What Are the Steps of the Breaking in Process?

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Allison Price

It is important to get everything back to the basics after breaking in. Tim Rusbridge, a New Zealand-based top-level eventer, is now based in the UK. He is passionate about young horses and takes them in regularly for racing, dressage, and eventing. He explains how he does it here:

Building relationships

First, the horse must feel comfortable and relaxed in his surroundings and with those who will be working alongside him.

Our staff spends a lot time with new horses to establish a bond and to get them used to being touched.

As a precaution, horses will have their hind shoes removed and his teeth examined.

What Are the Steps of the Breaking in Process

Introduce tack

The horses are then put on a walker with a surcingle, side reins, and a harness to help them get used to walking forwards. We can then fit long reins.

They are allowed to feel the horses in the stable, and then they go out on a walk around the yard with their outside eyes against the wall. We then move on to lunging under tack.


Before you can ride a pony or horse, they must trust you enough that you will allow them to lie on their backs in the stable.

If they accept this calmly, you may gently swing your leg and assume the sitting position. Wear a riding helmet.

The horse will take a few steps and then move and turn around in the stable. This allows them to test out their ability to move in a safe, enclosed space.

The horse can now be ridden around the yard, or taken up the lane to the school.

Fillies and colts

This is when a colt and filly may start to notice the difference. My experience is that fillies are more sensitive than colts. A filly won’t forget what you did to her.

My approach to these horses is calmer. They will be ridden around the yard, before being taken up the lane.

The colts will be ridden straight up the lane, and then they will be lunged. This gives them less chance to get clever.

All horses are unique, but this is something I have noticed in my own work.

You can start cantering once you have learned to ride a horse in the school’s walk and trot. At this stage, we only want them to think ahead.

Turn away

The individual can decide to abandon a young horse after riding away, but I recommend taking care.

This is why I believe in taking it one step at a time, so that you can go back to it if necessary.

Young horses grow stronger and bigger each time they return. If this happens, it is worth remembering that you will be dealing with a horse who has more power and a more independent mind.

To minimize these problems, most horses, particularly sports horses, should be backed before they reach three years of age.

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Allison Price
Allison Price

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!