Young horses are very much a blank canvas, even if they’ve been backed and ridden away before coming to you – they’ll still need you to guide them and show them the ropes.
Having a really clear system – rooted in the scales of training – helps the horse to understand whats expected but also gives you as the rider a ‘get out of jail’ card should you need it! We’ve all been there!
Babies need to learn to move forwards from the leg aid, and this comes before anything else. They’re allowed to wobble a bit, but they must go forwards before you think about the straightness of the movement. Once they’re forward, you can think about influencing the direction of travel – turning right, turning left, riding a circle or a square and being a bit straighter between the hand and the leg. This then becomes the basis of everything you do – they’re forward, straight and hopefully going in the direction you’d like!
Once you’re there, you can think about using a little bit of shoulder fore and very shallow leg yields to get the horse thinking about the inside leg and rein aids and what they mean but always keeping the forwardness of the gait.
This then becomes the next block in the training system you’re developing, so if you get stuck or the horse doesn’t understand you can bring it right back to the bottom bricks of forward and straight, make it easy and then build on from there to give the horse confidence to work on from.
This becomes your ‘safe place’ to go back to when you’re stuck or struggling – even if that means you pop them onto a 20 metre circle and ride quietly forwards round the circle a few times before coming back to the work you were doing.
You can then take this forward into riding the movements in a test when the horse becomes a bit more established – breaking the movement down into chunks and stepping back a step if the horse gets confused or stuck until you’re in a place you can work forwards from. If they make a mistake, thats okay – we can learn from that, just wait, find the rhythm and go again. If they make a mistake through trying, thats okay – just repeat and praise when its right.