Developing young horses isn’t so much a process as it is an art form, and Taylor Flury would know. Flury has been bringing horses up through the levels for her family’s Minooka, Illinois-based AliBoo Farm for years.
“Working with the young horses is so rewarding because you are continually seeing them change and develop — hopefully for the better — and it is a great feeling to know that you helped to make them what they are becoming,” Taylor says. “From the time when I start a young one to when they have 'ah-ha' moments where the light comes on, it is so gratifying to know that your hard work and efforts are [worth it].”
This season, Taylor has been busy competing horses for clients as well as those owned by AliBoo Farm, including Calano Z, Cosmea Z, and Role Model. Taylor has become passionate not only about competing youngsters, but also for breeding quality warmbloods. In 2015, at the FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in Lanaken, Belgium, Taylor’s Carrasca Z or “Hank” became the first stallion to be approved by the Zangersheide studbook that was bred, raised, and developed in the United States. Soon his offspring will take to the competition ring themselves.
“For me, also, as a breeder or as a purchaser of young foals, it is really exciting to watch them grow up and to see just how talented they are. All of the horses we have we either bred or purchased as a weanling so that we could afford them. That is always a bit of a gamble, but I like to think it is paying off.”
Here, Taylor shares ten truths she’s learned while bringing horses up through the Young Jumper program and beyond.
1. It’s about the journey.
You have to be patient and understanding.
2. Structure is a must.
Set realistic expectations but be firm about asking your horse to meet them.
3. Consistency is key.
Consistency with the program and with your connection. You must keep a steady, leg-to-hand connection to teach the horse about accepting pressure and learning self-carriage.
4. View each horse as an individual.
You are not going to change a horse and to uncover its best talent, you may have to ride it differently or give it more time [to mature] than the others.
5. Set your horse up for success.
There are no such things as age-specific guidelines. Sometimes, the best horses need to back down and compete at a smaller level before they are ready to move back up. Never overface a young horse, even if they have the talent — it will come back to haunt you.
6. Flatwork is fundamental.
Build a solid foundation in your flatwork to create the rideability your horse needs to have at the jumps.
7. Do your ‘home’ work.
Prepare your horses at home with different exercises so they are not overwhelmed when they get to the show ring. This doesn’t mean you have to jump; set exercises using poles and cavaletti instead. There is no reason to over-jump a young horse.
8. Never underestimate the power of confidence!
This goes for riders and horses. But when talking about young horses, the only way they will be successful is if they believe in themselves and go into the ring knowing they can do what is being asked of them.
9. Good training is about connection.
Develop a connection with your horse so they can trust in you and want to perform for you.
10. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.
It’s important to develop young horses to be the best they can be doing the job they are best suited to. If a horse is a better upper-level hunter than it is a jumper, let it do that.
Photos by Sportfot.
Written by Nina Fedrizzi
Nina Fedrizzi spends her days writing about horse sport, food, and travel. She began her career at Travel + Leisure and is a former editor at NF Style. When she's not tapping away on her MacBook, Nina can usually be found on a horse, sleuthing out the local pho, or refusing to unpack her carry-on. Watch her do all three on Instagram @ninafedrizzi.