What is a Green Horse?

Alex Harrison - Defining a Green Horse

What is a Green Horse? For many, the term can be quite confusing and can mean different things to different people. Essentially, a green horse refers to one that is inexperienced in a particular discipline and/or education. In this article, we invited international Dressage rider and Dodson & Horrell brand ambassador, Alex Harrison, to give us his thoughts on what makes a green horse … green. Alex dives in to what training can be undertaken and how to deal with competition days by using turn on the forehand. The article is a great read; enjoy!

Written by Alex Harrison, International Dressage Rider and Dodson & Horrell Brand Ambassador

What is a Green Horse?

If you were to go and look at a collection of horses for sale, you would encounter many varying opinions as to what constitutes a green horse. One owner’s definition of green would be, for argument’s sake, a horse that was perfectly behaved in every way yet maybe flickered its left ear in an ominous manner when mounting, thus unnerving its novice rider;  another one may consider a leaf on the ground to be all too much, subsequently depositing its rider into a dyke at the side of the road and soiling the new salmon pink, matchy-matchy saddle pad. In short, the colour green really does come in many shades.

Anecdotes aside, I think it is important to realise that green is simply the opposite to established. When thinking of attributes, we may look for in an established horse one may think of adjectives such as experienced, knowledgeable and strong. All in measures that enable the horse to carry out what is being asked, at its current level, with reasonable ease. So, a definition for a green horse may go something like this: “A horse that is lacking experience, knowledge and physical strength at its current level.”

Defining a Green Horse

Now let’s think back to our two horses for sale, the first horse I would NOT describe as green but more “Angelic horse, rider needs pushbike” the second would be “Spoilt horse, needs PLAIN saddlepad, rescue remedy and jumping whip.” Now a horse I WOULD describe as green would be “Working elementary, lacking confidence in the ring sometimes causing tension,” this horse is a prime example of a characteristically green horse. We aren’t talking about behavioural issues but more lack of sufficient education to feel established at the level but enough to make a start. Each time you move up a level in training, your horse is going from a level where it is established, to one where it is green.

Training a Green Horse

So how do we go about training a green horse? Well, quite simply, EMBRACE IT! Try to enjoy those green moments, whilst we are at it, throw away the word “green” and replace it with “learning.” Every time your horse is learning you are both progressing. If not to progress why else do all of us mad people keep horses?

When all said and done, the best investment you can make in you and your horse is lots and lots of proper training with a high quality professional. A GOOD instructor will see that when your horse is learning they need to provide it with more experience; when they are finding something challenging they will supply the both of you with the knowledge to make it easier and when they give you exercises, they will allow your horse to build strength in their body steadily and without excess pressure. If you invest in your training soon you will be excited each time your horse becomes green as it means progression is on the horizon.

Dealing with Competition

Ok, so you have taken the plunge to enter a competition, I know that life outside of the yard gates may seem like a strange foreign land but bear with me!

When placing yourself and your equine accomplice into a new situation, it can be daunting, so what can you do to help your horse cope with this strange new world? An easy and simple way to help your horse to relax is using turn on the forehand, at the beginning of your warmup (or even in the car park before you get to the arena).

Defining a Green Horse - At Competition
  • Using turn on the forehand

First, start in halt, flex your horse to either the left or the right and then WAIT! The biggest mistake riders make when riding a turn on the forehand is spinning the horse around on a small circle as soon as they bend them. To get a good quality bend the horse must first accept the bend and only then can you place the inside leg on to ask the inside hind leg to step underneath the body. It is important that the inside hind goes in-front of the outside hind. If a horse is stiff or tight they will step backwards with the inside hind leg.

Once your horse is stepping underneath his/her body then repeat on the other side. To take this to the next level do it on the move! (Yes, guys deep breath, we’re going to walk.) Walk forwards a few steps then take a slight flexion to the inside and push your horse’s hindquarters to the outside for about two or three steps, then change the flexion to the other side and repeat.

Keep doing this until you feel your horse really starts to accept your legs on their side then they will, hopefully, start to take a deep breath and calm down. It is best to establish this at home to give your horse some knowledge to refer to when at the show.

Remember it is no good perfecting your ‘centre line, stop, wink at the judge, trot off’ routine if you can’t get your horse relaxed enough to enter the arena!

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