#SundaySchool: ‘How do I stop my horse getting strong when going round with others?’

  • Show rider Claire Oliver (pictured) is a former European young rider eventing team and individual gold medallist. She is married to top show rider Robert Oliver, and had her first HOYS win riding the middleweight hunter Enigmatic in 2001.

    Training the stars

    • Appledark Magic Touch can become anxious in the ring when horses come up behind him, so to help with this problem he’s fitted with earplugs. This makes a great difference to his go-round and prevents him getting strong and tense.
    • Loughkeen Dancing Lord was a pleasure to show. I rode him in a short-cheek double bridle and he never pulled or got too strong. I did make sure he had enough work before his class and was carefully introduced to the show ring.

    Tackling the issue

    1. Practise working with other horses in the arena at home, so the horse becomes accustomed to horses working around and behind him. This situation can often worry a horse and lead him to become strong and tense. Keep working until the horse feels relaxed and comfortable among others.

    2. Work on transitions, as this will make your horse more ridable in the ring. Practise half-halts and perform transitions in canter, allowing him to move forwards and then bringing him back to collected canter. Simple changes of canter to walk will help the horse sit on his hocks. Perform these exercises on 20-metre circles and then ride them using the whole of the school.

    3. When practising your gallop, increase the canter around the top of the arena and then stride on down the long side. Do not fire off from the top of the long side of the arena, as the horse will definitely learn to anticipate the gallop.

    4. When riding in the ring, make use of your space. Do not get too close to the horse in front of you, and also make sure there is not a horse sat on your tail. To gain more space, either ride into your corners or, if you see a large gap, cut across or make a tight turn.

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    Consider this…

    • Be careful when introducing your horse to the show ring. Ideally, take him to a few smaller shows before going in a big, open ring.
    • Practise with your show bridle at home. Use either a correctly fitted double or pelham bridle with a chain or leather curb to suit the horse. There are various types of curb bits and it’s a case of trial and error to find what suits the horse.
    • A horse can become strong on the go-round because of its repetitive nature of the walk, trot, canter and, in particular, the gallop. This can be solved by not over-galloping at shows, especially early in the season.

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