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Training Young Horses for Longevity and Soundness

Updated: Jun 5

Training young horses for health and performance is a delicate and rewarding process that requires patience, skill and knowledge. Young horses are not fully developed physically or mentally, so they need careful handling and appropriate training to avoid injuries and behavioural problems.


A good training program should include a variety of activities that stimulate the horse's curiosity and confidence. The goal is to create a healthy, happy and well-rounded horse that can perform at its best in any discipline.


Olympic dressage rider, Laura Tomlinson knows just what it takes to produce young horses through the levels. We were delighted that she gave a short presentation at the Horses Inside Out conference called Progressing Horses for Longevity.


Laura discussed the important fundamentals of producing young horses, so they become happy athletes. She looked at the art of cross training and why it’s so important that all horses have variety for their mind, body and athleticism.


Laura also looked at taking a holistic approach to your training and management as well as working closely with the others in your horse’s team such as the farrier, therapist, saddle fitter etc. The importance of correct feeding, monitoring the horse’s performance and weight regularly and making any adjustments to their feed as necessary.


Learn to listen

One of the most important skills you need is the ability to read how your young horse is feeling. They might be working really well one week and the next week it's not so good. They're always trying to tell us something and their behaviour is their way of communicating with us.


"My dad always used to stress how important it is to listen to your horse. If they're suddenly behaving differently to how they have done before, there is a reason and it's our job to try and figure out why."

When she's producing young horses, Laura likes to let the horse dictate the pace at which its training goes. She has found that horses stay happy to work for you and wants to do its job because it's praised and rewarded.


During a training session a young horse needs regular breaks. Even if you're having a moment where you're trying to work through something. Sometimes dropping the reins and giving the horse a break and a chance to respond is much more helpful than trying to battle through. Regular breaks and listening to your horse's body, listening to how the horse is feeling and responding appropriately is so important when producing a young horse.


For longevity, fitness is a really important factor. The fitter a horse is the more in their comfort zone they are. When they're working at their peak, the longer the horse is going to last and is able to do his job happily.


“I have had quite a few horses come up through the levels that have still been going strong at 17 and 18 years of age," says Laura. "Alf, my Olympic medal horse was 17 at the London 2012 Olympics. On the third day of competition, he was still having a buck when I warmed him up because he was super fit and that's why he was still able to enjoy what he was doing at that age.”


Scales of Training

The scales of training are the fundamentals of how we should train, whatever level you're at. If you're riding with the scales of training at the forefront of your mind, you're not going to go wrong.


"When I'm producing a young horse, it's all about teaching a horse balance and giving the horse the strength and coordination to stay in balance throughout transitions, throughout transitions within the pace, and throughout the various movements that we later expect of them when they're at a high level dressage is the key,” says Laura


Laura went into more detail in her presentation about what exercises she does with her own young horses and discuss a typical schooling session. Laura also chatted about how she uses lateral work as a fundamental part of how she keeps her horses supple, as well as the importance of checking our own position in the saddle.


“Whatever age your horse is ask yourself, have I made it easy for them to understand what I am asking? If you have the journey should be fun.”

 

 Laura's presentation formed part of the fabulous two-day Horses Inside Out Conference, which took place on 17 and 18 February 2024. There was a great line up of equestrian experts who each gave talks on a broad range of subjects that all related to the growth and development of the horse.


You can purchase access to the talks on here: www.horsesinsideout.com/c24


Breaking News!

If having one Olympic medalist wasn't exciting enough....we were delighted to say we have two Olympic medalists joining us.....


Four-time Olympian Richard Davison attended the Horses Inside Out Conference. As well as competing at the highest level of dressage for over 30 years, Richard has also been involved with many other areas of equestrian sport including four years as the British World Class Performance manager.


As well as riding and training horses, Richard is fellow of the British Horse Society and a sought-after coach. He is extremely passionate about correct training of horse and rider, with a keen interest in understanding equine anatomy and biomechanics to further enhance his training and riding. Horses Inside Out is thrilled that Richard and his son Joe, an international showjumper will be attending the conference.

 

"I am delighted to be attending the Horses Inside Out Conference. I feel I owe it to my horses to strive for better understanding of their anatomy and biomechanics. After all that is fundamental for improving riding, training, performance and longevity." Says Richard.

 

Richard was on the stage on Saturday to share his personal thoughts on what riders can learn from the conference presentations and how he was going to apply the information he learned from the conference to his own training, riding and management.

 

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