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Riding in Harmony and Lightness.

ABig ANormal ASmall

Added on: 03.11.2009


The early experiences of a young horse are enormously important. The start of everything is to gain the trust of the horse. If there is no trust, the horse is afraid and communication is limited.

Application of Classical Principles

  • early experiences of the young horse,
  • starting a young horse,
  • developing agood base,
  • how to motivate horse and rider,
  • characteristics of a good Grand Prix horse. 

 Early experience of the young horse

  • positive learning,
  • developing a relationship between horse and rider.

The early experiences of a young horse are enormously important.
The start of everything is to gain the trust of the horse. If there is no trust, the horse is afraid and communication is limited.

My intention is, that horses enjoys my company. They should find it interesting to communicate with humans and they should be curious to find out what we want from them.

But, communication is always a two way street; we also have to watch them, listen to them and find out what interest them and makes them happy.

In a lot of breeding farms, especially in the south of Europe, foals are born outside and have very little contact with humans. They live in big herds, a circumstance which can be very enjoyable for the horse but a bit difficult for us. For the lack of contact they are afraid of humans.

My foals learn early on to wear a halter, they are lead to the field and back to their stalls, they learn how to lift all four of their feet and have them picked out and they are groomed now and then.
However they also have their time to be a horse, time to be out in a green field with their mother, to run and play and get exercise.

Once they are weaned from their mother (around 6 months old) I believe it’s equally important that they are at least with one horse their age to keep and train their social skills. In the whole training process we should not forget about these requirements of horses.

Starting a young horse 1

  • longing.

When the horses are close to 3 years old I start to work with them, prepare them to be ridden.
The ideal situation for this is a round pen. Here I can work the horse without any additional equipment.

Should you not have access to one of them I recommend a cavason (type of longing halter).
to which I attach the longe line. The cavason creates a firm feel on the nose and I can control the horse with minimal pressure. Important is that the cavason is padded with leather so that I never hurt the horses nose. I never attach the longe line to a bit because the horses mouth is by nature very sensitive and we want to keep it this way. Additionally, I want the horse to feel comfortable with the bit and should therefore never be pulled on - not only under the saddle but already starting at the longe.
It’s important to start with simple things and take small steps. Horses should be worked gradually. So, at first no saddle, no bit, no bridle, just the cavason plus the longe line.

Take your time and train the voice commands. Even horses that have never been longed before will after 15 to 20 minutes understand: walk, trot, canter, halt!

It doesn’t matter what language you say it in. What matters is the tone of your voice. If you want the horse to walk, your command should have a calming tone:”waaaaalk”. If you want your horse to go from walk into an upward transition it should have an uplifting quality: “trooooat”.

Again the word is not what makes the command, it could be:”true”, and the horse will still trot.
If the horse is supposed to make for example a downward transition and he is not responding to your command, than try to stretch the word even longer:” waaaaaaaaaaaaaaalk”. Every horse responds to this, unless they had a bad experience and they are afraid.

Starting a young horse 2

  • longing with saddle,
  • sitting on the horse.

The next phase would be to add a bridle with a bit and a saddle. I like to start with a sir single which is the mildest way to get a horse get used to pressure on the back and belly. If you start with a saddle use a lightweight saddle - a saddle without stirrups.

Take everything gradually. See how the horse reacts, make sure he is not getting nervous, that he is not afraid and that he doesn’t panic. If you do notice that he horse is tense, you have to take a step backwards and maybe longe the horse without saddle or sir single, or maybe hand walk at first.
Traditionally most trainers use side reins with a young horse. In the past I did use them myself to give the horse the idea to go round and to have contact with pressure on the bit.

In recent years though I am not using any side reins and definitely  no draw reins - I don’t even own a pair - I have no use for them.

In the picture above, Goldmark, a Rhinelander gelding,  is able to stretch forward and down without any reins, just has the reins on the bridle wrapped around so he can’t step on them. There is absolutely no pressure and the horse is in phase 1 beginning to stretch and in phase 2 all the stretched down. You can influence this again with your voice. Like I am actually riding. When I notice that the neck is too high, it means that the neck and back muscles are tensed. How do you get the neck lower without the use of reins? I relax the horse - with my voice.


List of comments
Nick: iza90
Date: 05.12.2009
Do mnie również ten artykuł przemówił. Bardzo klarownie opisane. Może wreszcie niektórzy ludzie zrozumieją, że bez patentów można wyszkolić doskonałego konia :)
Nick: Berk
Date: 20.11.2009
Dziękuję za ten artykuł - bardzo pięknie opowiedziane i bardzo wspierające.