If you are lucky enough to be the owner of a youngster, there is a lot of training that you have to go through together. Of course, everything depends on how much it has already been trained. But let us assume that you have to start from scratch. That your youngster has just arrived at its new home. It can seem like a bit of a task when your new best friend backs out of the trailer and stands confused in the courtyard. But do not worry. Here you can find inspiration in the editorial staff´s experiences on how to get off to a good start.
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1. A QUIET START-UP
Your youngster is probably pretty confused the first time it goes into the field with its newfound friends. It is a good idea to let it calm down and get settled in. Starting off with nothing more than a treat here and there and a small pat on the back. Do not start with a lot of training, but make sure it is relaxed before you start teaching it a lot of new things.
2. GET YOUR HORSE TO FOLLOW YOU
A youngster can basically not understand that it has to follow you. If you just put a rope on the halter and start dragging it with you. And why should it? It has never tried it – other than maybe going back and forth to the field with the help of more experienced horses. Therefore, make sure that it has a reason to follow you. Give it motivation.
A good start can be a treat, so it gets a reward for joining, but be careful it does not make precedence. Cause your youngster might quickly start going into your pockets or worse yet begin to nibble. Therefore, the treats must be replaced fairly quickly with another motivation. Preferably a nudge and slowly getting used to the fact that a little pressure on the rope means that it must move forward. Always start the exercise when there are other horses out in the paddock for a few minutes at a time.
3. AVOID TAKING THE YOUNGSTER AWAY FROM THE HERD
As you know, horses are herd and escape animals and are therefore not enthusiastic about being alone. It is something that can take a really long time to teach them. So that exercise you have to wait with until the horse is comfortable with you and the surroundings. Start all training either in the paddock or in the stable, where there are other horses, even if it seems a bit of a hassle.
4. GETTING GROOMED IS NOT NECESSARILY NICE
If the horse is turned out a lot, start by taking a simple brush with you to the paddock. Just place it gently on the neck, or where the youngster is the least ticklish. Do not start with the big grooming. Your horse may never have felt a brush before and can get terribly startled by such a touch. When it seems to accept the brush, move it gently down both sides, and other places where it shows no sign of dislike.
5. TOUCH ON THE BODY MUST BE TAUGHT SLOWLY
Be aware that your horse may never or in very rare cases have tried to be touched on the legs and elsewhere on the body such as under the abdomen. So start with a firm hand that holds on to its legs and then slowly moves downwards without it becoming “to softish”. If the horse starts to pull back or lift the leg or otherwise moves uneasily, release the pressure immediately. Try again either later or the next day.
The same tactic can be used if your youngster is ticklish in certain places on the body. Start with a steady hand not a brush and keep the pressure until the horse becomes restless. Once your horse is used to being touched on legs and hooves, you can start lifting the legs. The first many times the horse only needs to do a quick lift, and then you set the hoof down again. Then you can start increasing the time the hoof is lifted above the ground.
6. FIRSTTIME MEETING THE BLACKSMITH
It can be a bit nerve-wracking to have the blacksmith meet your youngster for the first time. You might as well prepare for the fact that your horse will react. Because it may not know other people than you, and a blacksmith comes with a lot of new smells and a different body language than it knows from you.
If your horse cannot stand alone in the stable aisle, make sure there are other horses in the stable. Have a bucket of food ready and allow it to lean against a wall, as the balance of a young horse can be quite unstable.
It is important that you feel comfortable with your blacksmith. So, if you do not already know one, ask around if anyone can recommend one that is good for young horses. Your horse will most likely get nervous the first time, because the sound and the feeling are completely new to it. But do not worry, it will most likely learn it after just a few times with the blacksmith.
7. TO BE IN THE STABLE ALONE
In the long run, it is important that you teach your horse to be alone in the stable. It will be really annoying for both yourself and possibly other horse owners if their horses have to come in from the field every time your youngster has to be groomed.
Start by inviting it into its stall or just a little away from the herd so it cannot see the others and give it some delicious food. When it has finished eating, turn it back out immediately. Do the exercise until the horse is calm even after it has finished eating. Then you can gradually increase the time in the stall or wherever you are. You can also start grooming it while it eats.
Slowly start working on tying your horse
When the horse is used to being alone, even after the food has been eaten, you can start extending the exercise to, for example into the stable passage. Here you also start with a bucket of food and keep the horse in a loose rope.
Slowly you can start tying it of course with panic bars and only on one side to start with. Some horses do not like to be tied, especially not with rope on both sides of the halter. To avoid an unfortunate situation – start by paying attention to how your horse reacts when being tied only on one side.
It is important that you do not expect your youngster to stand still in the aisle for several minutes from the start. A young horse can very rarely comply with this. So the first few times you just have to cuddle it and then return to the other horses.
8. SWEETS CAN BE A GOOD MOTIVATION
There are many different opinions as to whether you should train your horse with treats or without. As long as it does not become the only way to get its attention, our experience at Malgré Tout in relation to young horses is that it can be a really good motivation to learn the basic skills. If you need things that take more time, such as trailer loading or standing in the stable aisle, it is better that it is a bucket of regular feed. Partly because you could end up spending all your money on treats. And partly because the horse does not have to maintain all its focus on you when it has to stand on a stable aisle.
You may also like to read: Did you know this before you bought your first young horse?
9. THE FIRST WALKS WITH OTHERS AND ALONE
It is no secret that it is a huge task to teach your horse all the things it needs to know. So think about taking trips with other horses so that it learns to be out in new surroundings. If you try to do too many things too fast you may fail. Like teaching the youngster to be alone and walk in foreign terrain with all that it entails of traffic, lawn mowers, children playing ball, etc., Then the exercise becomes too difficult.
When the young horse feels safe when walking with other horses, you can start going out on your own. But do not expect your horse to act the same way alone as with others. Make sure to only be away for a few minutes to begin with. Then start slowly with the first exercise being just a walk in the courtyard.
Extend the distance gradually
Here we recommend that you bring treats in your pocket. It may well become tiring in the long run with a horse walking with its head down in your pocket, but you can get rid of that habit once the horse is comfortable being away.
The good thing about the treats is that they help against the stress and panic from being alone, because the horse cannot be stressed and concentrate on getting hold of delicious treats at the same time. Therefore: As soon as your horse shows nervousness, give it a treat and take a few steps forward. This way, the horse associates walking as something delicious, and does not manage to get into a panic stage of walking alone. This process is very long. So even it there is a long time between the training sessions, you must prepare to start a little bit from scratch every time.
10. REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN TOGETHER
Having a horse can quickly lead to a life filled with training. But one of the most important things is that you and your young horse create a close bond. It is the foundation of your future together. If the horse finds out that it is fun to be with you, then your whole journey will be absolutely amazing.
Therefore, our advice is that you do not spend too much time seeing how far others are getting with their horses. Instead, you should enjoy the company of your youngster, whether it is grooming it, cuddling or just giving it a carrot. You will probably end up achieving all the rest, and the most important thing is that you have fun together.