The first steps in breaking in a horse
If a horse is to be broken in by Silke Hönig, first of all the leading will be trained. This is the basis for all further steps. Once a young horse has understood how to be led wearing a headcollar, Silke Hönig gets them used to the girth and bridle. Step by step the horses are familiarised with humans and they are prepared for riding.
Silke Hönig deliberately does not go to other stables for breaking in, but the horses should stay in her stable for a few weeks. "The reason is that I can establish a much closer bond with the horse when it stays at my place," says Silke Hönig.
“Only when the horse has gained confidence in the human being and the commands and aids from the ground, one can start to accustom a horse to a rider.”
As a rule, Silke Hönig starts breaking in when the horses are taken from the field in autumn at the age of 3. Silke plans four to six weeks for breaking in. Afterwards the horses either go back to their owners or stay with her in the stable for further training. However, it is never possible to estimate in advance how much time will be needed. Some horses are easier than others, so that they are already broken in after three weeks. Other horses need about two months to build up trust in order to move in walk, trot and canter with the rider.
"There is no "Scheme F" for breaking in. Each horse has to be considered individually. Exceptions confirm the rule".
Often occurring mistakes when breaking in
If the future rider has not been able to gain any or only little experience with breaking in young horses, many situations are new territory. How does the horse react when a girth is tightened for the first time? How must the rider react if the horse becomes hectic or reacts with resistance? All these questions cannot be answered with a clear answer.
"The most important thing is to approach the situation with calm and patience. That is the problem in most cases. Wanting too much too quickly will not get you anywhere".
In addition to the lack of calm and patience, one's own fear of unwanted situations can also lead to new problems. If, for example, the rider leans over the horse's back in order to get the horse used to the rider's weight, the rider should not jump off again too quickly, as the horse cannot build up confidence in this way.
Silke Hönig recommends riders who want to do the breaking in themselves to get help from someone who has already experienced many different horses - and thus, different situations when breaking in.
Start of jumping training
If the horse masters the most important basics, the training can be increased slowly. It is important that the young horse constantly builds up muscles and finds balance with and without his rider.
In order to introduce a horse to jumping, Silke Hönig begins with a pole at the side of the indoor arena. "Most horses know poles and jumps at the side from free jumping. Therefore, this is a great possibility to introduce jumping to the horses with a rider", says Silke Hönig. She also integrates free jumping into her daily training routine in order to give the horses the opportunity to balance themselves at the jump without the rider.
How many individual jumps a horse has to make before completing the first jump sequence or an entire course varies from horse to horse. It is again not possible to clearly state how long it takes for a horse to safely complete a course.
Show preparation and breaks for the youngsters
"Before the horses go to the first shows, I like to go to Peelbergen (NL) to practice jumping or to my trainer Klaus Beine, who builds up entire courses with flowers and everything that goes with it," says Silke Hönig. Jumping obstacles that were previously unknown shows how confident a horse is already and how much practice is needed before the show starts. The aim should always be not to overwhelm the horses, but to constantly accustom them to their daily work and changing circumstances.
If the horses have completed a successful season until late summer, Silke Hönig is happy to put the 4- or 5-year-old horses back into the field. Until February, the young horses can once again "be horses and grow in the fields". Only in spring the horses will go back into training for the coming show season.
Silke Hönig has also put a 5-year-old gelding, who has already been placed in medium (M) level show jumping competitions, out into the field again over the winter. "This gelding does not have the typical jumping style to win every young horses’ class. There is no point for me or the horse to collect 20 green ribbons. I rather give him a break now and really get going when he is six years old".
In general, the frequency of jumping training should not be exaggerated. It is more important to maintain the motivation and health of the horses. That is why the focus of Silke Hönig's daily work is on dressage work. During the show season, show jumping is almost completely abandoned at home. Gymnastics should keep the horses agile and improve the jumping process.
Silke Hönig is currently looking after up to 8 horses. She still has free spaces, but she does not want to take too many horses at the same time. It is more important for her to take more time per horse and to be able to approach the work, especially with the young horses, with calmness and patience.
"I would rather have one horse less to ride than to have the stable full afterwards and not do the horses justice."
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