How to (Gently) Break a Horse

break a horse

There’s a scene in the 2009 Star Trek movie, where Leonard “Bones” McCoy is questioning Spock about his decision to send Kirk away. To paraphrase Bones: You don’t leave your prize stallion in the stable if you’re going to ride in the Kentucky Derby.

Of course, Spock being Spock found the metaphor curious. He reasoned that for a stallion to reach its full potential, it must be broken first.

Now whether you agree with Spock or not, one thing is for sure. You have to know how to break a horse if you want to ride one.

Tips for Gentle Breaking a Horse

First things first. There are two ways to break a horse. One involves gentling or gentle breaking while the other uses rough handling or unnecessary force to quickly train a horse.

Trainers who follow the natural horsemanship philosophy know that training horses through pain or fear is impossible. Even humans rebel when forced to do something against their will. Horses are no different.

That’s why gentling is the recommended method for breaking a horse. It’s a method that takes time but the rewards are well worth it.

Be Patient

Spend some time nurturing that bond between you and your horse. Remember, gentle breaking is built upon a relationship of respect and trust. That takes time and patience.

If you got a foal, you have to know that it takes two to three years before it is old enough to be ridden. That gives you plenty of time to build up mutual trust.

Practice Halter and Lead Training

Getting a colt to take a halter on the first try is rare. This is why you should ease into it. One technique you can try is to have your colt see you putting halters on other horses.

When your horse has mastered wearing a halter, you can start lead training. Use the ‘monkey see monkey do method.’ That means having your horse in training following what the already-trained horse is doing.

Teach Your Horse Lunging

In a previous post, we discussed the lunging technique in detail. But since we’re talking about young horses here, we have to back up a bit.

You can start by getting your horse to move around you in a circle. Use your body language and lunging whip to make sure he never comes in toward you. This is also where you make him practice changing gaits (walk, trot, or canter).

Just remember not to overdo it as moving in circles can be hard on your horse’s joints and tendons.

Begin Bridle and Saddle Training

At this stage, you should experiment with bit styles. Just be careful not to use a restrictive bit.

Using treats will also help you during this stage. As for saddles, you can use saddle pads at first. Replace with an actual saddle when you feel your horse is ready.

Take the First Steps to Riding

When your horse has become accustomed to the gears, you can experiment with putting your weight on his back. You can do this by lying across his back or putting your foot in the stirrup.

If he is comfortable with this, proceed to swinging your leg over and sitting on his back. Don’t worry if he doesn’t take to this right away. It could take weeks before your horse is comfortable with you sitting on his back.

More Tips on How to Gently Break a Horse

If you need more information on horse training, please feel free to browse our blog. You may also send us a message via this form if you have any questions about horse training.

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