Planning a training regime and competition schedule for the young horse versus the experienced horse

Following on from Kate Dwyer’s last blog post on preparing and planning for the season ahead, this week she focuses on the young horse and how the training regime and competition schedule should differ from that of an experienced horse…

Get the basics right, whilst keeping them interested

With the young horse, it is so important to keep their work varied and positive! My training with any of my young horses is never more than 4-5 days per week.

During training sessions in the arena, my focus is all about the basics – creating rhythm and relaxation in all three paces. I like to keep the workouts short and sweet with a nice positive, forward thinking attitude. By building a solid foundation with your horse at this stage of the training, the partnership is able to progress up the levels at a steady pace. Most problems that riders and trainers face stem from a problem in their basic work. Therefore, the basics are something that should be constantly worked on, even when you reach the higher levels.

Warm up is such a crucial part of any horse’s training, regardless of their level. I spend at least 10 minutes in the walk. I feel that so many people rush their warm ups, especially the walk work, which is an ideal time to create relaxation with your horse.

Variety is key with the young horse. I like to do a few days in the arena, hack (if it is safe to do so), take them to the beach and do some jumping. By taking the young horse away from home for schooling sessions, it helps to de-sensitise them to ‘monsters’ and also to your mode of transport.

First steps at early shows

When I go schooling or even to a competition, I try to keep my warm up the same as at home. Lots of walk, focussing on the rhythm and relaxation. As a rider, it is an influential time for your partnership at these new venues. It is all about keeping it positive for them and allowing them to be young horses. If they spook or look at new things, I don’t like to over react if I can as by making a big deal out of it, it becomes a big deal! You need to make your relationship with them in the ring one of harmony and trust. With the young horse you want to build their confidence, it’s not all about winning. In the long run you will reap the rewards!

When planning my competition schedule for my young horses, the choice of venue is high on my list. I, as the rider, want to make their first experience as positive as I can. I like to ensure that there are lunging facilities available. If possible good parking is essential, safety has to be at the forefront of your mind, especially with the less experienced horse.

Another factor is adequate time. Allow extra time in your planning to arrive at the venue early. Remember that you want relaxation and it is nice to be able to allow your horse time to unwind after what may have been a stressful journey.  I find it is also helpful for the rider, especially if you struggle with nerves.

Put yourself to the test

Test riding is also an important part of my training and my competition preparation. Setting up an arena and riding through your test really opens the rider’s eyes to how difficult it can be to ride the movements one after the other! I also find it helps me to memorise my tests. Knowing my tests inside out is a big part of being competitive. It allows you more time to focus on the job and to not be stressing as you are in the arena.

In comparison to the young horse, my training regime with my more experienced horses only really differs in the amount of work and my expectations of them. I still only ride them a maximum of 5 days per week. Even with my top horse Fabio, there is a huge focus on his basic work. I like Fabio’s workouts to increase during the week and then decrease again as I mentioned earlier. I then have my days where I increase the workload where I may focus more on the trot work one day and then on the canter work another day. I normally involve movements that require a higher degree of collection such as piaffe and passage in the trot and the canter pirouette. I then decrease his workload to allow his muscles to recover.

Like the young horse, his work does vary and I bring him for canter work on the gallops or to the beach for a change of scenery. At the competitions with my more experienced horse, my planning is much the same as the young horse. Even experienced horses deserve time to settle on arrival at the show. I bear in mind that at my first show of the season, after a winter at home, that even my experienced horse who has seen and done it all, may be feeling a bit fresh! This to me is a great thing and something that I consider positive. It just might mean disappointing results! But hopefully this will only be temporary.

Best of luck for the season ahead!

Kate x

At-a-dressage-show

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