) as soon as the horse offers the response or something close to the response you want. Another type of a reward is rest – let the horse walk on the long rein or stand for a bit or many finish the session completely. You can also offer treats (many horse are food motivated) or a scratch on the withers which many horse also enjoy. You will get to know your horse over time and learn what motivates them – use it to your advantage!

4. Be patient and flexible

Training takes time. Rome was not built in a day 🙂 Absolutely have a long term plan and smaller, achievable goals to work towards to track your progress. But every horse is an individual and there are no fixed limits on how long certain training stage or task should take. Some days everything will fall in place beautifully and some days you will feel you have taken a few steps back. Don’t be discouraged – I promise you that everyone, a leisure rider or an Olympic champion, will have days like this. Remember that it is all part of a journey and focus on the bigger picture.

I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog post and feel free to drop me a message with specific questions about horse training or topics you would like to see next.

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