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Warning over training of young dressage talent

A German bereiter and vet who spoke at the recent 2002 Global Dressage Forum is calling for changes in the way young dressage horses are trained

Dr Gerhard Heuschmann, a qualified professional rider (bereiter) and vet from Germany, warned delegates at the 2002 Global Dressage Forum in the Netherlands that in his opion there is not enough emphasis in the German education system (and Britain’s) on the art of training young horses.

Dr Heuschmann claimed the first two years of training were the most important – changing the young horse from a flight animal to one with the body and mind to carry weight without developing problems.

“There has been a big increase in back problems and it is vital that horses stretch their necks forward and down, both when eating and being ridden, to bring up the back and develop the muscles,” he said.

He argued that the age of the horse, its muscular development and the weight of the rider should determine where to put the head and neck. Lifting it to compete – especially in three-year-old classes – leads to fixed backs, flicking extensions and damaged coffin joints.

Shortened necks, draw reins and fore girths (which push the saddle further back) were the chief culprits.

In addition, improvements in stable management are desirable. Young horses must move around to ensure the formation of healthy cartilage around the joints, yet today’s horses are cosseted in stables. One improvement would be to ensure they always have a good walk before training begins.

Young horses should not be limited to a life on soft surfaces, as the anatomy of the horse’s foot is not designed to work to its best on this type of going, he concluded.

Read the full report from the 2002 Global Dressage Forum in this week’s Horse & Hound (31 October), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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