Once you develop essential riding skills, you will be up for many enjoyable moments on your horse after primary training. The good news is that horses are highly intelligent animals, so teaching them how to behave and react appropriately is not complicated.
Since you need an obedient and well-behaved animal you can communicate with, it is crucial to teach it how to follow your commands. Therefore, you should find a way how to train a horse appropriately. Let’s get to it.
Before Training Starts
The first thing you need to know about training a horse is that this is a challenging task that takes time, patience, dedication, and knowledge. Still, you can prepare in advance by getting the proper literature, consulting with equestrians, and taking classes. Plus, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. Get the right horse
There is a saying among horse trainers that green on green makes black and blue. If both you and your horse lack riding experience, the risk of someone getting injured grows.
Therefore, you should carefully choose your horse. Think thoroughly of its breed, feistiness, and temper before getting one. Then, enlist where you plan on riding, how much time you have for your animal, and which characteristics you find desirable.
Keep in mind that a young foal can have problems with discipline and obedience, at least in the first few months. If you train a horse for the first time, it is better to pick out a well-broken horse, which can substitute for your inexperience.
2. Have a good trainer
No matter how hard you try, horse training won’t always go smoothly. Once you start teaching your animal, you will have tons of questions and doubts. Having a professional trainer in the challenging moments can literally save your life.
Plus, you can quickly discover that equestrian sites, books, and DVDs are not always enough. You need real-life experience and someone to show you the catch.
3. Make a plan
The vital thing to prepare is a manageable timetable with a detailed step-by-step plan. Write down your goals, commands your horse needs to practice, and methods you prefer.
Some trainers recommend clicker training, while others focus on dressage or natural horsemanship. Then, you need to decide whether you want to ride English or Western style.
Remember, you may need to slow down or repeat some training exercises. Still, knowing your destination will make the journey more pleasant.
As I mentioned before, it all starts with the choice of horse. If you get an unbroke or green-broke horse, you will need to train it basic stuff first, then progress to riding. However, a well-broken equine can quickly master a discipline you want, whether you pick cross-country or remount training.
4. Bond with the horse
Your horse won’t willingly participate in training if it doesn’t trust you. An animal needs to feel safe, secure, and comfortable. Only that way, it can learn new skills without resistance and stress.
Befriend your horse by spending time together, get to know it, and learn its communication signals. Regular grooming, brushing, feeding, and treating your animal will create a positive association with you.
Finally, you need to trust your horse, as well. The mutual bond can drastically speed the horse’s learning tempo and provide enjoyable moments for both of you.
5. Groundwork exercises
Once a horse bonds with you, it will consider you as a member of the same herd. However, that herd can have only one leader, and you need to be the one.
Otherwise, your horse will kick, misbehave, and disobey. That is why you introduce groundwork practices into the training. The goal is that you control your horse on the ground as in a saddle.
You need to include all skills and commands in the groundwork training, including:
- Standing still
- Trotting and cantering
- Moving the shoulders
- Ground tying
- Reacting to pressure
- Walking the lunge line
Plus, the groundwork will provide you with a perfect opportunity to find and fix typical horse misbehaves and problems, such as:
- Stand still for mounting
- Fear from arena or pen
- Running horse
- Head tossing
- Kicking and bucking
- Bolting and rearing
The equines’ ancestors lived in the wild and left their heirs a habit of fleeing as an instinctive reaction to unknown and dangerous situations. Nowadays, horses are not hunters but prey that quickly spook, startle, and panic.
Commonly, horses scare of anything sudden and unexpected. Still, some phobias are more often than others, including fear of:
- Unknown humans, especially loud ones with intense gestures
- Any buzzing noise machinery
- Electrical devices, such as hair trimmers, fans, or compressors
- Traffic cones, balloons, and umbrellas
Once you discover what scares your horse, you can help it deal with the fear. The best option is to expose an animal to a particular object or person but make sure the source of anxiety is at a safe distance in the very beginning.
Be patient, comfort and calm your horse day by day, and speak gently while moving the object closer to it. That way, it will get used to the item or sound and realize there is no actual threat. The goal is to teach the horse not to react to a source of stress and fear or to cause a minimal reaction you can keep under control.
7. Saddle training
Once your broken horse overcomes its fears and learns the essential groundwork exercises, it is time for saddle training. You can expect that some animals resist any heaviness on their back, so you should start with a blanket or saddle pads first.
The best option is to place the blanket on horseback during groundwork training before riding lessons. Gradually add the rest of the equipment, including bit, bridle, reins, and stirrups.
Never mount your horse as soon as it gets accustomed to a saddle. Give it time to accept the new load and get in the habit of carrying extra weight during training. Only then try to mount the horse for a couple of minutes. If the equine accepts you as a rider, take it for a short walk.
Otherwise, dismount it and slow down the training. Get back to the exercises your horse has already been familiar with. That way, you will help it relax, raise its confidence, and release stress.
Extra Experts Training Tips
Training a horse is a vast area you can always learn more about. Professional trainers spend decades mastering their skills.
There are also tons of books, YouTube tutorials, and online courses that can give you a few guidelines. Still, there are some general tips you can use, no matter what your strategies and goals are:
8. Time and routine
A horse is a creature of habit. Once you get to know your horse, you should choose the perfect timing for training and stick to the same schedule every day.
Some horses will prefer warming up after a good meal when they satisfied their appetites. Others would rather practice first and enjoy their nutrition later. Therefore, it is crucial to discover when your horse is in the mood for a workout.
That is the time its motivation and energy are at the highest point. Next, stick to a predetermined scheme and introduces new exercises at the end.
For instance, you can start with warming up your animal. Then, it is time for lunging it before finishing the training with a short trotting exercise. Remember that the horse will be more confident when it can predict the following steps. Plus, it will quickly learn that a new lesson comes at the end.
9. Have right equipment
Once you select training equipment, you should keep it nearby. Go for pieces you can put on and take of the horse quickly, without wasting time. Otherwise, it can lose its patience and misbehave or revolt.
Leave the complicated and decorative boots and ribbons for the period after the training is over. Meanwhile, get a simple bridle, a lunge line, and a saddle you can put on a horse in a matter of minutes.
10. Never use food as reinforcement
Proper care of your horse is inevitable, whether you train it or not. Therefore, avoid rewarding it with food that is otherwise part of its meal. An occasional apple or carrot is okay, but it will be better to praise your animal, pat it on the shoulder, or extend its playtime.
Sticking only to foody rewards can force the horse into obedience. Unfortunately, it is a way to show it that you don’t care for its benefit. In other words, it seems that the poor guy needs to work for a meal, which will ruin your bonding.
11. Watch your body language
Non-verbal communication is an essential part of horse training. Believe it or not, your horse will read your body posture, gestures, and hand movements.
Pay attention that your hands clenched into fists, lowered head, and an aggressive attitude will be warning signs for your horse. In such a case, it will instinctively step back, refuse to cooperate, and start panicking.
Instead, approach your animal calmly, confidently, and at a leisurely pace. Only that way, it will stay calm and obedient.
There are many methods and strategies to train your horse, depending on your goals. If you are a beginner, a trainer may help you overcome this challenge with fewer problems.
Keep in mind that the horse can scare easily. So, it is vital to be patient and hold on to the schedule and routines while gradually introduce new lessons.