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Loading horses - Keeping a horse in an outline - Hacking out on your own - Training young horses (on this page)

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Teaching young or nervous horses to load

Train to load long before you need to go anywhere - The main thing to remember when teaching a horse or loading a difficult one is to take your time and not get angry. If loading a young one for the first time, start weeks before you need to go anywhere. Lead the horse up the ramp while you look forwards and don't turn to look back at the horse as he may find it intimidating. If you have a front ramp, open this and walk the horse through several times before you close the ramps. Always try to park the horse trailer in a gateway where there is no escape route on either side, or put a safe barrier, such as bales of hay or straw, on each side. Some people suggested feeding the horse in the box or giving him his breakfast in it each day. Try to make it a pleasurable experience because horses are flight animals and are not used to going into tight spaces. It's also a good idea to take out a partition if loading for the first time to allow him more space. If there is no partition in the box, be sure to tie the horse with two ropes, one on either side, to prevent him turning around.

If the horse won't go into the trailer - Try clipping a lunge rope (line) onto one side of the trailer and (you need two people for this) bring it slowly around behind him. This will prevent him moving backwards and should encourage him to walk up the ramp. The lunge rein will act as a barrier, and can be wrapped round the rump of the horse to encourage it to move forward. Try to be as calm and quiet as possible, do not look the horse in the eye as this is threatening to them. If you have a bucket of feed, gently coax the horse in by shaking it. Each step that it takes up the ramp, praise him/her and reward with a little food. Parelli often encourages people to open up back and front ramps and to practise walking through with the horse, until he/she feels more comfortable with it. Take your time and don't get frustrated and angry. Terrible battles loading horses cause accidents as horses rear or plunge about so be calm and patient.

If all else fails, put a quiet pony or horse in the trailer - This acts as encouragement for the other horse to load. Go on a short journey the first time and don't drive too fast, especially when going round a corner as this can unbalance the horse and even throw him off his feet. Keep to the speed limit for towing a trailer (about 50 mph) and don't frighten your horse. A horse or pony who has had a bad experience in a horse trailer will always remember it.

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This is Angel aka Bobby's Girl, 3yr old Auldenburgh, schooling very well (Karen Weston)

Working in an outline

Problems with keeping a horse in an outline are very common and, first, it's important to know what a correct outline is. Basically it's to do with a horse's head carriage and way of going. Young and untrained horses find it difficult to work in an outline and will take time to find the correct balance. Often they will try to work with a low head carriage or head high in the air, depending on the horse. As a horse's training progresses, he becomes less 'on the forehand' and learns to work more 'from behind' with power and impulsion coming from the hindquarters. No horse should be forced into an outline and his rhythm should be correct before worrying about this.

Flatwork and dressage will improve way of going and outline as the correct muscles build up. It is very tiring for a young horse to work in an outline for long periods of time so reward him with plenty of breaks in between exercises where he is allowed to walk on a long rein to relax his muscles.

I find lungeing with side reins a help to improve both rhythm and outline because you are on the ground and can see what the horse looks like but be careful not to overdo it with young or unfit horses and ponies as it is extremely tiring. Ten minutes on each rein is plenty in the beginning. They need to walk on the lunge without side reins at the beginning and end of each session to warm up and relax their muscles.

Tips for keeping a horse in an outline

Almost anything you do in the school will help but you must have the correct bend - otherwise it is all pointless. Turns, circles, lengthening and shortening strides, half halt, leg yield, turns on the forehand - all will help. Don't fiddle with the horse’s head - he must learn to balance himself and produce an outline naturally. (Sandra Ayres)

Dressage is the basis of all work especially showjumping! Dressage balances your horse therefore in my opinion you should get your dressage in order and up to a better standard before you continue jumping. A horse with a terrible dressage outline will not do well when progressing in sj, as the balance of the body has not been done and continued. If you are working with an instructor, he or she should be able to help you achieve this. (Michéle Leigh-Ann Theron)

Be very careful to keep your hands still. You need to keep a gentle contact with the horse's mouth but if he tries to come above the bit react immediately and, really important, as soon as he gives, reward him by a gentle contact again. He will quickly learn that it’s more comfortable to stay in an outline. It’s all practise. My instructor said to imagine I am holding a wine glass in each hand and not to spill the wine by moving my hands about! Another important thing with teaching a horse dressage is to reward him with frequent breaks by walking on a loose rein so he can relax his muscles.  People should never worry about keeping a horse in an outline until a horse’s rhythm is correct. (Richard Reason)

Getting a horse to hack out on his own

  • Put a headcollar/halter on your horse and take him for a walk. Horses are herd animals and need to trust you.
  • If horse gets jittery out hacking, dismount and lead him.
  • Remember to be the one who inspires confidence in your horse and be in control so that he feels secure in your leadership.
  • If you feel nervous, your horse will feel nervous.
  • Ask someone to walk beside your horse as you ride.
  • Get a friend to come with you on a bike. He or she can hold or lead the horse if he’s frightened.
  • Long-reining horses on roads helps but you need someone to walk at the horse’s head in the beginning.
  • Keep horse going forward if he tries to spook or keep turning him around every time he tries to retreat. Be patient and reward immediately with voice when he shows improvement.

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Loading horses and ponies - photo: S.R. Lalor
Use a quiet companion in the box if all else fails

Tips for loading a horse
  • Remain calm at all times. 
  • Start training long before you need to go anywhere.
  • Park horse trailer in a gateway or block off side with a safe barrier.
  • Leave front ramp down and walk through box.
  • Get horse used to standing in box with back bar in place.
  • Clip lunge rope on one side of box if horse won't go in and place behind rump.
  • Remove partition if necessary but remember to tie with two ropes to stop turning round.
  • Reward every positive step by the horse with voice and/or feed.
  • If all else fails, use quiet companion in horse box.

Books recommended for training young horses

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TRAIN YOUR YOUNG HORSE (by Richard Maxwell) - Advice on how to give a young horse a solid foundation for future training. 

THE YOUNG HORSE - (by Jennie Loriston Clarke) - By British international rider and trainer. Covers essentials of handling, breaking, backing and training with photos taken at her own stud. 

BASIC TRAINING OF THE YOUNG HORSE (by Reiner Klimke) - From handling foal to first competition with emphasis on producing a well educated, relaxed and willing horse. Dr. Klimke was the father of top German eventer, Ingrid Klimke, and he competed in six Olympic Games, winning six gold medals and two bronze in dressage.