The first ride

The youngsters first ride should be as eventful as movie night with granny. What I mean by that is simply this, grandmas house is familiar, comfortable and you know what to expect. Low stress and you know you belong there. Keep that in mind when starting the process to swing the first leg over a young horse.

Think to yourself, is the horse prepared? Is the horse comfortable? Is the horse ready? Did you TAKE YOUR TIME setting this horse up to succeed? All these questions will, in the end, be answered by your horse. If the horse is thinking and not reacting you did your job well. If the horse takes off bucking and obviously not ready then you need to focus on basics longer.

Some people turn the horse’s head to their saddle before getting on in order to keep the horse from blowing up while they get on for the first time. I don’t agree with this personally. My reasoning being, if you’re afraid of the horse reacting you didn’t do your ground work long enough or detailed enough. Horses should stand quietly for mounting and dismounting, on a loose rein, head and neck in a relaxed position as if they’ve done this their whole lives. If you have the horse’s head turned to get on you’re focusing on the left eye and leaving the right eye out. Once you give that horse their head that right eye will eventually see you up there and that’s where the reaction kicks in. But by then you gotta ride it out and lay in the bed you made yourself.

Rushing leaves holes in the horse’s foundation and therefore not doing the horse justice and possibly creating bad habits down the road.

Moral of the story if you ask yourself this question, “am I 100% sure this horse will remain relaxed when I first throw a leg over?” before you get on for the first time and answer it “no”. Do more groundwork. It never hurts.

Different strokes for different folks!

When it comes to feeding we all know that all animals have different needs. Some products that work well for others may not work at all for your animal. It’s about trial and error. It doesn’t mean you don’t take good care of your horse if someone else’s horse looks better they just found a formula that works for them. Heed their advice, give it a try and keep in mind your horse as an individual and customize it as you go.

Always consult your vet and send in a manure sample to get your horses current needs and levels so you can start your search and ask for recommendations.

With me, I used Horse Guard products for many years and swore by the Super Gain when I was rehabbing multiple horses. I saw amazing results and always thankful for their sponsorship. Then I found that Dac Bloom worked better on some of my halter bred horses so I used that for a year or so. Now I use horse guard Flow which is a flax seed oil and amino acids, Cool Calories all mixed with their usual grain and Smart Pak vitamins. I also give them electrolytes after days of hard work to replenish their bodies after they sweat a lot. This new formula has been great to get the winter youngster back on track and looking good!

I’m not biased on using any one product whatever works for you stick with it but be mindful of your horse’s needs as they may change and what worked before may not now.

Just be careful of high sugar, lots of corn and molasses feeds as they cause strain on the horse’s GI system and could provoke a different demeanour than intended.

Get sloppy!

So there’s a time and a place to stay clean but sometimes it’s a better idea to go outside instead of staying in the arena.

In Oregon we get a ton of rain. Most of us board where and indoor arena is or have one ourselves if we are fortunate enough. Schooling in the arena is a daily routine for us but sometimes it’s good to switch it up!

My gelding is what I call, a “princess”. He hates water, mud and getting his toes wet. Trying to walk him through puddles is impossible he’s stubborn and avoids it. So we thought outside of the box or arena persay!

What helps my youngsters get over their fear of puddles, water or just getting them out of their prissy bubble, I like to lunge them in a sloppy, soupy round pen. All horses can benefit. Yes it’s going to make your horse dirty but if it’s a sand arena it will brush off when it’s dry.

Mind you I spend 90% of the time lunging the horse only at a trot then a few canter laps each way before ending the lesson.

After lunging in the soupy round pen my horses willingly went through puddles when they wouldn’t touch them before.

Have fun, switch it up and keep them learning new things in new environments!

I can’t seem to stress this enough and it’s a common thing almost everyone does!

When lunging, STOP! (Read that again, and again).

When lunging your horse in the round pen quit asking the horse to slam on the brakes and turn away from you! It’s not good for the horse, it’s not productive in any way, if you’re riding it’s similar looking to a roll back but they are not alike at all. Rollback requires a nice STOP on the hind end then crossing over in the front, remaining on the hind end until pushing off to head the other direction. This round pen action is just simply you cutting your horse off in mid stories, no prep time, no warning and the horse scrambling to move away.

Instead of doing this just ask your horse to stop and stand before reversing and let it take a break before asking it to reverse direction. This will get your horse on its hind end faster than whatever train wreck y’all are trying to accomplish by this amateur maneuver (and 90% of you are guilty of doing it). This incorrect action will cause your horse to have anxiety and a lack of respect in you because your lack of allowing the horse time to process what you’re asking. You’re basically showing the horse you’re on a power trip and they don’t know what they did wrong.

Save your horses legs and brain but just letting them STOP. Your horse will start moving more relaxed and start lowering its head because it’s confident and trusts you will give him ample time to process then react to a new cue. You’ll notice your horse will enjoy lunging much more once you do.