How to Gentle Break a Horse for Riding
Horse Breaking Methods
There are two ways to train a horse for riding: one way works well, and the other causes more problems than it is worth. Gentle breaking works best because it helps a horse build trust with its handler, and this relationship will last a lifetime.
The other method is to force the horse to your will. This does not work well because every animal, including humans, will rebel when forced to do something. This is not to say that it doesn't work. It can be used as a teaching tool, but gentle breaking is just more effective. Horses can be forced to obey, but they will end up resenting you and will act up more often.
Gentling, otherwise known as "gentle breaking" takes time. It can be done with just the horse and the rider, however, it is best done when another person can demonstrate riding on an already-trained horse.
This “monkey see, monkey do” method works really well. When a horse sees someone doing something to another horse, without that horse showing fear, he will want the same done to him, especially if treats are given. Once you have gained the horse's trust, you can start halter training.
Halter training works best on younger horses. To ease your colt into wearing a halter, you should spend time with him every day, and he should see you putting halters on other horses. Spend time brushing and petting the colt's head, and remember to give treats often. Use varied treats to find out which one your colt likes best.
From my experience, colts never take a halter the first time you try, so you must have patience. With that said, you should not let his stubbornness go on for too long.
Training a Horse to Lead
Once the colt is comfortable wearing a halter, it is time to start leading. The two-horse system works great for this training.
- Use a trained horse and the colt you are training.
- Attach lead ropes to both of the horses' halters.
- Walk to the other end of the lead rope, and hold up a treat. Do this with both horses. The trained horse should then start moving up to receive his treat. More often than not, the horse you are training will follow suit.
- If the colt in-training does not move, you should move a little closer to him.
Note: Make sure to only give the treat after the colt has moved.
Bit and Bridle Training
As soon as the colt reaches its full head size, bridle training should begin. Use the least restrictive bit possible. (You should never have to use a restrictive bit.) This training should also be done with a treat that the colt can handle with a bit in its mouth. Once it is bit trained, the same style of bit should always be used.
A colt should know how to lead and do direction movement before you put on a saddle.
In my experience with gentle breaking, I always have other horses during the training to help my colt learn.
- To get your colt used to having something on his back, try leaning on him while you brush him.
- Then, find lightweight things (an old coat works well) to put on his back. Be sure to put it on the already-trained horse first, and give treats to both horses.
- When your colt tolerates the lightweight item, move on to the saddle blanket. The horse should now accept this with no problem. If he balks, use the lightweight item again for a while.
- Once he accepts the saddle blanket, you can start adding some of your weight to his back. This can be done by standing on a stool and brushing the horse while leaning over him. Make sure you can quickly move away from the horse, if necessary.
- When the colt is comfortable with a saddle blanket and your weight, start wrapping things around his back and belly. This gets him used to the idea of a cinch. In my experience, this training takes the longest. To calm the horse, brush him as you do this.
- Once all of the above can be done comfortably, you should introduce the saddle. The best way to do this is to have the horse see other horses being saddled as often as possible. You should also ride other horses close by to get him used to the idea.
Ready to Ride
When I reach this phase, I always work with three horses (two of which should already be well-broke). I would sandwich the new horse between them and mount the riders. This can be dangerous if any fear is shown on the rider's part. I do not recommended this for a beginner.
The horse should now move as the others do without bucking or acting up. As the other horses turn right or left, move the reins in the appropriate direction. If you want the horse to follow toe commands, you should use them at this time.
If you follow these suggestions, you will have a horse that trusts you and is more obedient. Horses like people who are gentle and capable of love, so if you treat them kindly, they will develop a very loving relationship with you that will last a lifetime.