Top trainer and international show jumper Di Lampard believes riders should think long and hard before taking a young horse to its first show.

“Young horses mature and learn at different rates,” says Di. “Just because a horse is five or six years old doesn’t mean that it is ready to compete. And I think it’s a waste of time and money to take any four-year-old to a show. In fact, although I understand that dealers need to get their horses seen, I would think twice about buying one which had competed too much as a four-year-old.”

Di’s ideal scenario is to concentrate on a young horse at home and if she feels it is ready, take it to a training show after the Christmas of its fourth year.

“I’m lucky because Arena UK is close to my home and there are training shows there. These aren’t competitions, but you pay an entry fee to have a certain amount of time in the ring,” she says.

“You can do the whole course or you might choose to jump the first few fences and then repeat them. If you are riding a green youngster, you are allowed to take it into the ring with another horse, which gives it confidence.”

Di is a great fan of such shows, which she believes are an ideal introduction to going out and about.

“A young horse learns to go in the lorry to a new place, works in the collecting ring with other horses and finally, it has a nice time in the ring, with no pressure.”
Unfortunately, not every centre runs this type of show, although they are becoming more popular.

If your ultimate aim is eventing, it’s also important to get cross-county practice.

“Many of the event venues run training days, where you can hire the course and introduce your horse to some ‘baby’ fences,” she says. “But beware of going cross-country schooling on your own. Accidents can happen, and you certainly need company — and someone experienced on the ground as well — when it comes to tackling cross-country fences.”

She also suggests dressage competitions as a good venue for a first outing.

“A preliminary test is no more difficult than schooling at home. If you feel that your horse isn’t ready to jump in the ring, you could take him to an unaffiliated dressage show to introduce him to the competition atmosphere,” she suggests.

Ask Di’s advice

As part of Horse & Hound’s exclusive training series with Di Lampard, HHO is offering users the chance to pick Di’s brains about any problems they are currently experiencing when jumping.

With her extensive experience as a competitor and trainer, Di has loads of useful advice and tips on hand to help make you and your horse a winning partnership.

Simply email your questions, plus any relevant information about you and your horse’s background, to: HHOCompetitions@ipcmedia.com before 1 November.

The best questions will be selected and answered by Di Lampard in 6 November issue of Horse & Hound.