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How do you prevent mental overload in a young horse in training?

When a horse comes out of rearing and goes to work, it brings a lot of changes with it. Not only because everything is suddenly expected of him, but also because the circumstances in which the animal lives are changing. The horse often spends fewer hours in the herd, sometimes in the stable at night and comes into contact with people and 'strange' situations much more than before. Most people know that when training a young horse you should take it easy to let the tendons, muscles, ligaments and joints get used to the work. Short training sessions and sufficient (active) rest days in between are important to start a horse in the right way.

mental load

With a young horse in training, there are not only physical challenges. There is also a lot going on mentally. It's like a toddler going to school for the first time, they get a lot of impressions and that is tiring. The horse often has to deal with other circumstances, such as standing individually in a box at night. He also gets into all kinds of strange situations, with people, in a box or a lunge circle. It takes energy and time to process all these impressions. A horse can only learn if he is given the time to mentally cope with his new life and to rest sufficiently.

What is burdensome?

How taxing your young horse's training is depends on many factors. What is your horse used to? Has he just come out of rearing and has he 'never seen a human', so to speak? Or has he been in the stable every winter, does he know the routine there, is he familiar with brushing, hosing legs, lifting hooves and going to the blacksmith? Those basic things alone make a world of difference for your young horse. Of course it also depends on his character. Some horses are more difficult to deal with change than others. You can tell a lot about his mental state from the behavior and facial expression of your horse. A horse that is friendly and alert, comes to you and is curious about new objects is probably not mentally overloaded. A horse that stands with its back to you, has dull eyes, reacts anxiously, keeps its head low or eats poorly, indicates that it is all a bit too much for him. If in doubt, give an extra day of rest, take a step back in training and give your horse some extra time for free movement with peers. Every horse recovers from social behavior and free movement in the fresh air.

The perfect balance

Most horses have a great willingness to work with people. It is important to always be careful with that. Make sure that your horse remains curious and continues to enjoy the training. Don't train for too long and don't do the same thing too often. Try to alternate, but without overwhelming your horse with new questions all the time. For the same reason, ask only one question at a time. For example, the question to be forward. Only when that succeeds do you start asking the next question, for example driving around a bend. Don't overwhelm your horse with a lot of aids at once. Reward your horse as soon as he tries to give the correct answer to your help or question, with a tickle or with your voice. Try to ignore wrong answers as much as possible and in any case don't get angry. Strict intervention may only be necessary if dangerous situations threaten to arise. You don't do that if your horse doesn't understand you, because that only leads to fear and stress. Your horse will then learn nothing and the next time it will only be more difficult to get the result you want. The horse will shut down and become stressed.

keep watching

Keep a close eye on your horse, every day. Does he look tired? Then you do something else or nothing. Is management in order? Does he get enough roughage, free movement, social contact? Does he still like it or should you do something different? Is your horse physically okay? Always keep in mind that tension can also come from pain. A horse that can relax in its body, can also relax better mentally. Groundwork can also be an important tool in this regard.

Support in exciting times

It is inevitable that there will be moments in your horse's training that are more exciting than average. For example, when a rider steps on the horse for the first time. How well this goes depends to a large extent on the preliminary phase. You can only start if your horse remains relaxed during all the steps that precede mounting. But even if you have gone through that preparation well and always keep a close eye on your horse, it can be useful to give your horse a little extra support in some situations. For example with a herbal supplement against stress. Your horse will not become dazed by this, but it will be better able to handle exciting situations. Well-known herbs that help against stress are, for example, passion flower and chamomile. In addition, make sure that a young horse always gets enough magnesium. This mineral is of great importance for the muscles, tendons, joints and nervous system. Because a young horse is growing and has to process a lot mentally, his magnesium requirement is often higher. Dutch roughage often contains too little magnesium. That is why it is almost always wise to supplement this. To support the muscle building of your young horse, you can also give vitamin E if your horse is not on grass.

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