Starting Young Horses
Starting Young Horses
As with any project, the beginning creates a successful end result. Starting young dressage horses is no different. Correct basics determine the understanding and progress of the horse into a confident, correct dressage horse. The biggest factor that is different from many horse-starting systems is that dressage horses must go “on contact.”
Starting them through groundwork, lunging, and driving to accept the bit, using their backs and developing the muscles correctly from the beginning, allows the horse to understand and develop in a way that makes the introduction of the saddle seamless
I believe in correct basics, started from the beginning with the young horses and in correct equitation for the riders. There are no short cuts. It is a sport of detail and accuracy and the basics are what take the rider and horses successfully up the levels. The joy of dressage is not only reaching the goals but the journey along the way. Horizon is filled with riders on that journey
Ideally we start the young horse as a late 2-year-old, groundwork, lunging and light driving, and depending on the youngster, possibly backed. We turn them out for the winter and then restart them up again as a 3 year old, reintroducing the groundwork etc., and then backing. “The horse is the calendar” is the motto we live by. Some horses develop very quickly and others are late maturing, both physically and mentally and need to be evaluated on an individual basis.
Therefore, no exact time table can be given, but a reasonable expectation of a young horse is that they should be ready to be shown at training level as a 4 year old, assuming a start as outlined in the previous paragraph. However as we know, all horses are individuals and must be treated as such.
I personally love young horses, but they are not for every rider and I do not encourage a young horse purchase for a novice or nervous rider. Young horses must be ridden by confident, well-seated riders under the instruction and watchful eye of a qualified trainer. Young horses are blank slates so correctly ridden, they can advance quickly and happily, but there is also the reality that every young horse does not work out as a dressage horse, just as not every jumper prospect wants to jump, and in the end, a trainer of good conscience knows when to find a horse a job that makes them happy. That may not be the job one originally hoped for. Our goal is to create confident, happy horses that know their job, do it well and are a joy to ride. After all, dressage is about submission, accuracy, and correctness but also relaxation and confidence.
“Sheri Dumonceaux has been a long time student and friend of mine. She has ridden, trained and competed up to the Grand Prix level in dressage. She has also, along the way. won several championships with her young horses at the FEI Young horse level. She has developed, through many years of experience, an excellent training method for starting young horses under saddle. She uses a combination of long line driving, lunge line and under saddle sessions that promote confidence and calmness for the young horse. They learn to understand how to accept gentle contact and forward aids. These early lessons, done correctly, provide the basics for the correct future training of the horse for any discipline. It is very important to have an experienced person teaching the impressionable young horse the correct way to respond to aids. Sheri’s method has produced many successful competition horses for her clients, students, and herself.”
“I have worked with Sheri for 15 years and in that time have brought along 3 young horses under her experienced direction. I have been extremely happy with the results, having won the Provincial and Western Regional Championships with my current young mare. I would highly recommend Horizon as a great place to start your young horse right.”
“I have known Sheri Dumonceaux for very many years and during that time, have ridden many horses Sheri has started and trained through the levels. I am familiar with the results and am always comfortable knowing any sale horses she has started and trained will be obedient, have a good understanding of the aids and be super in the contact. With the strong basics Sheri instills in her young horses, it is easy to build on their knowledge and develop each horse to their natural ability. Sheri’s system for training young horses with good basics is consistent and has been proven to work.”