Q&A: Travelling young horses to shows

  • Q: I own a part- bred Arab gelding, which I bought as a three-year-old and have been bringing on slowly.

    We recently went to our first show, which was an indoor dressage competition. He behaved quite well in company and even performed a fairly decent dressage test.

    However, he became very distressed when he was left standing on the lorry between tests.He kicked and then reared up and cracked a window with his hoof.

    How can I encourage him to be more settled in the lorry and hopefully prevent this from happening again. Would it help if there was another horse in the box with him?

    Liz Clemence replies: Life for your young horse is becoming more interesting and occasionally nerve-racking as you begin to further his education and introduce him to shows.

    He isn’t used to the atmosphere and the general buzz of horses and competitors going about their business.

    The most effective way of dealing with this problem does depend on your horse’s temperament but as your youngster gains experience and becomes more accustomed to the noise and bustle, he should naturally become more settled.

    A well-travelled horse is usually more than glad to stand on the lorry and rest for a while.

    Introducing your young horse to the idea of the horsebox and travelling fairly early on in his training (by boxing up to go for a lesson, or simply travelling a short distance to hack) helps to teach the horse it is just a normal, accepted part of everyday life.

    This also has the added advantage of helping him to become more accustomed and confident in strange surroundings without the atmosphere of a showground.

    Also, in these situations, there is not really any need for him to be left standing, unaccompanied, on the horsebox for long periods of time.

    Try to ensure your youngster’searly experiences at shows are good ones. Plan your day carefully so that, while you allow yourself enough time when you arrive at the showground, your horse is able to come off the lorry on arrival and is given time to settle and adjust to his new surroundings.

    Begin by arranging your first few outings so it is not necessary for your horse to stand on the lorry for any length of time.

    There are mixed opinions as to whether a travelling companion is a good idea or not.

    Many young horses find it reassuring to have a companion in the horsebox with them but not all of us have a suitable horse or pony to use for this purpose. You may find that, while your horse will be more settled standing on a lorry, a companion may cause him to become more fretful and inattentive and often rather vocal when he is taken away from his friend and asked to work.

    A net full of hay is generally a good way of occupying a horse when standing on a horsebox but take great care if hehas a tendency to rear as there is a high risk of his foot becoming caught in the net, causing him to panic more.

    Many green horses will stand more quietly at shows if they can actually see what is going on.

    If the layout of your horsebox is suitable, try standing your horse in the last partitioned section so that he can look out.

    Though do watch him initially and gauge his reaction to be sure he is not then likely to try and jump out

    You should find that, after a little time, experience and patience, your horse settles.

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