Safe training for young horses – part 1
Many riders love educating a young horse and being at the base of a long career as a sport horse. It’s quite a challenge to keep young horses healthy and free of injury. Dressage, jumps and long rides take their toll and young horses are not ready for these loads right away. When starting to train for competitions right away, an important step is skipped and risk of injury increases. By training coordination and stamina first, the horse is prepared for greater load. Does this take a lot of time? Yes and no: the preparation lasts longer, but an injury will cost more time and energy. So how does this training work? It depends on your goals and the way the horse was raised.
Research shows that a foal’s activity influences the quality of bones and tendons, coordination and overall fitness. Therefore, a rider will benefit from a young horse that has been out in the large fields as much as possible, even in winter. A hilly terrain is even better. A young horse that has been stabled, needs even more training of coordination and stamina before proceeding to specific training.
Every new skill, such as carrying a rider, requires conscious attention. When the skill becomes a habit, it won’t cost a lot of energy anymore. Therefore, a well trained horse uses less energy, takes on more work before becoming tired and is less likely to make a misstep which could lead to injury. Training coordination is done by providing the right stimulus at the right time. A long jumping lesson once a week is not very effective. It’s better to go for short sessions very often. For instance by working with ground poles or cavaletti twice a day for 15 minutes. There are many fun exercises to improve coordination; riding over all kind of surfaces, through water, slalom, jumps or an obstacle course.
Heart rate monitor
The heart rate of the horse will not tell you whether coordination is improving. It does help make the training more effective: a horse can only learn new skills at normal heart rates. When heart rates are high, the horse is too tired or excited to to concentrate. Make sure you get to know the normal heart rates of your individual horse in every gait. Pause or stop training coordination when heart rates are over 10% higher than normal. The Polar M430 and V800 warn you when the heart rate exceeds a value of your choice. You’ll know right away that the heart rate is rising.
In the next blog, we’ll go into training stamina in young horses.