Equipment Everything Else More... Training

Training your horse to look for the flags.

IMG_7044The modern event horse has to learn to look for the flags and go between them no matter how acute the angle or how narrow the gap or daunting the fence.

A few top trainers are adamant that EVERY fence at home (especially skinnies, for obvious reasons!) should have flags on it, to teach the horse to look for and go between them.

I must admit it isn’t something I’ve worried about before, and my horses have always been good at skinnies and corners, but I decided to implement this anyway, and the cheap/homemade results can be seen in these photos!

I bought the flags here, they are ridiculously cheap so there’s no excuse not to get some! I bought a pack of 10 each of red and white, as that was the best deal, and then sent some to an eventing friend as a present, since I doubt I’ll ever set up 10 skinnies at home!


IMG_7042These are just attached by duck tape, but you could poke the pointed ends of the flags into plumber’s pipe and then secure that to the sides of the jumps.

After just 1 session over these, my mare was more secure xc, looking for her fences and ignoring those on other courses that were close to our path, where before she’s been quite confused by the other courses’ fences, in spite of me resolutely NOT looking at them, she did, just in case!

At the Athens Olympics one top rider was tipped off when his horse left a knee badly at the skinny urn fence. Someone I know was spectating, and said he watched the riderless horse carry on as straight as a die up the course, quite a way to the next fence, and clear it… a fairly extreme example, but it shows what a well-trained horse can and will do.

Of course if you somehow get bent out of shape on the way to a fence, through a slip or trip, or, say, drop a rein into a combination and can’t get your knitting back in time, it’s great to know that as long as you can steer with your legs and your horse knows what to look for, you have a really good chance of making it over the next fence!

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  • My horse did this at his very first xc. He won’t look at anything without flags but locks on to the ones that do.

    • That’s good to know, Fiona. With modern courses having so many ‘other’ fences (from different courses) dotted around to confuse our horses, I will definitely be using my flags at home from now on, to ease the confusion!