Updated: Nov 15, 2022
You've found the one...he's passed the vetting, and you can't wait to get your new horse home and start building your partnership together.
Nothing beats that excitement of getting a new horse, but it's important to start out on the right foot, or should it be hoof? There's a huge amount of responsibility that comes with owning and caring for a horse and your first few months together are key to building a long-term partnership together.
Despite our enthusiasm to get going, it's important not to rush. Taking your time to get to know your new horse and having a health and management plan will help your horse settle into his new home and start you off on the right path. I've just been through this very process and thought I'd share with you my top tips and ideas to help you with your new horse.
The Search Begins
For a while now, we have been on the look out for a new horse. When I sat down to write down a list of what my ideal horse would be I realised it wasn't going to be easy.
I was on the hunt for a horse that fits into life at Horses Inside Out and will enjoy participating in the hands-on practical courses as well as performing in lecture demonstrations as and when required. Also, he would need to be safe for my partner and dad to ride, and potentially for me to do a bit of competing on. It took a little while but I've found him and he fits the bill perfectly.....
Last month Norman entered our lives!
Norman is a tall 17.2hh, six-year-old, Irish Sports Horse gelding.
He's hunted in Ireland and over here, but done very little of anything else.
He has an amazing temperament with such a kind and quiet nature. He is so friendly and a joy to be around.
Norman quickly settled into life at the Horses Inside Out headquarters: Wavendon Grange.
Massage and Pilates
Spending time massaging your horse and performing basic pilates exercises is great to help your horse relax and settle into his new home. It's also a great way to help you develop a good relationship, and an opportunity to learn about him, his body, what's normal for him and what he likes and dislikes.
Norman joined in on the Massage and Pilates courses for horse owners last week 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's going to be a firm favourite on courses in the future.
Find out more about upcoming courses HERE
Introducing a New Horse to the Herd
Taking time to gradually introduce a new horse to an established herd is so important and needs to be done carefully to help minimise stress (for both horse and human) and to reduce the risk of injury too.
When we introduced Norman, the initial turn out plan for the first week was for all of them to be in separate places but able to interact over the fence. Pumpernickel on the track, Norman in the big field and Toby in the little field next door.
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 any areas that may need addressing.
I performed a postural and musculoskeletal health check with Norman to assess his strengths and weaknesses as soon as he arrived.
Norman is weak and wobbly as well as green and inexperienced. We are going back to basics with his training and looking forward to introducing him to new things and helping him on his learning journey.
The strengthening exercises have already begun and we are looking forward to seeing how he develops, changes and improves.
Using exercises from the recorded webinar Skeletal Maturity and Exercises for Young Horses, you can see from the two photographs, Norman is changing shape already, and he's only been with us for a month.
He is now less camped under behind, less roached in his lumbar region, there's improved abdominal tone and better posture.
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.
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.
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 to manage and get the best from 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. Norman 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's comfortable for the horse is vital for keeping your horse pain-free and performing well.
Understanding the anatomy of the horse's back is key to helping you select the right saddle. The recorded webinar Muscular Misconceptions is all about the muscles on which we sit, and is a must watch for anyone looking to get a new, or re-fit an old saddle.
Following a fitting, Norman 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' s important - correct bit and bridle fit are vital too. Following the principles from Illustrated Head Anatomy I have been able to make up a bridle suitable for Norman.
Hoof Balance and Health
We had Norman's feet x-rayed to study the alignment and hoof balance. This gave us a valuable insight into the types of shoes and also the correct fitting Norman requires. This knowledge will help to improve his hoof balance, placement and performance.
Sadly his hoof walls are full of bruises. Just like when we have a bruised nail it takes time for them to grow out and can be an indicator of past trauma rather than present discomfort. However it does indicate that he has had some hammering perhaps hunting over the last season.
We are really excited that farriers Mark Johnson and Robbie Richardson will be looking at Optimising Hoof Care at the Horses Inside Out Annual Conference next February. "Every day we look at our horses yet, sometimes someone points something out and we look again with fresh eyes. Our presentation hopes to do just that, by taking everyday scenarios surrounding horses feet and looking again from a self healing perspective." says Mark.
He's having his teeth checked with the world authority on equine dental health, Dr Chris Pearce from the Equine Dental Clinic this September. I am so pleased that Chris is also speaking at the Upwards and Onwards conference in February. He will be presenting: Evidence for dental disease as a cause of poor performance in ridden horses and bitting injuries and how to avoid them.
Working out the nutritional needs for your new horse is vital for maintaining gut health. However, it's important to make changes gradually to allow the microflora in the hindgut time to adapt to the new feed. Watch the online seminar Digestive Anatomy, Feeding and Nutrition to learn more.
It's not just the bucket feed you need to consider, moving yards also means different grazing and forage. All these factors many cause some disruption to the digestive tract. Speak to an independent nutritionist for advice on what is best for your horse. At Horses Inside Out we use Clare MacLeod and find her approach and service superb.
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 long reining and lunging. It's well worth taking the time to perfect the voice aid transitions so you understand each other before you even start riding. We are doing a lot of this work with Norman as he's still learning the basic voice commands. Horses learn by repetition and we are spending a lot of time long reining and repeating transitions to help Normal understand what we are asking of him.
It turns out there are a few gaps in Norman's education. He lacks some body awareness and proprioception. For example going over walk and trot poles, he lacks 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!
Check out the Poles for Posture video for in-hand exercises you can do with your horse to help develop your relationship.
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.