The world’s best event horses might seem like freaks of nature, who do their job so well because they’re blessed with incredible natural talent and a strong work ethic. While it’s true that there’s often a special something about these once-in-a-lifetime horses, almost all their ability comes down to one thing – careful, correct training. They aren’t born knowing when to lengthen or shorten their stride, or how to approach a tricky combination – this comes down to years of carefully building their skills, from the very basics right through to the top level.
Although event horses are required to do three different jobs in a competition, many of the essential elements are consistent across the phases and apply no matter what you do with your horse. The most important of these is his paces. Whatever you’re asking him to do, he needs to be engaged, adjustable and balanced, and the foundation for this is correct flatwork.
Working on walk
- The ideal walk has a steady, rhythmical four-beat tempo that you can count out, which comes from your horse having freedom through his body and a long, reaching neck.
- Try this… use 10m circles to create energy and engagement in his walk. Intersperse them into your schooling, rather than drilling them endlessly, to help move him into the contact. This works because you have to put your leg on properly to create correct bend without causing your horse to fall in or out. It’s an easy way to move him from your inside leg to your outside rein, then ride forward into that connection.
- The ideal trot manifests itself in lots of different ways. Michael Jung’s superstar, La Biosthetique Sam FBW, might not have the most flamboyant movement, but he’ll consistently score 7s, 7.5s and 8s for his trot work because it’s all very correct. That, to me, is what’s most important. It’s great to have flashy movement and flamboyance but, at the end of the day, producing a correct test is far more important.
- Try this… scatter poles around your arena to encourage your horse to think about where his feet are and to adjust himself accordingly. A combination of raised and ground poles will keep things varied and interesting, and encourage him to lift through his body in his trot work.
Discover more of Tom’s easy exercises to achieve perfect paces in the April Horse&Rider, on sale 8 March.