Having a good start is everything because that experience is going to stay with that horse for the rest of his or her life. It is not that long a go that horses were “broken” unfortunately this term was sometimes quite literal, where horse’s bodies and / or spirits were broken. Now days, this is becoming less common.
I prefer to use the term “Starting under saddle”. My goal is that the horse has the best possible experience in this time to set them up for a great future where they will look forward to a safe, stimulating and happy time with their human and future career. It doesn’t matter what discipline a horse will eventually specialize in, the start is the same because the horse just needs to learn to become confident, be attentive and responsive.
The first thing is getting the horse’s confidence and a connection with the human. Getting the horse to “want to” and making sure that the horse gives permission for each step in the process is important. The horse’s well being of mind, emotions, body and spirit are of the utmost importance. Once the horse totally trusts, the rest is easy and the first rides and the whole future ahead are set up for success.
The horse’s body needs to be considered. If horse’s are sore, have tension or muscle holding patterns in their body these will soon show up once the horse starts to be exercised, saddled or ridden. A horse that is uncomfortable or in pain cannot learn or be willing. Physical problems lead to resistance, unconfidence, unwillingness, poor performance and what is usually classed as bad behavior e.g. Bucking, won’t go, or running off etc. So an important aspect of my training is making sure that any of these issues are addressed so the horse’s body is the best it can be and the horse feels good about everything. This sets up the horse for learning and a sound and healthy future.
The horse’s posture is taken onto account right from day one, so that all of the ground work and ridden work is helping the horse with their posture and balance. They are ridden with well fitting and comfortable saddles so that all of their experiences of ridng are as positive as they can be.
My training formula is:-
Calmness – confidence and realxation
Attentiveness – Connectedness and mental interest
Responsiveness – how responsive are they as opposed to dull or reactive?
Biomechanics and Balance – what is the quality of how they are using their bodies to do everything ?
Goals for the horses in the starting process are to :–
Develop confidence, connection and communication with people
Develop confidence with things including crossing tarps, negotiating obstacles
Trailer load confidently
Accept the saddle, rope hackamore and the snaffe bridle, if they are ready
Be confident to walk trot and canter calmly while ridden
Be ridden on trail rides alone
To start developing balance and self carriage while ridden
Be prepared for shoeing
The usual time frame for this is 6-8 weeks, where we take the horses as far as we can towards achieving these goals. Each horse will progress at its own pace depending on their innate characteristics and past experiences. A longer time period of training may be necessary if the potential rider is ‘green’ or unconfident or if the horse is older or innately more difficult or has physical problems which need to be addressed. Training is carried out by myself and apprentices or staff under my supervision.