A young horse is a blank canvas, so teaching him the right foundations is essential. Eventing and dressage trainer Antonia Brown shares three exercises that will help set your young horse up for life.
Exercise 1: Build balance with transitions
Teaching a young horse how to balance himself can be tricky but it’s important to crack it. An unbalanced horse can trip if you ask for a transition too abruptly.
How to ride it
- For a smooth walk-trot transition, start with an energetic walk down the side of your arena.
- Sit tall and central in the saddle, keeping your seat deep.
- Hug your horse with your legs.
- Use your voice to ask him to trot and give him a little nudge with your heel. You’ll work out how much weight you need to put into that nudge depending on your horse’s response.
Practise the walk-trot transitions until you’re happy that the transitions are smooth enough before starting on the next exercise. If he does it successfully, praise him immediately.
If you don’t get a reaction first time, use a stronger leg aid, or if necessary, give him a tap with your whip.
Exercise 2: Perfect the halt
One of the most important exercises that you can teach a young horse is to stop and go forward with ease. If your horse ignores your aids by bracing his neck or swinging his body around when you ask him to stop, then try to get him to listen to your seat rather than your hands by keeping a light contact on the reins.
How to ride it
- Walk down the centre line of your arena, with a light contact on the reins, keeping him in front of your leg by squeezing lightly.
- Increase the weight on your seatbones and use your voice to ask him to halt.
- Gently apply pressure to reins while maintaining your normal leg position.
- As he slows, release your rein pressure.
- Once at a halt praise him and walk him on again.
Practise riding your walk to halt transitions on the centre line and at the markers around your arena until you feel your horse is listening to your seatbones. This may take a bit of practice before he gets the knack of it.
Exercise 3: Use lateral work for leg yields
Leg yield helps get your horse listening obediently to your leg aids.
How to ride it
- In trot on the right rein, ride down the quarter line of your arena.
- Move your weight onto the right side of your seatbone and ask your horse to move away from your calf by adding pressure with your right leg behind the girth.
- Use a soft hand on your right rein to guide him across the arena towards the track, engaging your inside leg.
- Once you reach the track, straighten and ride forward and out of the leg yield.
Keep practising until your horse doesn’t need to fall back to the track and can comfortably leg yield across the arena.
Meet the expert: Antonia Brown has successfully competed at 5* level eventing and has an excellent reputation for producing outstanding young horses that often excel in both dressage and eventing.