Basic Training of the Young Horse by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke is a must read for anyone either starting their own foal, young horse or retraining an older athlete. Anytime you need to go back to basics, which can be fairly often, this book is a great resource. You can learn more about Ingrid Klimke at her web site or Facebook page. She is a German Olympic Gold Medal equestrian competing in both International eventing and dressage; Ingrid takes after her very respected and successful Olympic Gold Medal equestrian father Dr. Reiner Klimke (b. 1936 - d. 1999).
The Klimke's philosophy is that basic training means developing the horse's natural ability in all respects no matter the intended discipline. It's also about patience and consistency. The education of any horse, let alone the young foal up through adolescence, is so vital to not only their mental well being but also to their physical development.
Ingrid's systematic approach creates a solid foundation for future specialization in whatever discipline you and your horse prefer; she takes the time it takes (even if a horse shows great talent, or perhaps especially if a horse shows great talent). Slowly nurture and develop that natural talent to its fullest without risk of burning the horse out, or injuring them. Think world champion dressage stallion Totilas who was retired in 2015 at age 15 due to periostitis. EquiMed has a great article that gives more information on the condition, but basically it is caused by "overly rigorous training regimens that don't allow the bone to gradually adapt to the concussive force involved in training."
The book's chapters are organized in order from starting the young foal and build on each other into the first competition (if you chose to show):
- Chapter 1: Basic Education
- Chapter 2: Lungeing and Free-Schooling
- Chapter 3: Training Under Saddle
- Chapter 4: Developing Impulsion from Suppleness
- Chapter 5: The Basic Gaits - Assessment and Improvement
- Chapter 6: Cavalletti work
- Chapter 7: Jumping Training
- Chapter 8: Cross-Country Training
- Chapter 9: Preparing for the First Competition
There is good detail about the Klimke's recommended training schedule based on the horse's age and ability. For instance they consider the 4 year old to be a novice level athlete and the 7 year old to be near (if not at based on talent and ability) the advanced level. They also don't recommend ridden work before 3 to 3 and a half years old because today's sporthorses tend to grow and develop slowly. But they do stress that education (not "work") should begin as a foal. There are also several well outlined suppling exercises for first year work and second year work, along with teaching and reinforcing obedience to the aids and establishing elastic contact. Cavelletti patterns and other gymnastic exercises are also outlined for cross training use.
The approach of cross training a horse is refreshing also as too many riders get stuck in the arena working on the same things over and over again, wondering why they don't make progress. Horses like and need a fairly consistent schedule, but they also need a variety in their training to keep them engaged and interested in their work. Cross training is also about increasing overall fitness and is vital for injury prevention, it's "a central pillar to athletic success and longevity." Read more about cross training the equine athlete in TheHorse.com's article.
This book isn't an end all be all book - is there one? - but it is classical equitation in principle and teachings, and it will provide a great foundation for you and your horse. You get "combined theoretical knowledge and practical experience" from two world-renowned equestrians.
Live. Love. Horses.