Oct 26, 2015

Taking Your Young Horse Off The Property For The First Time With Melissa McMaster

Melissa McMaster with a future event horse. Photo Courtesy of Melissa McMaster.

The Young and Future Event Horse article series is being provided through a partnership between Mythic Landing Enterprises, LLC., and the USEA.

Melissa McMaster began riding when she was only two years old and was instantly hooked. McMaster’s career started following in her mother’s footsteps when she started competing in the jumper ring. After her first experience cross-country schooling, McMaster decided to try her hand at eventing and began competing in Horse Trials 7 years ago.

After moving to Florida to expand her education in eventing, McMaster quickly made a mark on the sport by bringing her current upper-level mount, MMC Paddy Patterson, from Beginner Novice to the Intermediate level. She currently has a few talented youngsters in her string and has experienced great success in both the Future and Young Event Horse programs.

Taking your young horse off the property for the first time is a big first step in their journey into becoming a competitive event horse. They must be able to keep their cool and cope with the environment in order to produce a successful result. McMaster offers advice for riders looking to acclimate their horses to different surroundings before actually taking them off the property to their first show.

McMaster explains, “I do whatever I can think of to de-sensitize my horses before I take them to even their first schooling show. I’ll have kids over to the barn, I’ll hand-graze them while I’m teaching a lesson and even let my dogs run around and play near the youngsters. Just having your horse watch other horses moving is very beneficial to their training. I always try to take it slow and build their confidence gradually.”

It’s important when you’re in the process of training a young horse that you make sure to constantly reassure them and praise them for being good. McMaster continues, “You have make sure that they know that they’re loved that they can put their trust in you. Assure them that you won’t put them in a situation that they won’t be successful in. Once my horses get to the point where they looking at me for what’s next, I know they’re ready to move on to something a bit more difficult.”

When your youngster is ready to make the step of actually being taken off the property, McMaster suggests taking them to a local schooling show to let them take in the atmosphere.

“I’ll load my young horse on the trailer, get the show and just walk them around and have them get familiarized to the environment with loud noises and a lot of horses and riders walking around. I’ll make sure my horse stands ringside and watches a few classes and after that I’ll pack him up and take him home. Keeping everything as relaxed as possible is the key,” says McMaster.

When it’s time to take your horse to their first FEH or YEH competition, be prepared that your horse is most likely going to be spooky and may be even scared at times. McMaster suggests, “If you can, make sure they have a buddy, especially if you have an older horse in your barn that you can take to set a good example. Be prepared that your horse isn’t going to know what they’re doing and will be nervous in a brand new environment so it’s your job to stay relaxed and reassure them that everything will be fine. Take extra time for them to walk around and explore everything before it’s time to compete. The more you can expose them to early on, the more they will excel down the road at higher profile competitions.”

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