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Tue, 2017-04-04 09:02

Young Horses Take Their Own Courses: Introducing the 6-year-olds

Authored By: Lauren Kieffer
Lauren Kieffer schooling Get Gaudi. Sue Clarke Photo.

Two-time USEA Lady Rider of the Year, Olympic and Pan-Am Games rider, Lauren Kieffer is taking the USEA along on “bringing up babies” as she shares a year in the life of four of her 6-year-olds in their journey to become top level event horses.

I’m very excited to bring everyone along on my journey producing what hopefully will be future stars of our sport. Before we begin there are a few rules:

• No pointing out my lack of writing ability; I spent a lot more time riding then writing in school

• These horses are like my children, so I am allowed to point out their weaknesses and make fun of them, but if any of you do you better bet I will hunt you down…. just kidding, sort of . . .

• You can have some say in the content of these blogs, please feel free to email me with any suggestions or requests for upcoming blogs

And now to introduce our equine subjects:

Landmark's Mochachino at the 2017 ICP Symposium. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo

Landmark’s Mochachino aka Mocha is a homebred of Jacqueline Mars and Landmark Stables. He is a dun paint gelding by Maxamillion and out of one of the original Landmark homebreds, Tyrell. He has grown up in the USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) and Young Event Horse (YEH) programs with fairly average results, with his final scores ranging from 68%-82%. However, he has had stellar horse trial results. He handily won the Training Three-Day at the 2016 Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event last October and successfully made the move up to Preliminary in January.

Landmark's Apollo. Sue Clarke Photo

Landmark’s Apollo aka Apollo is another of our homebreds from Landmark Stables. He is a large bay gelding by ROC USA (Dutch Warmblood) and out of Sunset Paradise, an OTTB mare that many of you may remember Karen O’Connor competing through Intermediate. He has also grown up in the FEH and YEH programs with a wide range of scores from 66%-83%. He has done fairly well in horse trials, competing through Training level. Apollo has very strong dressage scores and is a good cross country horse, with show jumping being his least consistent phase. 

Gomarus. Sue Clarke Photo

Gomarus aka Gomar is a recent addition to the program and arrived just before New Year’s. He is from the Netherlands and has a background in smaller dressage and show jumping competitions, but had never jumped a cross-country fence before I got him. He is a tall black gelding by Ultimo and out of Zomara, his lines include Chin Chin, Landgraf, and Nimmerdor. His eventing debut has been successful so far – winning all three of his starts (two Beginner Novices and one Novice) by finishing on his dressage score (including an 18 at Exmoor Horse Trials) 

Get Gaudi. Sue Clarke Photo

Get Gaudi aka Gaudi is our most recent addition and was purchased from Matt Flynn mid- January. She is a typey blood bay KWPN mare by Alicante HBC and out of Second Floor.  Her eventing experience is winning a YEH qualifier at Surefire in the summer and then finishing second in the YEH East Coast 5-year-old Championships at Fair Hill. We successfully completed our first competition together by winning the Open Novice at Three Lakes at the end of February.  

So, although all four of these horses are the same age, and with the same goal in mind – becoming successful upper level event horses – they are and have been and will be, produced very differently depending on their mental maturity, physical maturity and experiences along the way. 

In the following blogs I'll share with you how they are progressing, and what different exercises I utilize to develop them. I must first credit the O’Connors for teaching me how to break the young horses, all of this has come from my experiences with them with my own little tweaks and additions along the way.

The end goal with any horse is to create a horse that is confident, balanced, rideable and happy in their work. Certainly everyone has their own way they would like a horse to go, but I think there are key things to make a horse that anyone can get on and enjoy. On the flat they must understand how to travel straight and relaxed, and after that they must be able to yield to pressure, whether that be yielding to the bit, or your leg, and eventually the shifting of your weight. Every time you are teaching a horse an aid, the goal is to eventually make the aid as subtle as possible, always beginning with the subtlest version of the aid, and then increasing the intensity until they yield to the pressure, then immediately releasing that pressure/aid.

For jumping, I want a horse that jumps and stays within the same rhythm, has a consistent and reliable shape and is safe and aware of their own legs and the fence. I don’t want to create a horse that I must always dictate when and where to leave the ground and how hard to jump. My responsibility as a rider is to put the horse into a balance and canter that gives them the ability to do their job, and then if I taught them correctly, I should be able to leave them alone to do it. The one thing we need to keep in mind when developing young horses is that the language they understand is the application and release of pressure, that is the most effective way to teach them a new concept in a way they understand. 

So please feel free to write with any requests for upcoming blogs and in my next update I will explain some specific exercises I have been using with each horse and why.

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