Maria Eilberg: ‘Horses need care come what may’ *H&H VIP*

Taking young horses out for the first time can be quite a challenge. It’s ideal to have them used to working with other horses as much as possible first, and riding outside at home, before having to add in transportation and a strange environment.

We like to take youngsters out initially without the pressure of a competition. If you’re taking a few horses out together, forward planning is needed to make sure one isn’t left on the lorry by himself. Padded ear covers can also become a necessary piece of equipment!

When it comes to test riding, horses should be working comfortably at that level at home. Preferably they would be working at a level or two higher than the one you wish to compete at.

It’s easy to forget that even with the older, more established horses, they need enough warm-up shows before doing a competition that counts, such as the winter regionals.

Indeed, preparation for the winter regionals can be difficult. Although you can practise the test at home and, to a certain extent, put up banners, try to ride in the rain and so on, it’s not the same as having to load up and perform the test in a different environment. Therefore, warm-up shows are an essential part to competition preparation — even more so for horses and rider with a tendency to get nervous.

Finishing on a high

With another year, the horses are, of course, a year older, which can come as a bit of a shock when thinking about setting goals for the season. Some horses will be coming to the end of their competition careers, and it can be difficult to know when to retire them, especially if they’ve been successful.

In my experience, an older horse, provided he is still sound, is often better off kept in work, so it can be ideal if they can be given the same one-on-one attention from a rider looking to gain experience at a lower level. While making less demands, the work and routine is essential for their physical and mental condition.

Debutants on show

It’s an exciting time of year watching new competitive pairs making their grand prix debuts. It will be interesting to see how often the new, short grand prix test will be used as it was at Olympia last year.

I understand the need for a shorter grand prix in tight show schedules, but I agree with the many opinions that have expressed concern over whether this gives riders enough time to showcase their horses properly in the arena.

A lack of courtesy

Every yard needs a good team of people who pull together and for whom the welfare of the horse is paramount.

There is much shared about poor treatment of grooms, but at Eilberg Dressage we have experienced an alarming trend among prospective employees who, following a job offer, simply don’t show up.

One has to question this lack of courtesy, which sadly seems to be more and more common. A career with horses requires a sense of responsibility for the animals; unlike an office job when the paperwork can wait, horses need to be looked after come what may.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 14 March 2019