Ridden work for youngsters

Youngsters are all different, but the principles of early ridden work are the same. Watch and learn here how top riders start their youngsters under saddle, what they are thinking and what to expect at different stages of development.

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Laura Bechtolsheimer riding her 4-year-old, Stepdance
The aim of the session is harmony and balance to achieve the right rhythm and speed. Step was 'on fire' two weeks ago after arriving from the sales in Germany but the Bechtolsheimer's calm and considerate approach has created a picture of relaxation already. As Dr Bechtolsheimer says, "the most precious thing a young horse has is his innocence of movement and in the mouth". The co-operation of a happy baby is a pre-requisite for creating a beautiful Grand Prix horse. Priceless wisdom from Dr Bechtolsheimer!

Laura Bechtolsheimer's stars for the future
Teddy and Step are both five but because they are different builds, they are at different stages of training. Laura rides Step and Carl Cuypers rides the "elephant size" Teddy who is already bigger and heavier than Alf! The work they are doing seems similar, however, it's different in intensity. Step is able to collect and balance, take sitting trot and a deeper seat. Carl rides Teddy tactfully with shallow corners so he can maintain his balance. "Training them to become athletes starts now" says Laura, "so it's essential they have a forward-pushing hind leg. But there's no rush, they will have plenty of time to develop strength before doing advanced moves."

Gridwork - Julie Tew Klaus Balkenhol helps Laura B start her 4 year old, Joey
Joey is a stunning 'Bechtolsheimer baby'. Laura shows her 4 year old to Klaus Balkenhol for the first time and Dr B acts as interpreter. Klaus stresses the importance of the scales of training with youngsters. He asks Laura to find a regular rhythm and contact, and to make corrections quietly. Joey works from a long rein to a loose rein in the warmup with frequent walk breaks. Short intervals of collected work follow, plus a few steps of sitting trot, the start of half halts, changes in direction, some serpentines and a bit of shoulder in, all the while ensuring Joey is attentive to Laura. The session is perfectly timed to suit Joey's concentration span!

Gemma Green works her young dressage stallion Zolansky
Zolansky, the fabulous 5 year old stallion who was reserve in the 'Supreme Young Horse' Championship at the Nationals '08, is ridden at home by World Class Squad member Gemma Green. Gemma focuses on cadence and a soft outline, ensuring the trainable stallion 'steps under' without being too heavy in the hand. The aim is to increase the amount of self carriage and power. Through attention to detail in the transitions, Gemma ensures Zack's mind is always on her and what she will ask him to do next. Gemma also talks about the importance of knowing 'how much is too much' with a youngster. This is a beautifully ridden and narrated session!

Young stallion Fleetwood Mac is ridden for the third time
The three year old stallion Fleetwood Mac (owned by Lynne Crowden and the Eilbergs) is ridden for the third time at Woodlander Stud. Lynne's Bereiter Carsten Sandrock explains why he begins on the lunge. Lynne talks about the importance of using two people for the exercise and how division of labour keeps it simple for the horse. Carsten remains cool when dealing with some unexpected exuberance. When he gets on Mac he begins on the lunge in walk, and once loose he uses two helpers to keep the horse moving forwards. Mac demonstrates willingness in all paces. This is an essential video on backing and starting youngsters.

Laura Bechtolsheimer organises Teddy's huge canter
Following on from working with 5 year old Teddy on balance in the trot (in another video), Laura progresses to canter and predicts 'it could be entertaining'! Starting with half halts within the canter, the aim is to collect but maintain a forward stride and be able to let go with the hand. Laura uses a clever technique for stopping the outside shoulder from drifting out, and thus avoids a potential confrontation. The fun starts when the canter gets bigger and bigger and Teddy shows off his bucking skills! Laura sends him on and stresses that whatever happens, it's essential he goes forward into the contact. Order is restored!

