The Young and Future Event Horse article series is being provided through a partnership between Mythic Landing Enterprises, LLC., and the USEA.
Event horses must be quick-witted and ready for anything. Some are born with a natural cat-like ability to get themselves out of trouble, but fortunately for the rest, this can also be an acquired skill. Upper level eventer and active USEA Young Event Horse Competitor Earl McFall likes to introduce exercises that teach young horses where their feet are very early in their training. McFall outlined the first exercise in Part I, and now he’s back with another to help introduce adjustability and balance to the young event horse.
McFall likes to use this exercise for a mature 4-year-old or 5-year-olds because it can be quite difficult depending on the confidence level of your young horse. You will start by setting two poles or cavalettis on a straight line with 15 feet in between them. This exercise will either ride as a very short one stride, or a very long bounce. As you come through the first time, let your horse decide which is easier for them.
McFall explains, “For most horses, the short one stride is easiest. Once they’ve shown you what is easier for them, let them do that once or twice and then come around and try the harder option. This exercise is a nice progression from the circle exercise because you’re still asking them to adjust and compress and lengthen their stride, you just don’t have the circle to help you.”
This exercise offers a good challenge for a youngster without over facing them. You’re able to keep the questions small with just poles or cavalettis so that they can learn and make mistakes without complicating things with bigger jumps. Once your horse is comfortable with the exercise, be sure to incorporate it into a course and play with asking them for the one stride one time through and then the bounce the next time.
These cavaletti also offer great practice for the rider as well. McFall states, “To be successful with the short one stride, the rider needs to make sure the horse comes in on a ten or nine-foot stride, they can’t just hold for the add. The goal is to control their horse’s length of stride with their seat and leg, versus relying on their rein aids. As the riders play with the exercise, they start to learn and feel the difference in their horse’s stride when they compress it and when they lengthen it so they can adjust more accurately when they’re on course.”
McFall wants riders of these young horses to remember that when you’re riding a talented, capable young horse that you should expect a lot from them, but if they don’t succeed the first time, then back off a bit, and come back to the harder exercise once their confidence has been restored.
“An important piece of the training puzzle is understanding that your horse is green, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t learn quickly or respond positively to a challenge. The exercises I described do a great job doing just this, without making the jumps super hard,” McFall concluded.
Earl McFall is a graduate “A” Pony Clubber and has competed successfully in the Grand Prix jumper ring and the Advanced-level of eventing. Based out of Dragonfire Farm in Wilton, California, McFall is a very active eventing competitor and instructor that has brought countless horses up through the levels successfully with an emphasis on the Future and Young Event Horse program. McFall prides himself on being a very methodical and thorough trainer that instills confidence in his horses and students to allow them to achieve their goals.
To learn more about Earl McFall and his program, please visit the Dragonfire Farm website here: http://dragonfiresporthorses.com/