The Magazine May 2018

Managing an excitable horse

Posted 3rd April 2018

If you’re struggling to keep a lid on your excitable horse, help is at hand. H&R asked top riders and trainers for the best ways to keep him calm under saddle

Managing an excitable horse

A forward-going horse can be a wonderful thing. He’s likely to be a quick learner and naturally capable of working from behind. He’ll also give you a great feeling over a fence – if you can stop him from tugging your arms out of their sockets to get to it, that is. But if your horse’s insatiable lust for life is stopping you from accomplishing your goals – or worse, beginning to shake your confidence – it’s time to do something about it. With the help of some leading riders and trainers, we’ve dissected the inner workings of the equine overachiever to help you make your horse the best he can be.

What’s setting him off

There can be many causes for excitability and it’s important to establish why your horse is being lively. Some of the most common reasons are…

  • too much or the wrong type of food Make sure you’re feeding him according to his condition and workload. A nutritionist can help you find a feed that meets his dietary requirements without making him fizzy, but reducing starch and sugar is key
  • not enough work This can leave your horse with excess energy, so if you can only ride a few times a week, consider finding a sharer or paying someone to exercise him
  • a lack of variety If your horse is frustrated or bored, it can lead to unwanted behaviour. So, if you spend most of your time in the school, add in some hacking days to his routine
  • changing seasons These can affect your horse’s behaviour, particularly when the spring grass comes through or temperatures drop in winter
  • inexperience or lack of confidence If he’s unsure what you’re asking of him, it can cause him to rush through his work. Simple exercises that encourage him to slow down and assess what he’s being asked to do will build his self-belief
  • overenthusiasm or keenness Being too enthusiastic about work can lead to excitability. Careful training is key because you don’t want to diminish his enthusiasm, just temper it and make it easier to work with
  • pain or discomfort Pain can make your horse rush, shy or buck, so book a visit from your vet and equine dental technician, and have his tack checked, too
  • tension in the rider If your nerves are having an adverse affect on your horse, book some sessions with your instructor or a confidence coach

Badminton and Burghley-winning eventer Oliver Townend…

“Working with a hot horse is all about getting the basics right – not just in the saddle, but in his management, too. If a horse is hot, we’ll try to make him as happy as possible before we even get on him. That might mean turning him out the night before a competition or adjusting his feed, bedding and stabling. If you can get him relaxed in his day-to-day life, you’re halfway there.

“Focus on the basics when you’re in the saddle, as consistency is important – establish a rhythm and get him accepting your leg. It’s never beneficial to rush a hot horse – it’s better to turn him out if you haven’t got time to fit in a full schooling session.”

 Discover more tips from top riders on how to manage a hot horse in the May issue of Horse&Rider, on sale 5 April.


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