So here are some tips:
- Your schooling sessions should not be overlong and should always end on a good note. If your horse is young, 20-30 minutes is plenty of time.
- To get the most out of your session think ahead and plan your horse's work. However, remember that not everything will go to plan, so if things do go wrong, don't get hung up on achieving your objectives. Sometimes the wisest thing to do is to forget schooling and go for a hack. At the very least do something your horse can do easily and well so you finish on a good note.
- When warming up, especially if your horse has come straight out of the stable, walk him around on a loose rein for 5 -10 minutes. Don't do tight circles! Instead make use of straight lines and curves, making lots of changes of rein....you need your horse to be listening to you.
Remember to run through a position checklist for yourself as you warm up in this initial walk period.
Then you can move on to trot and canter, always starting off in rising trot. Your horse should be going forwards, straight and in a regular rhythm.
Remember - do not push your horse out of his natural rhythm. Keep your horse moving forwards actively, working him in a deep frame, letting him stretch his neck and take the contact forwards, with his back raised and the hindlegs coming under his body.
This does not mean he is on the forehand! He should be balanced and have impulsion and by stretching, warming and loosening the muscles over his back and neck you are preparing him for work and are minimizing the risk of injury.
- As you move into canter, you can include large circles and loops, initially with the rider working in a forward seat. Throughout your work include transitions frequently so that you reduce any tension in your horse.
- Once your horse is properly warmed up, include some work he already knows but try to improve your skills. For instance, you may be aiming to make your circles a more consistent shape with your horse having an improved outline. Or perhaps you are improving your leg yields, or working on achieving crisper transitions.
- If everything has gone well, try introducing some new work eg transitions from walk to canter. Sometimes your horse isn't working as well or is more easily distracted, so teaching him a new exercise at this time will be a waste of time. Only you can decide what to do and when.
- If you've tried new work and your horse has become a little worried or confused, then go back to some of his established work. It is important that you finish your session on a good note.
- It's also vital to cool down - move your horse around on large circles, trotting him in a deep frame as you did for the warm up, so that he can stretch and loosen his muscles.
- After three or four minutes come forward to walk and walk on a loose rein until the horse is cool.
- If you don't cool down properly your horse could have sore, stiff muscles the following day.
- Remember to take frequent breaks during a schooling session to reward your horse and prevent his muscles becoming too sore (especially if he hasn't been schooled for some time).
- Remembe,that all schooling should be enjoyable for you and the horse, if things don't go quite to plan one day, there is always tomorrow to improve on them.