How can I keep from messing up a newly trained horse?

Arabian FaceQuestion: My horse is coming home from being trained. I would like some tips or info from you about when he gets home. I do not want to mess up on anything. I do know how to ride a horse, & we have alot of dirt roads out here. I would like to know what I can do to bond with him with out spoiling him. He is a 6yr old gelding. Thanks for all & any info you might have for me.

Answer from April Reeves: How exciting for you! I’m glad to see someone sending their horse out for training. It’s much better for the horse and the rider!

What does concern me a bit is that you did not get instruction along with the horse as to how to carry on. All my horses in training come with rider instruction. I personally find it redundant to return a horse that the rider knows nothing about. I don’t want the horse back. I WANT the rider to enjoy the horse!

Not sure what you had done and how long it was for, but there are a few things I always tell the owners before the horse gets home.

1. Feed – make sure you do not change his diet completely. I always send the horse home with his hay (the horse always shows up with his hay too), and I keep his feed schedule the same.

2. I make sure the new horse gets out to run and exercise every day, so as not to waste the work and money the owner paid out. On the days you are not riding, make sure he gets to run free somewhere (arena, field).

3. Don’t put him out with friends right away. Let him readjust to everything and everybody.

4. Make sure you use the same equipment on him that the trainer used (hopefully a light bit).

5. Feed him an apple a day (especially after each ride). He will appreciate it, and it does help as a natural wormer (the pectin in apple peel is effective as a colon cleanser and can clean out parasites, toxins and heavy metals – Marijke van de Water, Riva’s

6. Take him around and test out his ground manners. Can you lead him without him pushing on you? Is he quiet and does he walk and halt when you ask without pulling? This is important, as the horse you lead is the horse you ride.

As far as riding him, start out slow. Work on your suppling side to side and see how flexible he is. Take up your reins and test out how soft he is at the poll, and if he is giving in the jaw (soft mouth). These are the first two things I test for, as they are the foundation for any training.

Always remember, your outside aids are your steering aids. Your inside aids are your bending aids. Never use the face for collection.

If that is all good, keep a loose rein and pick up a trot. Keep your legs off the horse, do not hang on his face, and work on circles. This also tells a story, as circle work is also the backbone to a good foundation. If he trots evenly with rhythm and cadence, and does not stop when he wants to (reason for having your legs completely off the horse), only when you ask him, then work on walk/trot transitions, keeping your strides of each gait at no more than 10 strides each before changing. Test how easy he changes up and down. Does he pull coming down, or poke along moving up? Back him up and see how easy he is – is he giving to the bridle?

Then try your canter work. Do the same as above, testing for softness and willing obedience.

These exercises are simple tests that tell me whether or not the trainer was able to get a foundation on the horse. This is the basic work for the beginning of any discipline, whether it is English, western or trail riding. And it is easy to put this foundation on a horse.

If he accepts all this easily, and gives you no fight, spook or resistance, I would say you have spent your money wisely. If you have any problems, write me back with them and I will help you through it.

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