5 Ways to Prepare you Horse for Going Away from Home
You’ve got your date set, you’ve organised the transport, bought the new matchy matchy cooler, travel boots, tail guard, base layer, bandages and fly hood. You’ve bought enough food to feed a family of 4 for a week, enough wine to stock the local off license and the back of your car is better kitted out than your local tack store.
Travelling and taking your horse out to an event for the first time can be quite a daunting experience. The key to getting it right and having a wonderful time is PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE!!!
So for this series I’m going to have a look at 5 ways to prepare your horse for going away from home...
1. Loading and Travelling 🚛
First things first will you get there?! There’s nothing worse than having your horse all ready to go stood at the bottom of the ramp with no intention of going anywhere 😩
Loading and travelling need practise just like jumping and dressage. Now I know that practising circles or popping a few grids is much more fun than practising loading but having a horse that takes 2 hours of sweat and toil to get up the ramp is no fun at all! Being left behind by your mates because they’re going to miss their class if they wait any longer is even worse!
Remember that being able to load doesn’t always mean your horse is ready to travel so make sure that you can load your horse up and close him in calmly.
I will go into more detail on this next week, in the meantime my Successful Loading and Travelling blog series has lots of useful information.
2. Dealing with New Environments 😱
You know where you’re going but your horse has no idea!
That said, most horses are pretty adaptable once they get the idea but remember, in a new environment you need to provide the consistency that helps your horse feel safe.
If you are not used to going to different places then I would recommend that you start with a lesson or a clinic. Ideally with an instructor who you know or with someone who is going to look after you and your horses confidence.
If you are fairly confident yourself and just not sure how your horse will respond then you may only need an arena or course hire to get your horse used to the new place.
Either way, your focus on the first time out should be for your horse to be calm and relaxed so you both come away having had a good experience.
The value of groundwork in helping get your horse calm and co-operating has long been recognised. More and more people are seeing the value of groundwork exercises to help their horses be calmer and safer to ride.
Doing groundwork doesn’t mean you need to be on the ground the whole time, usually just a few simple exercises will help settle your horse and put him in a good frame of mind for your ride, especially if you have done these things at home.
It also gives you a chance to check how calm/safe your horse is before you get on.
4. Ridden work 🏇
Getting on - OK so this might seem really obvious but if you normally use a mounting block make sure you have something with you to mount from!! Also put a little time into training your horse to stand at this mounting block at home so it’s a habit for your horse. It will save you some embarrassing minutes chasing your horse around with your steps!! 😖🏃♀️
As with the groundwork, it is useful to have some patterns in place that help your horse relax before you start to do anything. For some horses this would be walking round on a loose rein, for some doing some bending and stretching, hind quarter yields can also be useful in this instance.
5. Take a supportive friend (and their horse 😃)
One of the easiest things to do to help your horse get used to going to new places is to take him with a horse that’s already good at it!!
If you happen to have a willing friend who’s been out and their horse is good too they will be invaluable in helping you learn the ropes and be a good influence for you both (I’d suggest having a bottle of their favourite wine and a card for a bit of bribery ahem.. I mean as a nice gift 😇)
Horses often travel better in company and will go better in a new environment if a friend is with them. Doing this a few times before going it alone is an ideal way to get you started.
As with all my blog series so far I’m going to look into each of these topics and maybe some more that come up in more detail over the coming weeks. I hope this helps with your plans for the summer!
Have fun with your horses and don’t forget to smile 😁🦄💕