Eqclusive Blog: 19/12/17
I am now into the full swing of ‘no eventing mode’! It is lovely to have a few weeks of not having to get up pre 4 am at the weekends, and to also to be a normal family member and friend in the run-up to Christmas!
I have been on a lovely holiday with my boyfriend, and since have been lucky enough to go to some awards dinners, Olympia with my European team members, and Sports personality of the year, which was very exciting.
The yard has been kept up and running by my fantastic support team at home, the event horses all had a short holiday, or have been working on specific training issues, and we have been backing some youngsters. We don’t do a high number of breakers at our yard but if an owner if interested in sending a young horse for me to compete, I quite like to start them myself so that we know exactly what training they have had from the very beginning. Every young horse is different, so we try to follow a similar training pattern but be ready to adapt to each young horses needs. Every yard will do breakers slightly differently, but I thought I would take you through our system at home.
Our set up at home is not designed for young horses. We have a lot of open spaces, no lunge pen, walker or small arena. Because of this, we take our time, but the positive side is that we spend plenty of time doing groundwork before we get on which often makes the getting on bit stress-free. We get the tack on in the stable fairly early on, and then start lunging. Once they are established on the lunge we introduce a 2nd lunge line, and will then progress to long reining around the arena. We then spend the next part of the horse’s education out on the farm on the long reins. I love being out of the arena with the young horses as they have so much to look at that they generally enjoy going to explore, and also become less bothered about what is attached to or on top of them!
During this period of long reining, we will also be leaning over, patting, flapping and playing with the horses in an enclosed space in the yard. Normally we end up getting on them without planning as they get so used to us leaning over them. Once they feel established at steering out on the long reins, we get the rider on board in the arena and out on the lunge until they are competent in trot. Recently we have had a horse who was very happy with a rider on them on the left rein, but more flighty on the right rein. We made the decision to ignore the right rein, get him confident trotting on the left rein and then get out hacking to let the right rein issue sort itself out. Once we are safe in trot, we go for a walk down the drive and up the road, and then introduce a horse and off they go. The next few weeks of education we try to do out hacking. The horses learn to look out in front of them and go forwards which is key for an event horse.
This winter we have had a few cold spells where it has been too icy to go out on the roads. We have spent a couple of sessions with the young horses on the lunge, walking up down the steps in our arena, popping over the ditch, and trotting the logs. They have loved it and it is a great introduction to what is to come for them.
I am eventing five horses that we have broken ourselves, and it is so rewarding. They also help you to understand what is important for you as a rider in terms of training. Riders are also all different to horses. For example, it is very important for my horses to learn to go with their noses out on the xc, but without pulling as I am small and do not have the strength to be able to change pace by pulling. Therefore, for me, the early days with a horse are all about teaching balance and self-carriage, but not necessarily about the horse having to have his head in a certain place.
Right, it’s time for me to go home and finish my online Christmas shopping before the postage deadline! I’m terrible for leaving to the last minute. Merry Christmas everyone, and I’m looking forward to getting the horses out and about in the New Year!
Photo by Jon Stroud Media