Top 10 Tips for a Young Horse’s Training Schedule with Steph Gumn
This month young horse producer and coach, Steph Gumn, has provided us with a ‘top 10 tips’ feature focussing on the young horse’s training schedule. Staffordshire based Steph, who has a wealth of expertise in the field, focusses on education, recuperation, and progress.
Steph’s Top 10 Tips
- Feed for the work you’ve done, not the work you plan to do. With young horses, the correct feed can make the difference between a productive training session and feeling frustrated. Too much feed or the wrong type can provide more energy than your horse knows how to use productively, which can lead to training and behavioural issues. Start with basic forage and build up slowly and only as required.
- Young horses need time to be horses. Downtime in the field is important for learning, alongside maintaining those energy levels. Tendon, ligament and bone remodel during work and rest, days off are equally important when building fitness in a young horse.
- Variety is key. It’s easy with a young horse to stick to the safety of the enclosed arena walls, but as your horse develops and you want to start competing you will find the more your horse has seen early on, the easier they will take to life on the road. Getting horses out hacking on the long lines, under saddle, through water, with company and without will set your horse up in the long run. They will encounter strange situations and learn to be both confident and independent with how to deal with them. This builds a solid foundation for the horse’s career down the line.
- English summer weather doesn’t necessarily provide sun. Get your horse used to working in the rain, even if on the lunge! If your horse lacks energy or stamina avoid working in the heat of the day. Electrolytes come in handy and can be be kept in the feed room for harder work, on hotter days.
- There are plenty of shows and events on over the summer, make the most of these to get your young horse out to once or twice a month. Even if you just go to ride around the showground and soak up the atmosphere of your local riding club show, or to hire the arena the day after a big competition to train and introduce your horse without all the show pressure.
- Temperature control. Horses are built to digest fibre and a bi-product of this process is heat. On those hot days (I know, it does happen!) it’s important to make sure your horse doesn’t overheat whilst working. Aiming to work in the mornings or evenings is often best, as this avoids the hottest temperature of the day. If you do need to ride in the middle of the day, or compete, be sure to regularly offer water, electrolytes and use water (sponged on and scraped off) to keep your horse cool and replace any fluids lost. Dehydration can decrease performance as well as have negative effects on your horses well being. If your horse won’t drink out and about, soaking feed into a mash, using sugar beet and flavoured water is beneficial.
- Consistency is the key to success and learning. Horses learn best with short sessions focusing on one exercise. If after half hour you aren’t getting the response desired, go for a hack and try again the next day. Horses pick up bad habits just as fast as good, so if you’re struggling be sure to reach out to a professional for help.
- Clipping is often done during the winter but can be beneficial In the summer too. Thick coats hold heat so removing some hair can help with thermoregulation. Be sure to use fly rugs with some UV protection if fully clipped close during the summer to prevent sunburn.
- Create a confident horse. Horses perform better when they are relaxed and confident in their work. Don’t feel like you have to rush your horse’s education. Take your time introducing new exercises and experiences and only move up the levels once your horse is confident and easy with the stage before. Slower is faster In the long run!
- Most importantly have fun! Horses are there to be enjoyed, and look after yourself in the summer sun too!