Preparing the young horse for his first show

  • How do you know when your young horse is ready for his first show? And what can you expect on the day?

    Top showjumper and young horse producer Tina Fletcher explains how to prepare a youngster for the big arena.

    Tina’s 10 top tips:

    1. Once your youngster is happily cantering over single fences the next steps are to introduce more gridwork to improve his technique and put together a small course in preparation for his first competitive outing
    2. When you start introducing bigger fences, build a simple grid designed to help establish straightness and athleticism, with a high cross-pole followed on one stride (6.5-7m) by an upright
    3. It is important the rider doesn’t change anything just because the second fence has gone up. Focus on maintaining the rhythm and balance
    4. Keep the distances at home a little bit shorter than you would find at a competition to encourage the horse to jump off his hocks
    5. Every course will contain several related distances which can be successfully negotiated by keeping an even rhythm. To help improve rhythm and balance, Tina uses four poles on a large circle with the poles 15-16m (four short horse canter strides) apart
    6. Before you take your young horse to his first competition, he should have tackled a small course of fences. It is good for a spooky horse to work in an arena full of fences. Make a point of working him on the flat around them
    7. If you don’t have access to unsual fences at home, Tina suggests hiring an arena
    8. Young horses often feel very different to ride in an unfamiliar environment and revert to being very green — make sure your youngster is thoroughly settled in the warm-up area before you take him into the ring
    9. It is vital that a young horse’s first experience in an arena is a positive one — if you are worried, ask an experienced rider to take him to his first show
    10. Show centres often run clear round jumping classes before the first class of the day. This can be an ideal opportunity to give a young horse experience of competing in an arena and is cheaper than entering a class and having two silly run-outs or refusals

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