Riders of young horses often ask: ‘How often should I ride out and what should I practise with a young horse.’ Progress through the training timetable is usually slowed down by the winter weather. Hacking out is primarily useful for loosening the horse in the first year of training. Weather and ground permitting, the young horse can be ridden out once he is accustomed to the rider’s weight, to loosen him up before work, or to dry him off afterwards. Given the chance, riding the horse outside to dry off in autumn and winter is an ideal opportunity to give him some fresh air and is a good way to prevent him from getting too excitable, which can happen if he spends a lot of time indoors.

When the weather is clear, it is often cold, so a short ride in walk and rising trot in the company of a lead horse is sensible. This can last up to half an hour and can replace the training session on some days.

Most going, including asphalt, can be ridden over in walk provided it is firm enough. When training an event horse this work, which can include short spells of trot on tarmac, is essential for hardening and strengthening the tendons and ligaments. It is important that the horse is shod for this type of work.

The horse should be introduced to different ground surfaces such as sand, grass or various tracks in trot and canter where suitable. The horse should be as calm as possible and not alarmed during his introduction to the big, wild world. The more the basic dressage training has progressed, the better the horse will be in response to th rider’s aids and the more obedient he will be when loosening up on a short hack. Young horses soon become accustomed to the bridleways near the school and enjoy the ride out.

Now is the time to introduce the young horse to new sights and sounds, such as open fields, tractors, stacks of wood and so on. For safety reasons he should be accompanied by an experienced horse in case he becomes afraid or tries to nap. Remember that forewarned is forearmed!

A horse with a normal temperament calms down quickly once he has seen something new as long as the rider is not nervous and handles him confidently. It is important that the rider maintains the contact and puts the horse in a shoulder-in position (i.e. flexed away from the object) and uses the aids to prevent him from running away. This is moment when the rider must be a tenth of a second quicker than the horse. The horse must learn to obey the rider’s aids and realize that being scared is not a reason to shy or run away. From time to time the horse must have more trust in the rider than fear of unusual situations. This helps the horse to develop a more balanced temperament.

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