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Hello all,

I recently backed my 3 & 1/2 year old Friesian mare this Christmas. She had previously been broke to drive for about 8 months prior to this. I am happy to say that she was a complete DREAM to back! I've never started a horse before, and I had a local trainer giving me assistance and advice every step of the way. At first I struggled with getting her to respond to leg pressure (due to her driving training). I started carrying a whip to associate leg with "go", and she's now understanding the purpose of leg pressure, so I no longer have to carry the whip. (Yay! Big success in my eyes! Thank you people of HorseForum!) :D

I'm riding her in a dressage saddle, and a double jointed snaffle (no twisted wire, no technologically advanced pieces attached that get Wifi, just a simple snaffle). Currently I'm only riding about 20-25 minutes at a time, because I'm afraid of causing muscle soreness. My motto is: Better to be safe than sorry. I also do some lunge line training with and without cavaletti poles to encourage her to strengthen her back and abdomen.

I have not forced her head into a position in any way up to this point. Not with a cavesson, or reins. But she is used to some slight bit pressure from her driving training, and her actions make me think she's trying to seek out the bit. She stretches her neck out and downwards (which again, makes me think she's stretching her back as well) when I'm riding her. She'll stop when she comes into contact with the bit, and she doesn't hang off the bit.

The local trainer that helped me back her said that I should just ride her with a loose rein at first. When I ride her with a loose rein, she alternates her head position more frequently, and doesn't seem quite as attentive to my aids. I tried riding her like you would any dressage horse (rein doesn't have slack, good contact, soft hands, moving with her, etc.) and she seems to go along with it quite well, and stays relaxed. Am I doing this too early? I currently only do this at a walk. I let her have a loose rein at the trot, as I don't want her to get confused.

Just wondering what others' opinions are on riding a newly started horse with a tighter rein?
 

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I would say these are things you can begin to expect almost immediately. A good book for you would be the basic training of the young horse by Reiner Klimke, or the updated version (with great pictures of some fun, now famous horses!) By his daughter Ingrid Klimke.

She outlines the first year of training and has basically 8 months from beginning longing to having the horse used to jumping, hacking, and ready for his first competition. By the end of the year the horse should be well educated with competitions under his belt and ready to move up to intermediate level competition the following year.
I would say this is an ideal schedule without lamenesses and with an experienced rider and it is one that I try to adhere to.
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