Laura Bechtolshiemer's warm-up with 5 year old Joey
A year on from the first video of Joey, top British dressage rider Laura works on the 5 year old's warmup in preparation for simple changes and more collection. Joey can be a little tricky to begin with so he determines the length of the warmup. Laura demonstrates exercises to get him to relax and 'let go', including riding walk-trot transitions with some bend. She also gives some tips on straightness. Laura creates hind leg activity from the start as she says this is a prerequisite for a good connection later. Frequent walk breaks are vital, and walking on a free rein encourages over-tracking. Laura provides a great explanation of her aids.

Laura Bechtolsheimer teaches Joey simple changes
Continuing from her warm up in another video, Laura works on simple changes with the 5 year old Joey. Everything is broken down into small units to make it easier. Laura begins with walk-canter, canter-walk transitions on both reins. Using the arena boards to back Joey off in the downwards transitions, Laura keeps engagement in the canter but gives the contact immediately to encourage a free walk. She says, "if Joey isn't in front of the leg, it's impossible to make a clean transition to walk." With youngsters, the aids need to be obvious to avoid confusion but gauging how much work is enough is critical, as once fatigue sets in the quality diminishes!

Mike Eilberg tactfully trains the 4 year old Rochelle
After lunging Rochelle, four year old daughter of Rockstar (in another video), Mike is ready to ride. There are three things he likes to be in control of with young horses, namely speed, direction and outline. Rochelle is a dominant mare and Mike is tactful in the way he asks her to do things, choosing his moments carefully. In reacting to her mistakes he says, "responding correctly when a youngster makes a mistake is vital to creating a positive experience and avoiding a set-back". Rochelle is co-operative and works calmly in this training session, but Mike also explains how he uses her excess energy when she is in a different mood!

Hannah Biggs trains Fiona & Buddy Holly on leg-yield
Grand Prix rider Hannah Biggs sees the 3 year old Buddy Holly for the second time. Fiona Price has had Buddy for 3 months and he now has a greater understanding of the aids, is more balanced and fitter. Hannah discusses a suitable plan for a session with a youngster. The warm-up in walk is on a long rein and the aim in trot is to establish a good swing, progressing to control of the shoulders and an outline. Fiona makes a number of 'nearly transitions' to get Buddy anticipating what's coming next. In leg yield, Hannah gives Fiona an exercise to ensure she has complete control of the movement. (Hannah rides Buddy in a following video!)

Hannah Biggs trains Buddy Holly to stay in front of the leg
Grand Prix dressage rider Hannah Biggs rides three year old Buddy Holly during Fiona Price's lesson (see below). The emphasis is to get Buddy in front of the leg in all paces and transitions, as he is inclined to drop behind, become heavy in the hand and a little dead to the leg. Using a regular tap of the whip (which caused him to buck with Fiona!) and lots of encouragement, Hannah rewards Buddy for any forward responses. She then works on controlling the shoulders. Finding the correct lead in the canter proves tricky and "Buddy's huge canter is a little untidy, but fitness and practise will improve it", says Hannah. Fiona finds it all very illuminating!

Pammy and Pippa Hutton teach Rubin the start of lateral work Pammy and Pippa Hutton teach Rubin the start of lateral work
Leading dressage trainer Pammy Hutton works with aspiring GB Young Rider team member, daughter Pippa, and the enormous 5 year old Talland Rubin. Starting with leg yield, Pippa rides a straight line to show Rubin where to go and then introduces a few strides of leg yield. "In the early stages, crossing isn't as important as forwards," says Pammy. Half pass is taught in three stages - straight, bend and over. Then, to develop the gears in canter Pippa moves Rubin forwards and back on a circle. Pammy says "a little canter half pass helps with lateral suppleness". Finally, Pammy explains how to introduce a youngster to sitting trot.

