Young Horse Backing

with Raffles

This is the start of your horse’s ridden career – so it is important to get it right from the beginning. Follow each season with 3 year old Raffles and learn how to safely back your horse, from the first wobbly steps, to working beautifully under saddle… and all the growing up in between!

Young Horse Backing

with Raffles

3 year old Raffles is starting his ridden career. Follow each season right from the beginning.

Start your adventure here!

Spring Season

We're off to a great start, despite the windy Spring weather! In this first season your horse will learn to stay relaxed whilst mounting and taking their first steps under saddle.

Download our quick reference cards for each lesson to keep you and your horse on track!

Spring 1B
Spring: Lesson 1

Safe Zone

  • Equipment
  • Headcollar
  • Saddle
  • Headslip
  • Snaffle bit
  • Triangle cones
  • Targeting
  • Pattern recognition
  • Confidence

This 'triangle' will help your horse feel relaxed and confident in the arena.

We start this lesson with a few pointers on equipment. Our rider, Maz, is wearing a hat, body protector and gloves. Raffles is in a good strong flat head collar. He has recently had a saddle fitting in our faithful old jumping saddle. This flat seat is best as we will be ‘leaning over’ in the beginning. It also offers a more secure seat with the rider’s leg more forward. We don’t use a bridle at this stage. Instead we add a 'head slip' with a snaffle bit, which easily fits on top of the head collar. Finally, you will see we attach the lunge line to the head collar under the chin.

We have set out a triangular ‘safe zone’ in the arena using traffic cones. Our aim is to mirror the ground work lesson 'targeting' each cone. By doing this we are setting up a pattern for Raffles to learn which you will see we will use to our advantage in the next lesson.

Spring 2B
Spring: Lesson 2

Lean Over

  • Desensitising
  • Mounting block
  • Neutral place of relaxation
  • Pattern recognition
  • Reset button
  • Set up for success

Raffles is already enjoying the backing process - it feels more like a game!

In the first lesson we set up a ‘safe zone’ in the arena using cones set out on a triangle. Now we’re ready to start introducing our rider. You’ll see we do this very gradually in steps starting with desensitising using sound, visual and tactile stimulation and then finally Maz, was able to 'lean over' and put her whole weight on Raffles back.

Every time we complete a step and ask a little bit more, we take Raffles away from the 'pressure' of the mounting block and we repeat the previous lesson - targeting the cones on our triangle. This pattern will give your horse confidence. It is really important as it teaches them how to 'reset' themselves, diffusing any tension that might be creeping in, and it helps to keep them focused and paying attention. Raffles is already enjoying the process as it feels more like a game!

Spring 3B
Spring: Lesson 3

On the Move

  • Left rein
  • Confidence
  • Rider safety
  • Relaxation
  • Pressure
  • Feet out of stirrups
  • Leaning over
  • Mounting routine

It is amazing how our horses are so willing to carry a rider on their backs.

Before we start, we make sure our triangle and mounting block are set up in the same position each time - remember 'horses think in pictures' so it is important to make sure the picture is always the same so that your horse can easily learn and repeat the pattern.

Now if you think about it - and this always amazes me - it is really quite odd for a horse to carry the weight of a rider, especially when they start walking. So, understandably they can sometimes be a little bit unsure at first. The reason we start walking whilst 'leaning over' rather than fully mounted and sitting astride, is so that if there were any wobbles, Maz can simply drop down onto her feet relatively safely. You will see this is where our trusty triangle comes in. You will see Raffles has already learned the pattern - he knows the answer before we even ask the question!

Spring 4B
Spring: Lesson 4

All Aboard!

  • Rider safety
  • Pressure and release
  • Knowing your horses mood
  • Behaviour patterns
  • Trust your own instinct

Oops! We abandon our first attempt due to weather and try again next day.

Finally we are ready to fully mount Raffles and our aim is to target all 3 cones on the triangle. However, as you’ll see it’s windy and Raffles gets a little bit tense. So we make a judgement call to keep everyone safe and quit while we're ahead. This is an important lesson in itself!

The next day is much calmer - so we try again. Backing a young horse can be tricky, and we are often told it is best ‘left to the experts’ but with the right support every sensible horse owner can make a good job of it. For most of us our horses are a part of our family. We are with them every day and have built up mutual trust and a bond with them. We are their experts! Get to know your horses’ moods and behaviour patterns you will instinctively know - better than any ‘expert’ - when it’s sometimes best to leave things for another day.

