How to build confidence in young horse

mariaslk

New Member
Dec 31, 2018
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I have a 4 year old and I'm returning to riding after a very long time! I feel confident riding her but I need to instill confidence in my pony. She's started to be difficult when putting bridle on by turning head right round to the other side and having her nose on the floor to stop me getting it on. Haven't been riding her much for the past 6 weeks due to weather etc. But get her in for a small feed and groom most days. She's also been difficult to catch too most days and end up following her round for about 5 mins until she gives in and lets me put the halter on her. Also, I was told recently by a trainer when riding to keep pressure & contact on as she is a young horse but previously had not been applying pressure if she's been going forward etc.
Any tips appreciated.
 

carthorse

Well-Known Member
Jan 6, 2006
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Tip 1, get a different instructor!

Is it possible for you to get some lessons on an older, more experienced horse? I don't mean to sound patronising but if you've had a few years off you aren't going to be up to speed and that may be a problem with a youngster. Being tricky to catch and bridle sounds, to me, like she's pushing the boundaries though I might feel differently if I saw her

My approach, where possible, is to set them up to succeed & praise even an attempt to get it right - don't start praising bad behaviour in the hope that doing so will somehow turn it into good behaviour! Break things down into small steps and don't move on when she's got something right, instead repeat until she gets it right every time. For example with your bridle problem I'd start by getting a dentist out to check there isn't a problem. Then if she gets the all clear I'd strip the bridle back to basics - no noseband or browband for now - and practice putting it on and off. If she evades don't tell her off or get frustrated, just calmly persist. When it's on tell her she's a good girl, give her a reward & take it off. Then repeat & repeat & repeat until she's happy about it. Then, and only then, add a noseband & browband. And don't tack up just to ride, you don't want her to associate the two.

Is there someone experienced with youngsters who could help yu with her? You've jumped in at the deep end & it would be easier for both of you if you could get up to speed on an experienced horse while she was brought on a bit by a rider used to dealing with youngsters.
 

Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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When you say the trainer told you to keep pressure and contact, do you mean a contact on the rein, or with your calf or mental pressure on? Really need a better explaination there.
At that age it's very common they will test boundaries, as long as you effectively deal with it, it shouldn't result in a long term problem, but if you don't know how to deal with it you need to seek help from someone who can be there with you because a small error with a youngster can end up causing a big problem down the road.
I too would get teeth checked just to be sure he isn't avoiding pain (I always check wolf teeth in youngsters) then have a lesson to check you aren't doing something to upset the mouth, there's lots of things that can upset it like not having an independent seat, not being balanced enough, too much contact or inconsistent contact etc.
 

mariaslk

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Dec 31, 2018
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She said to keep pressure on with my legs constantly wrapped round and squeezing and keep contact with the reins.
Her teeth were checked and filled by the vet 4 weeks ago so they should be fine.
I think I need to get some private lessons on her but with it being winter and unable to guarantee suitable weather, it may be best to wait until Spring. (we don't have an arena or anywhere to go and it's road work for a mile before I can reach the fields.
In the meantime I think I shall do as suggested and keep putting the bridle on and off until she gets used to it.
 

Jane&Ziggy

Learning together!
Apr 30, 2010
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Honestly I am a bit perturbed by what your RI is asking you to do with her her. I don't understand how constant contact can teach a horse to be quick to respond to aids.

I think private lessons would be great, but there's no rush. While the weather is bad you can take your time to get to know her, do groundwork, take her for walks - it's a lovely time to spend with your horse.
 

mariaslk

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Dec 31, 2018
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Yes I thought it was odd that I was told this as all of the other training I have seen says when the horse is doing what you want you should release the pressure. She said with a young horse you can't do that as they need constant reassurance and direction by maintaining pressure. I think I'll just do more ground work while the weather is poor. I did try and ride yesterday but I could barely get her out of the yard so didn't get too far.
 

carthorse

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Jan 6, 2006
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Maybe she was trying to say don't abandon them by taking your leg off completely or dropping the contact? Significantly lighten the pressure but don't take it away entirely because a young horse can rely on some contact for balance & reassurance, so if you completely release the pressure they lose their balance & confidence. That I could agree with as long as the rider is capable of doing it, but if that's what she meant she clearly didn't explain it very well.
 
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