Sunday, April 12, 2009

Part 1--Conrad Schumacher--Training of the Young Horse

Here's the first of my notes from the Conrad symposium I attended last month in Redmond, Washington. I apologize if my notes aren't complete, but it was in the thirties and freezing making it hard to write.

The symposium started with the basic training of the young horse. Included in the demonstration: a 4-year-old horse 6 months under saddle and a 6-year-old warmblood.

Conrad stressed the young horses need three things:

  1. Patience
  2. Patience
  3. Patience

How Conrad starts his young horses: A dressage horse is at its peak at 14-16 years old, and pretty much done at 21-22. He starts them at 3, puts them out to pasture, then brings them back at 4. The best work starts at 5. He doesn’t show his horses in the young horses classes at 5 as they aren’t ready.

A horse never makes a mistake on purpose. There is no reason for punishment, except in dangerous situations. Convince the horse by being nice to them. WB’s can be a bit of bullies when they’re young.

In the beginning of the ride, let them move in a big, regular forward trot. Keep the neck long so the horse can come over the back.

American type horses (non WB) can’t necessarily get over the back by going more forward. They go a little crazy, fall on the forehand and begin to run. A WB needs to be ridden into the hand.

A horse is only honest in the neck when he learns to push against the hand (when they give in and push away from the bit). You can ride bigger when the neck is softer. Make horse’s neck round with the inside leg. Turn on forehand works on spine and should make horse softer in neck.

Good exercises

  • Leg yield on the wall then turn on forehand (makes horses that are strong in the hand soften). In 5 minutes, the horse will go longer in the neck.
  • Trot, stop, turn on forehand, trot in the opposite direction. Horse should give in neck.
  • Setup trotting poles on one half of a 20-meter circle. Canter half of the 20-meter circle then trot over poles on the other half of the 20-meter circle. Repeat until horse trots over poles without changing speed or head and neck position.
  • Do lots of transitions when warming up. Mouth starts to foam and horse starts moving better. Do both sides. Let him stretch down and come to walk.
  • Before trotting, give the horse a warning: Inside leg at girth, flex neck slightly to inside, move haunches out. When he gives in the neck, trot as a reward. Inside flexion makes neck rounder.
  • Turn on forehand—softens the neck position.


mugwump said...

Jami - Could you explain "over the back?"
And how far along are the horses when you do the exercises listed?

Jami Davenport said...

Over the back means that the horse is stretched out through his body with his spine, neck, and tail forming a bow. When a horse is over the back, his back is up instead of being hollow.

I rechecked my notes, and I'm not sure when he'd recommend that these exercises be started. I'm guessing turn on the forehand could be started relatively early.

FD said...

I consider a horse to be working over the back when the stomach muscles lift which allows them to track up properly. If you watch a horse without tack on, it's easy to see - the belly comes up and the area of the back just behind the saddle flattens out and lifts slightly, then they step under and the forehand can lift and free the shoulders to move forward. I consider it different from being through, because a horse can work over the back, but still have a blockage in the neck / shoulder area that prevents them from truly being through.

I teach turn on the forehand very early on - mainly because I use it for gate opening.
Leg yield is generally considered the first lateral movement that you'd teach a young horse as a schooling exercise, and I start on that as soon as the horse can carry me in reasonable balance in w/t/c on a 20m circle. I like to introduce it in trot personally, ditto shoulder in when we get there.