Do you have a foal on the way? Or do you want to know what to do with your horse? You may be asking when is the best time to train your horse. The best time to train a horse is the moment his feet hits the ground. But training a horse is a long and very involved process. It takes place over a lifetime. It’s important that you start right with a baby horse to be successful. This article may answer your remaining questions.
Stages of Horse Training
The First Nine Months
As soon as a foal sets its feet on the ground, basic horse handling should start. Foals should be touched and handled by as many people as possible. So that they will get use to human contact. This stage is like socializing them. Expose them to the basics of being horse. People should be touching and interacting with them. They should go in and out of their stall or pasture. Introduce them to basic things that they will be encountering. Halter and introduce them to a lead rope. Also, to hay and water buckets. Allow them to go out in a pasture with their mother. Bring them to indoor and outdoor arenas with their mom. The more exposure they get, the better.
This stage is during his 6 months to 2 years. You should begin incorporating groundwork and manners. This is a continuation of teaching him how to be handled. It’s important your horse learns ground manners and basic body language so he will be respectful. Your horse must understand that he needs to move away from pressure. He should know how to walk in-hand, to stop when you stop and to go when you go. Some people begin lunging their horses during this stage as well. So that horses will start leaning verbal cues.
Everyone wants to know when they can start teaching their young horse to be ridden. During his 2 to 4 years is the best time to start the process. Some people begin this stage too early. A horse’s bones don’t completely stop growing until they are six years old. Yet many people think they can start riding horses when they are 3 years and below. Their legs and leg joints during this stage should not be subject to the weight of a rider. Not until 4 years old, at least. There are many things you can do to prepare your horse for riding. The weight of a rider may be too much at this stage. But the weight of a saddle is not. Because saddles weigh less than 20 pounds.
Expert’s best estimate is that it is safe for horses to be ridden at about 4 years old. Your horse should have gone through lots of exposure at this point. He should have gone through basic groundwork already and an introduction to tack. Once his bones and joints have developed enough to carry a rider, you can start teaching him the ropes. But do not forget to consult your vet.
Key Things to Teach a Foal
There are 3 key things to start with when working with the foals in the early training.
Make your horse feel that he can approach you confidently. Start with touching the foal all over his body. Move with him when he moves. Move away from him when he stands still. A good place to start the approach and touch is in the stable together with the mare.
The second step that you teach them is to move away from pressure. Give the foal the understanding of the when, how, and why he should move from pressure. This is the beginning of a greater body awareness for the horse and better coordination.
Follow the Pressure
The third step is following the pressure. This is the beginning of leading, to follow the rein or a rope.
Take Time to Save Time
Take the time in the early years to prepare the horse. Give him an understanding that there is nothing life-threatening in a human world. Relieve him of the fears of survival embedded in his natural instinct. By doing these, you are preparing him for the beginning of the riding process.
Take short amounts of time to teach the horse before the age of 3. So that he will have all the information of how to respond to the steps necessary for the riding. When he has the knowledge, he will not be forced to use his instincts of flight. Then the process of starting a horse under saddle will be smooth. It will be stress-free for both the horse and rider. It will give the best possible outcome for the horse to be successful.
If a horse is left with little to no training until 3, you will have to deal with all the flight survival reactions. You will be spending a large amount of time struggling with a much more mature animal.
This process will take a lot longer with greater risks of injury for the horse and trainer. There is also a greater risk of a bad incident or experience. In this process, we often fall into the pattern of lunging. Also, putting unnecessary weight on a young horse’s muscles and joints. Some horses have 2 to 3 months on the lunge to tire the natural flight instinct.
Breeding a good horse does not mean he is naturally going to be a good riding horse. For them to be comfortable in the human world, they need to learn more than just wearing a saddle and carry a rider. We want them to reach their full potential, be well-mannered and happy in their work. It is our job to prepare and teach them all the things they need to know before facing these tasks.
So, the best time to train your horse is as soon as he takes his first breath and first step. But the stages of horse training look so different. It depends on how old your horse is and where he is in his development. Starting your horse right is the best thing you can do to help him succeed. Young horses have lots of things to take in and understand.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!