Entering the startbox at an event fills us all with mixed emotions – excitement about the round ahead, nerves around how your horse will do or worry that you’ll let him down. If this isn’t enough, some horses don’t make life easy for us by either getting over-excited in the box or refusing to enter in the first place. The 10-second countdown can feel more like 10 minutes as you try to hold it all together. But fear not, eventer Flora Young shows you how to practice at home and in no time at all, you’ll be in full control.

Recreate a startbox

Even if you’re feeling as cool as a cucumber, there could be something about the startbox that your horse doesn’t like. Whether he’s not keen on the shape, or dislikes feeling enclosed, some horses are simply a bit spooky and need to be desensitised to the idea of a startbox at home.

“You can easily recreate one at home” says Flora. “Use some wings and a couple of poles to create an area that gets your horse used to how it feels inside a startbox.”

Try this:

Place three pairs of wings in your school or paddock, with a pole on each of them, in the shape of a square (one side of the square will be open). Decide where your entry and exit points will be.

  1. Walk through your startbox, from the entry to the exit.
  2. Repeat this several times.
  3. On the next time through, ask you horse to halt in the middle of the box for five seconds.
  4. Walk out of the box.

You can repeat this as many times as you like to help your horse feel comfortable. If there’s enough room, you can also use the box to practise getting off to a flying start, so your horse becomes used to going in from a slow speed to canter in a calm, but positive and forward way.

Another top-tip is to not spend too much time in the startbox at an event. Ideally you want to be walking in on the final three seconds of your countdown.

To read the full feature from Flora, simply get your hands on the September issue of Your Horse magazine – on sale now.