Updated: Nov 30, 2022
There's nothing like the excitement of getting a new horse. It is an exciting and fun opportunity to get to know your new equine companion. However... what do we truly know of their history? It's important to get everything right from the start, health checks and settling them in with as little stress as possible. Despite our enthusiasm it's important not to rush...especially when it's going to be a life-long home. This blog article is full of top tips and ideas to help you.
For a while now, we have been on the look out for a new horse... A horse that will fit into life easily at Horses Inside Out...one that will enjoy participating in the hands-on practical courses as well as performing in lecture demonstrations as and when required.... a horse that I can enjoy riding and do some fun events with but one that would also be safe for my partner and dad to ride too! A tall order!! And Toby certainly reaches the height!
Last month Toby entered our lives!
Toby is a tall 17.2hh, 9 year old, Irish Sports Horse gelding.
He has competed in eventing up to FEI 2** in Ireland as a 6 and 7yo.
Then after the difficult year that has been 2020, not doing very much he came to Fiona Davidson Eventing to be sold along with his field mate.
The day we brought Toby home...
He quickly settled into life at the Horses Inside Out headquarters: Wavendon Grange.
Introducing a New Horse to the Herd
Taking time to gradually introduce horses to a herd is so important. This helps to minimise stress within the herd and help to reduce the risk of injury too.
We very carefully and gradually introduced Toby, to our little herd over a period of 4 weeks.
Week 1: We picked the easiest horse (or in this case pony), Pumpernickel, to introduce him to first. All went well. They were turned out together and stabled next door to each other together at night. They make a cute pair... little and large. Toby soon realised how much fun Pumpernickel can be although when it came to feeding time Pumpernickel was duly moved on!
Week 2: Next it was Freddie’s turn to go out with Toby. Freddie’s very quiet and submissive so all was well there. And the pair were even seen sharing a haynet in the "rollarium".
Week 3 and 4: We left the most boisterous and playful pair until last! They are well matched in size and age. After spending time in next door stables and fields, it was time to turn them out together. With both horses well booted up for protection it was fascinating to watch them work out their relationship. Initially Toby wanted nothing to do with Arty, he ran away from him with his ears flat back whenever he approached. However over time they started to play and mutual groom each other and now can be seen happily grazing together side by side.
Routine Checks for a New Horse
Part of starting a journey with a new horse means learning what their normal is, checking everything is just right for them and then making a plan for manage and get the best for them going forward.
It is really important to have a proactive approach to monitor worming across the herd. We use Intelligent Worming as they offer a great service and peace of mind. Toby has had a worm count and the results have shown no eggs or worms seen - so this is a great start.
Making sure we only ever ride in correctly fitting tack that is comfortable for the horse is vital for keeping your horse pain-free and performing well.
Following a fitting, Toby has a new saddle on order from Wow saddles. I love the flexible nature of these saddles. The flexible tree as well as the adjustability the flair system allows.
It's not just the saddle and girth that is important. Correct bit and bridle fit too. It turns out Toby has a larger mouth than all of my other previous horses so he needed a new bit! I am currently working on a book all about the anatomy of the horse's head related to bridle fit and design which I hope to publish later this year so watch out for that!
Hoof Balance and Health
After having his feet x-rayed to study the alignment and hoof balance. This gave us an insight in to the types of shoes and also the correct fitting required for Toby. This will help to improve his hoof balance, placement and performance.
He's having his teeth checked at the beginning of July with Dr Chris Pearce from the Equine Dental Clinic. Chris has spoken at our annual conference a number of times now and he is a world authority on equine dental health.
Musculoskeletal Health and Posture
Getting a musculoskeletal therapy practitioner to assess your new horse early on is important as it can help you to better understand your horse, his needs and identify areas that need addressing.
I performed a postural and musculoskeletal health check with Toby to assess his strengths and weaknesses. He needs better lateral stability behind and there are definitely improvements we can make to his posture - particularly in relation to the position of the base of his neck and the thorax between his front legs. Learn more about this in my recorded webinar 'Understanding and Assessing Your Horse's Posture' available in the Horses Inside Out Academy.
And so commences the regular therapy sessions for Toby. I have created a tailor made programme of exercises to specifically address his weaknesses and I am looking forward to seeing his progress as he improves.
If you are interested in bringing your horse here to Wavendon Grange for a postural assessment we can develop a tailor made exercise programme to improve your horse's posture and musculoskeletal health. Read more about the equine therapy services we offer HERE.
Working out the nutritional needs for your new horse is vital for maintaining gut health. However it is important to make changes gradually to allow the microflora in the hindgut time to adapt to the new feed. Read more about the digestive system and keeping it healthy HERE.
Considering the change in diet your horse will have just by moving onto different grazing and hay sources when he changes yards there is likely to be some disruption to his digestive tract. Speak to an independent nutritionist for advice on what is best for your horse.
Massage and Pilates
Spending time massaging your horse and performing basic pilates exercises is great to help him relax into his new home and help you both to develop a good relationship. It is also a great opportunity to learn about him, his body, what is normal for him and what he likes and dislikes.
Toby joined in on the Massage and Pilates courses for horse owners at the end of May which he thoroughly enjoyed. He LOVED the massage techniques and pilates exercises particularly the weight transfers and rhythmic sways! He was everybody's friend lapping up the attention. I can tell he is going to be a firm favourite at courses in the future.
Find out more about upcoming courses HERE
Getting to Know Your Horse and Training Aims
In terms of riding, it's always worth going back to basics with a new horse. Start on the ground with simple handling exercises, progress to lunging - perfect the voice aid transitions so you understand each other before you even start riding. Check out the Poles for Posture video for in hand exercises you can do with your horse to help develop your relationship.
It turns out there are a few gaps in Toby's education. In my opinion he lacks some body awareness and proprioception. For example when lunged over trot poles, if he approached them perfectly he moved well over them however when slightly off on approach he lacked the ability to think for himself and adjust his stride length and hoof placement. So lots of exercises for developing hoof-brain coordination are necessary!
Last week Toby took part in a live painted horse lecture demonstration... We are currently filming for the Autumn series of webinars. Toby appears in episode 2 - Riding from the Anatomical Perspective and helps to illustrate the part on the importance of respiratory muscles!
Find out more about that series HERE
I hope you have enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you any ideas or experiences with introducing a new horse to your new home please do share them in the comments below.