Downloadable Quick-Reference Cards

Lesson:Safe Zone

Safety first! If you’re on the ground, wear gloves and a safety helmet. Your rider, should be wearing a safety helmet, gloves and body protector.
Your horse should be wearing a fl at head collar, a headslip with simple snaffle bit on top, and a saddle which has been professionally fitted to your horse.
Set up your arena with a mounting block and 2 x cones on a triangle approx 10 - 15m apart. Choose an area where your horse feels secure.
Point in the direction of the fi rst cone on the triangle and walk towards it. As you reach the cone point at it to cue your horse to ‘target’ it - ‘tsk’ & reward.
Follow the triangle pattern, targeting each cone, and then halt at the mounting block - ‘tsk’ & reward.
REMEMBER:
The ‘picture’ changes when you change rein, so stick to the left rein only as this helps your horse learn the pattern and become more confident.

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Each season will be added as we progress in real-time through the year. The complete program will be available to buy at the end of the year. Meanwhile you can join our membership to get access to the lessons which are already live. Enjoy!

Lesson:Rider Aids

As a pre-requisite, your horse must fi rst understand the ‘go and whoa’ cues learned in the Young Horse Groundwork program. Revisit this lesson first.
Next go through the ‘mounting routine’. Then repeat the ‘go and whoa’ lesson with the rider on board. Your rider is completely passive at this stage.
Next ‘overlay' the rider aids, starting with the ‘whoa’ aid. In coordination with your ground cue, the rider blocks with the reins, and then releases.
To change rein ‘turn about the fore’ - ask your rider to stay passive for this whilst you cue the turn from the ground. Repeat the ‘whoa aid’ on both reins
Next ‘overlay’ the 'go aid’. In coordination with your ground cue, the rider gently squeezes with the calf to go forward.
REMEMBER:
Soon your horse won’t need the ground cues as they will be listening and responding to light rider aids.

Lesson:Rider Aids

As a pre-requisite, your horse must fi rst understand the ‘go and whoa’ cues learned in the Young Horse Groundwork program. Revisit this lesson first.
Next go through the ‘mounting routine’. Then repeat the ‘go and whoa’ lesson with the rider on board. Your rider is completely passive at this stage.
Next ‘overlay' the rider aids, starting with the ‘whoa’ aid. In coordination with your ground cue, the rider blocks with the reins, and then releases.
To change rein ‘turn about the fore’ - ask your rider to stay passive for this whilst you cue the turn from the ground. Repeat the ‘whoa aid’ on both reins
Next ‘overlay’ the 'go aid’. In coordination with your ground cue, the rider gently squeezes with the calf to go forward.
REMEMBER:
Soon your horse won’t need the ground cues as they will be listening and responding to light rider aids.

Lesson:Corkscrew Pattern

As a pre-requisite, your horse should have already learned the ‘corkscrew pattern’ on the ground. Now you are ready to add the rider.
As you set o ff from the mounting block, cue with your arm pointing forward as your rider overlays the ‘go aid’ by lightly squeezing with the calf.
Your rider maintains a light contact, and overlays the ‘stop aid’ by applying pressure on the bit to ‘block’ and then ‘release’ back to a light contact.
Follow the ‘corkscrew pattern’ in walk, up and down the arena. Focus on getting your cues in sync with your rider’s aids as you halt at each marker.
Next progress to trot. Make sure you give your rider warning if you ‘miss out’ a marker, and when you intend halting, so you are in sync. Repeat on both reins.
REMEMBER:
Always tell your rider what the aim is for the session. Having a clear plan will give your rider confidence, which translates to your horse.

Lesson:Shoulder Control

Start by using your ground cues to help ‘yield’ the shoulders a few steps. The rider focuses on keeping the neck straight and turning the outside shoulder.
Next progress to the ‘chevron’ poles in walk with help from the ground first, then independently. Then set the poles wider approx 4m and repeat in trot.
Once your horse has learned how to turn correctly through the poles, they are ready to start to working large, and gradually become more independent.
By putting a little more weight into the outside stirrup, to shift the centre of gravity, your horse will stay under the rider and travel straight up the track.
Give your rider the treat bag to reward from the saddle. Using the inside hand has an added bonus as your horse will learn to fl ex the poll to the inside.
REMEMBER:
Pulling on the inside rein is a big no no! Teaching your horse the correct turning aids is hugely important in order to keep their balance, and confidence intact.

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