Teaching yearlings how to be trained.

The youngsters are coming along nicely and have spent the last couple of weeks getting to know the gallops. To begin with we use the fibre sand gallop. It is close to our yard, a kind surface and forms a nice loop for the youngsters. At this stage of their training whilst we are always paying attention to physical development it is more about laying the mental foundations for horses.

Give a young horse confidence in being ridden now and you give it confidence for life. We have the luxury of time at this stage, there is no pressure of a race around the corner before which some issue must be ironed out. In the long run if a horse enjoys being exercised it is going to enjoy being trained and go on to have a successful career. If it has aptitude for it then that will be on the racecourse – if it doesn’t it will always find a home doing something it does have an aptitude for. If we have to spend a bit of time instilling that confidence then we are willing to do it, the more they enjoy training the easier they are to train. Getting to know how each horse learns is useful later on and one of the reasons we like to start off with the youngsters we will train.

The yearlings get a bit of experience on the roads but spend most of their time on tracks and bridleways. They are lead out by our stalwart Fireback who has seen everything. We are lucky in Lambourn that the traffic is light and most of the vehicles are local and the drivers well versed in horses. Fireback happily shields the youngsters from any oncoming traffic, for the first few days we will ask any traffic to stop completely so the horses can come past gently, once the horses are used to cars they can come past slowly. They are followed by the jeep and get used to having a vehicle behind them and it doesn’t take long before they are confident out in the traffic and behave sensibly. It’s a good learning curve for these youngsters as they are going to have to get used to all sorts of things so that when they eventually get to the races they are not phased by anything, music, crowds and even vehicles.

Out on the gallops we like the horses to be relaxed so we get them to walk on sensibly behind Fireback and trot for a bit before going into a canter, hopefully by starting them off in this manner the horses learn to begin their work nice and relaxed rather than tearing off as fast as they can. This allows them get into a rhythm and breathing sensibly. At this stage we aren’t too worried about speed, its about travelling in straight lines and listening to the rider. The horses are all at different stages physically, some are well balanced and carry the rider with ease, others find it trickier and are less co-ordinated as you can see in the video below. As they start to get the hang of it we will split them into different groups those that find it easy can do a bit more and the rest aren’t forced to anything they will struggle with and therefore get soured too.

On the odd day we will send them a bit further afield on a trot out through the village and along the many bridleways and lanes in the vicinity. This allows them to see a bit more variety and gain different experiences. It is important that horses see as many different and novel environments as possible so they are prepared for anything later in life.