Whether your horse is young, inexperienced, the new boy on the yard or an older horse trying something new for the first time – or if it’s just his first time with you in charge – here’s how to introduce your horse to competitions...
Whether you’re dealing with a youngster or have just bought a new horse, when it comes to taking him to his first competition the best advice is to wait until you know him inside out.
“Don’t be in a rush,” says trainer Claire Llewelyn, who never competes on a new horse until she feels she understands his mindset 100 per cent. “I’ve taken on former Olympic horse Shear H20 in his retirement, but even with a horse of his caliber it was six months before I took him to a show – and then it was an unaffiliated riding club dressage class!”
Instead, work with your trainer at home to fine-tune your aids and develop a relationship with your new or young horse, so the bond is there between you when you ask him to face a busy competition environment. Once you do feel he’s ready to be challenged, take him to a clinic, hire a venue or go for a training session away from home to build his confidence before he has to deal with the stress of competing.
When you go to a competition, it’s common for insecure horses to latch on to a travelling companion, but the only answer is ride positively and stay sharp. Jumping trainer Carol Mailer says: “You must be the only one your horse can turn to for security, so be particularly reassuring, while insisting he moves from your leg as and when you ask.”