Nine-year-old Pura Raza Española Relampago enjoys his pasture time at Oakridge Farm in Rancho Santa Fe. Dressage trainer Shayna Simon transitioned him from a stall to a paddock when he began more challenging work. "We thought it would be better for his mind and legs to be in a big space," Shayna explains. "We're happy with how he is doing. He's very relaxed and tranquil mentally, and his body seems as if he is a 4-year-old." Relampago is available for lease, by the way.
Reader: I liked your comments about giving horses plenty of outdoor time in paddocks. (California Riding Magazine, Sept. 2014). Can you give me some advice for how to safely introduce this to my show horse, who is used to spending his time in a 12' by 12' stall? I'm worried about him hurting himself, but on the other hand, he's getting older and I know it would be good for him to move around more.
Shayna: Here are some ideas for introducing pasture space to show horses who normally are in stalls. It can be easy or it can be tricky! It's all about their first experiences and the horse's disposition.
Normally, the first step is that I will hand walk the horse in the new space for around 20 minutes once or twice a day. The more calm time they have in the new area the better they are. Make sure your horse has protective boots and bell boots on if they are used to wearing them.
After a week of hand walking them in the space, the next step is a short period of time at liberty. Make sure your horse has had his normal daily exercise. Put the horse's favorite hay in the pasture and hand walk him for 20 minutes or until he is calm. Then, let the horse at liberty. Leave a leather halter on in case you need to catch him quickly.
Only allow your horse a short period of time loose in the pasture: five to 10 minutes. It's very important that, during the first couple of experiences at liberty, your horse is calm. That establishes the setting and mood of the pasture time as relaxing, not frantic.
Then, add a couple more minutes each week to the point where they can be out for a hour or so. Make sure to work the horse before pasture time so they are a little less likely to be crazy.
Positive reinforcement is always a great way to train horses. Give your horse carrots or another favorite treat during their pasture time. And take your time introducing them to it, so it's a positive experience.
Shayna Simon is a dressage rider and trainer based at Oakridge Farm in Rancho Santa Fe. She can be reached at 916-342-4442 or visit www.oakridgefarmrsf.com.
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