Things to do with Young or Unrideable Horses

Setanta is at that awkward stage where he's still no mature (mentally or physically!) to be broken but he definately gets bored being out in the field the whole time. He'll choose to hang around me while I'm pulling up ragwort or setting up a few jumps. I think he's not only nosey...but a bit bored!

I've started trying to do a bit of ground work with him this year, more so to get him using his brain and making him figure out things himself. He's still young so I never want to put too much pressure on his joints or put him under any physical stress. He has the basics such a putting on a head collar and picking up his feet so I needed something just a little more challenging.


This is done in hand with just a headcollar and leadrope. We walk and trot over some tarpaulin on the ground. Another thing I have done is to get a plastic bag and rub him all over with it, he was a bit unsure at first but lots of positive reinforcement encouraged him. Knowing his limits was so important as I didn't wan't to scare him!

Horsebox Training / Self Loading

I've actually been very lucky that he's done this from the time he was weaned. He did a few mare and foal shows and Liath (his mom) loads herself and is a great traveller so I think her confidence and attitude rubbed off on him. I do give him a bit of carrot when he loads as a form of positive reinforcenent. There is nothing worse than having a horse who wont load....especially after a long day at a show or lesson!

Voice and Touch Commands

He knows the voice and touch cues for backing up, walking on and turning on either rein.

Pole Work

Not as complicated as it sounds but have him walking and trotting in hand over some ground poles. I usually stick to one pole at a time but have them quite spaced out (a few strides in between). This is really beneficial for their co-ordination and spacial awareness without being physically demanding.

Trotting in Hand

I hate it when horses cannot do this without someone clapping or running behind them. It's necessary not only for showing but also for assessing any lameness issues. I tend to bribe them with bits of carrot or polo the first few times (and often with someone behind) until they realise whats being asked of them and can do it solely on a voice command.


I'm all for teaching horses tricks! It engages their brain, is rewarding ... and of course gets a few laughs from us. Setanta knows how to smile and uses it to bribe strangers into giving him a treat!

As he's still only a baby I don't want to over do it or over handle him but I've found these little sessions (usually about 20 minutes) really beneficial to him and he's become confident in himself and *touch wood* never spooks. I'm hoping this one on one attention will pay off once he has a rider on board!

Next stop...teaching the little fecker not to escape from stables! 

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