The Young and Future Event Horse article series is being provided through a partnership between Mythic Landing Enterprises, LLC., and the USEA.
One of the biggest training hurdles you can face with young 4-year-olds is correctly teaching them to move forward into your hand. Although it sounds quite simple, this fundamental skill must be developed at an early age. It is necessary for them to learn this if they’re going to successfully continue their training progress. International event rider Will Faudree, who has brought many horses up the ranks of eventing, likes to introduce this concept in a simple manner, and one that is easy for the horse to begin to understand.
“The basis of this exercise is teaching your young horse that when you close your leg, it doesn’t just mean for them to go faster, it means for them to connect themselves,” Faudree describes.
Faudree encourages riders to not worry about what their horse is doing with their head. Instead, keep a healthy contact without asking your horse to come round with your hand. Once you’re ready to pick up a trot, Faudree encourages the rider to actually push their horse past their preferred rhythm so they can start to learn to reach for the bit.
Once you have worked through this at the trot, make sure to try this at the canter as well, all the while thinking about moving their hind legs forward into the contact. Faudree likes to introduce this on straight lines and large circles at both the trot and canter. His goal is to create a situation where there is never a reason for your horse to become backed off or start to fall behind your leg.
“Every horse is different, so I may spend more time on straight lines with some, but on circles with others. Also, there is nothing keeping you from only doing this in the arena; a nice, level field is also a great place to school your young horse,” Will describes.
As you begin to introduce this concept to your young horse, Faudree discusses a few training issues that may arise when you try this exercise the first few times.
“The biggest issue I’ve faced is my horse bolting off when I close my leg.” Faudree continues, “If your horse bolts, let them run for a step or two without touching their mouth. Then, calmly, bring them back to the trot. You don’t want to punish them for technically doing what you asked. It’s all about teaching them that closing your leg doesn’t mean to just go faster, it means to connect yourself from back to front.”
In contrast, if you have a lazier youngster, loop your reins and kick them into a faster pace whether its at the trot or canter. In our sport today, it’s critical that they learn to carry themselves with impulsion not only in the dressage, but in both jumping phases as well.
Faudree likes to do this exercise with his 4-year-olds two days in a row and then gives them the next two days to walk up and down hills to build strength and let their mind soak it all in. After those two days he’ll revisit this exercise again and build upon that and will also always incorporate this idea into his warm-up before a jumping session.
Stay tuned for Part Two where Faudree discusses his favorite flatwork exercise to work on with his developing 5-year-olds.
Based out of Gavilan Farm in Southern Pines, North Carolina, Will Faudree is a household name in the sport of eventing. A current member of the U.S. Training Squad and a short-list member for the 2012 London Olympic Games, Faudree has and continues to bring many talented young horses up the ranks in the sport. His experience with young horses has allowed him to develop a patient and methodical training program that sets his horses up for continued success. To learn more about Will and his program, please visit his website: http://willfaudreeeventing.com/