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What is more dangerous than riding an uneducated horse?

Kate Fenner - Saturday, April 13, 2013
young horse

Less than 5 minutes for the first 10 rides

I am often asked how long people should ride their young horses for and my answer usually surprises them. It's not uncommon to hear 'breakers' guaranteeing that they will 'ride your horse for at least an hour a day' when it is in training with them. Unfortunately these young horses simply don't have the mental or physical development to deal with such long sessions.

I want the horse to look forward to the ridden section of the lesson - the easy bit at the end that involves lots of praise. It is important that the horse comes away from the lesson with confidence and clarity and not stressed and exhausted. A tired horse is not learning anything (well, certainly nothing that you want it to know) but he is becoming fitter. What is more dangerous than riding an uneducated horse? Riding a fit, uneducated horse or riding a horse in pain! How well does your saddle fit? Did the 'breaker' have the saddle properly fitted to your horse or is he/she simply using their usual 'rough-out' saddle? Has the horse been long-reined in a soft frame and self-carriage in order to build up his top-line muscles to enable him to carry a rider? A horse in pain is learning a lot! Set your youngster up for success by making the ridden session short, interesting and confidence building. He has the rest of his life to 'get the miles under his belt' and have 'wet saddle-cloth days'. This is kindergarten - get this right, make this fun and the rest will be easy. 


This horse is now up to 15-20 minute rides

As Philippe Karl always says 'less kilometres'!

Danielle de la Mont commented on 09-May-2013 09:48 PM
I think a shorter ride/training time helps you as the rider-trainer to really concentrate on creating a very clear and concise cues as well. Even if the lesson you are teaching is not physically tiring for you the human, it can drain mentally I find and make your signals start to blur even if only a little after an hour straight, which could be especially detrimental to a horse on a steep learning curve.
Hillydale Ponies commented on 09-May-2013 09:48 PM
There is some scientific evidence that it is easy to overtrain young horses by doing too many repetitions and riding them for extended periods. An early study (1970s) found that 20 minutes twice a week was enough for new responses to be learned. We would never expect a person getting fit for a marathon to run the whole 42kms at race speed in their first training session, yet many training approaches marketed today expect the equivalent from horses. Great topic!
Anonymous commented on 09-May-2013 09:48 PM
I agree Danielle. I think we often underestimate the mental strain these lessons place on the (educationally) young horse.
Jeantte Lipscombe commented on 09-May-2013 09:48 PM
Thank you
Especially as the Breaker I'm riding I don't feel confident enough myself yet to Canter so like baby steps walk n trot are fine for now :-)
Anonymous commented on 09-May-2013 09:48 PM
You have got to think that if you are not completely confident then the horse won't be either. I always tell people that are doing a Foundation or Starting Under Saddle course with me that their homework is only to walk for the following 2 weeks, for example. They invariably return telling me how well the trot is going! You will progress when both you and the horse are ready and forcing it usually ends badly for both.
Look forward to hearing how your youngster comes along.

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