Young horse masterclass with Wayne Garrick & Baby Bell Young horse masterclass with Wayne Garrick & Baby Bell
Eventer and trainer Wayne Garrick is a month into starting the 4 year old Baby Bell, and aims to ride her off the lunge for the very first time. Wayne begins by lunging Bell to get rid of excess energy and explains the issues her elevated paces might cause, once he is on board. He stresses the importance of correct transitions to minimise problems later on and offers an insight into subtleties with young horses that can help to reduce risk. When Bell is ready, Wayne brings in a helper and explains the mounting-up process. After repeating under saddle what Bell has done on the lunge, Wayne is set free. "Consistency is a vital key," he says.

Wayne Garrick starts the four year old Cheeko Wayne Garrick starts the four year old Cheeko
Newly broken Cheeko is in his 5th week of training with eventer Wayne Garrick. He has been lunged and long-reined and recently ridden. Wayne assesses if he is ready for his first hack. Having worked Cheeko on the lunge to eliminate excess energy, Wayne takes his time to mount up, and is then lunged in trot and canter before being let loose. He rides in a circle around the handler and gradually moves further away. "Transitions into canter aren't perfect" says Wayne. Repetition and consistency are key and the aids are taught gradually, backed up with the voice. "Going forwards is vital and all efforts should be rewarded" says Wayne.

Vicki Thompson-Winfield trains four year old stallion Exquisite: Part 2 Vicki Thompson-Winfield trains four year old stallion Exquisite: Part 2
Dressage Olympian Vicki-Thompson Winfield rides the 4 year old stallion Exquisite after lunging (Part 1). The aim is to maintain the steady forwards rhythm, relaxed top line and confident walk, trot and canter that has been established and move onto baby lateral work (Part 3). Vicky begins on a 'longer' not loose rein. Turns are gradual to help the stallion stay balanced and straight. The wall offers security for the young horse, so Vicki uses it strategically for transitions and circles. The first steps in all transitions must show a forwards intention. Attention to detail and thinking ahead ensures the best experience for the youngster in his early work!

Vicki Thompson-Winfield trains four year old stallion Exquisite: Part 3 Vicki Thompson-Winfield trains four year old stallion Exquisite: Part 3
Having lunged Exquisite (Part 1) and done basic flatwork in walk, trot and canter (Part 2), Vicki does some baby lateral work for acceptance of the outside leg aid (which is sometimes an issue with stallions) and mental stimulation. Starting with shoulder-in, Vicki uses an open inside rein to allow the shoulder to come across, though flexion is minimum and Exquisite is only just on three tracks. Similarly, with haunches in and half-pass, the angle remains small. Once Exquisite is confident the emphasis is on "forwards and sideways with the desired degree of flexion," says Vicki, who gives a superb explanation of the aids in all movements.

Marne Martin-Tucker & Natalie Allen train the young stallion Quincy Marne Martin-Tucker & Natalie Allen train the young stallion Quincy
Quincy is a recently backed, tall, three and a half year old stallion. Amateur Grand Prix dressage rider Marne Martin-Tucker works him under the watchful eye of fellow Grand Prix rider and trainer Natalie Allen, who explains that in the basic training of a young horse, it's vital the horse is in front of the leg. "As a stallion, Quincy looks muscular but that's more about hormones than fitness" says Natalie. Natalie asks Marne to ride with soft hands and allow him to be relaxed in the neck but with a little bend. Changes of direction and serpentines test steering and balance and, with careful preparation, Quincy starts baby lateral work.

Natalie Allen rides four year old Ruby on and off the lunge Natalie Allen rides four year old Ruby on and off the lunge
Grand Prix dressage rider Natalie Allen rides the 4 year old mare Ruby on the lunge before taking her 'solo' for the second time only. Natalie says she is careful not to pressurise the horse but instead focuses on building trust. She trots, then canters ensuring Ruby goes forwards all the time, gets used to the contact and has a little inside bend. Natalie's seat is soft and she remains supple through her body with relaxed hands that give direction, as she gradually takes over steering from the lunger. Once Ruby is completely settled, Natalie rides off the lunge. She explains the experience and stresses the importance of making the session enjoyable for Ruby.

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