Young horses: the 7-year-old challenge
The young horse preparation must respect the animal’s limits and follow a correct training schedule. The required movements must be adequate to each age group, based on physical structures to avoid injuries and to leverage the best the animal has to offer. This is backed by distinct competitions for young horses. Launched in 2016, the 7-year-old Young Horses category has filled an existing gap between the 6-year-old dressage test and the Prix St. George.
While complementing the animal’s formation going into adulthood, the 7-year-old dressage test also helps professionals towards the right horse education, preserving them and not advancing them incorrectly. For instance, for young horses from 4 to 5-year-old, dressage tests are focused on the working trot and working canter movements. And from 6 to 7-year-old, it’s more about collection.
This difference illustrates how programs are developed and thought out to each age, as the muscular mass structure needs time to develop. Another difference is in judgment. While 4, 5 and 6-year-old are judged by trot, canter, walk, submissiveness and general impression, the 7-year-old is also judged by technical execution points.
“It’s very important to educate the horses well to not move too fast, because, if you go for collection before the horse is ready, he will lose pace and, probably, suffer injuries in the future”, emphasized rider Pia Aragão. She explains that a young horse does not have to go through the 5 and 6-year-old dressage tests before doing the 7-year-old, but points out that the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) recommends going through all stages. Furthermore, in Brazil, as well as other countries, there are national programs for 4-year-old horses to properly initiate training.
Mini Prix St. George
According to the rider, the 7-year-old horse dressage test is very similar to a mini Prix St. George, and has been created to prepare the horses for FEI Small Tour competitions, which comprehends the Prix St. George, Intermediate I and Freestyle Intermediate I tests.
In the FEI program, there are two tests – the FEI Preliminary test for 7-year-old horses and the FEI Dressage test for 7-year-old horses, final. “The young horses’ program is smaller, but the ideas are very similar. And there are some differences, such as, for example, instead of five changes every four rounds, there are only three,” explains Aragão, who’s been competing in the young horse 2017 season with 7-year-old lusitano Fellini Interagro.
The 7-year-old test has reached Brazil in 2017. Until now, Fellini Interagro is the only horse competing. Son of sire Nirvana Interagro and dam Batina Interagro, daughter of Ofensor (MV), the stallion was born on September 1st, 2009, raised, and owned by Fazendas Interagro.
“A horse that does the 7-year-old test is, naturally, ready to initiate an international career, competing in FEI Small Tour by the age of 8, which is a good age to get started in those tests. I believe he will continue in Small Tour for another year or so and then, probably, move to the Grand Prix,” she says.
During the tests, the greatest advantage in separating youngsters from adults is the fact that they will be judged with other animals of the same age, therefore, under the same conditions. However, in other series, the young horse ends up competing with adults, usually better prepared, making for an unbalanced competition.
Internationally, the young horses’ preparation is serious business. Every year, the World Championship for Young Dressage Horses is carried out in Ermelo, in the Netherlands, a World Breeding Federation of Sports Horses (WBFSH) initiative.
In this year’s edition, there are 39 animals competing in the 7-year-old category, 43 in the 6-year-old and other 39 competing in the 5-year-old category. Mounted by the Spanish Severo Jurado Lopez, the DWB Fiontini horse was the 7-year-old champion. The second place was KWPN Sultan des Paluds, presented by Dutch Kirsten Brouwer, and third place was Kipling, a castrated TRAK.
For further information on the requirements for each level, we recommend reading the International Equestrian Federation (FEI)’s guidelines, in which the entity describes the criteria used by the judges.
Article translated from Adestramento Brasil, original publication here