Breaking Your Own Horse
Please note that the following information is strictly from my own experience. I am not a professional trainer. I did however, break in my Tennessee Walking Horse mare using these steps.
First off, you want to build a bond with your horse. I believe the best way to do this is to get your horse young, before 2 years of age. I bought my mare at 17 months of age, and I bought an American Quarter Horse stallion at 8 months of age. Of course, you can bond with a horse of any age. However if you plan on breaking the horse in yourself it is best to start ground work as early as possible. The best way to bond is by spending time with your horse every day. In the winter I make sure to groom the horses everyday. Don't use the cold/snow as an excuse. I live in the mountains, my road isn't plowed or maintained, and we usually get worse weather than the rest of the state. I still put 2 - 3 layers on and go outside. In the spring/summer/and fall I usually take a book and sit in the pasture and read, only paying attention to the horses when they come to me. Along with this, another important aspect of bonding with your horse is trust, and earning his respect.
Many people complain because they have to "catch" their horses when they want to ride, often chasing them around the pasture or luring them in with a handful of grain. An owner who has put in the time and bonded properly with his/her horse will not have this problem. My horses come to me by simply hearing me whistle, or seeing me approach.
However, this is because I have bonded so closely with them. If you have just gotten your horse, or if you are trying to bond closer, try walking out into the pasture, past your horse, and just sitting or kneeling down, facing AWAY from the horse. Do not look at him, or acknowledge his presence. Horses are naturally curious, and he will have expected you to notice him. By not noticing him, he will want to try to get your attention. Stay this way until he comes up behind you or nudges you. After he does this, reward him by showing him affection. After a little while, the horse will learn that if he wants your attention, HE has to come to you.
A horse will build trust with you by bonding. Also, if something frightens him, make sure he knows you won't let it hurt him. For instance, if your horse is afraid of dogs, try getting him used to them. One way to do this is to buy a large stuffed dog and place it where he can see it. Then, go reassure him, calm him, and lead him toward it. If he balks, don't force him. Forcing your horse to do something will only make him more upset. Once you get him up to it, show it to him, let him smell it, and help him to realize that you wouldn't have lead him into something that would hurt him. By doing this, he will learn to trust your judgement.
Respect is the last ingredient to bonding. If your horse knows he can do what he wants, he won't bother to listen to you. You need to be firm with him, and discipline him when he is wrong. An example of this is biting. If your horse is a nipper, a light tap on the nose or a slight pinch right after biting can help stop this. Your horse will learn that YOU are in charge and not him, and he will start respecting your position and authority. Horses nip as a sign of dominance, so don't let your horse get away with this.
Breaking And Training
Once you have bonded, you can start working on other things. Although actual weight should not be introduced until at least 2 years of age, there are many things you can do to get your horse ready for the saddle. Using weight on your horse's back before 2 years of age can hurt the muscles, leading to cases of swayback later in life. However, make sure you end every session on a positive note.
One important thing to start is de-sensitizing. This will get your horse used to things rubbing on him, and will keep him from spooking on trail rides when leaves or tall grass brush his legs or sides. I tied 3 of our lead ropes together for this, and started lightly swinging this onto my mare's back and around her legs. Take it slowly at first, and let your horse see that nothing is scary about the rope. Gradually, you can start throwing the entire rope. When you can give the entire thing a good pitch and have it wind around your horse's legs, or down over his head and around his ears, and then pull it back to you without him moving, your horse has been properly de-sensitized. This can take days or weeks, so don't give up if your horse isn't responding how you want him to the first day.
Another good lesson is teaching your horse to back up by voice command. To do this, attach a lead rope to your horse's halter, and slowly wiggle it from left to right. If your horse doesn't back up right away, try wiggling the rope a little faster. Your horse will start backing up. While he's doing this, repeat "back" or "back-up" whenever he moves back a step. Your horse will learn to associate "back" with him moving backwards, and the rope will eventually not be needed.
One more voice command you can teach is "up", which tells the horse to pick up its feet without you throwing your weight into him and pulling the leg up. To do this, simply start at the top of the leg and run your hand down. When you get to the knee, say "up" and pick up on your horse's leg. This will take some time, but your horse can eventually learn that when you run your hand down his leg and say "up", its his job to pick up his leg. I've had wonderful results from my mare with this and the "back" command.
When its time to start working with the saddle, its good to start slow. The saddle blanket should be first. Let your horse smell it, let him watch it while you place it on his back. Walk him around with it. When he feels comfortable, stop. Never go overboard with your horse. Always end on a good note. The next day, put the blanket on and then, introduce the saddle. My suggestion is to use a "junk" saddle. on my mare, I used an old parts saddle we had lying around. They way, she could get used to the weight, but if she bucked it off I didn't have to worry about something breaking, or her freaking out while it was cinched, rolling, and hurting/breaking her back.
Start by letting your horse smell the saddle. Pick it up and gently rub it on his side. If he steps away, don't force him. He will calm down after a while, and you will be able to put the saddle on. If he bucks, don't worry. Just keep working with him. This may take a week or so for him to get used to. Always praise him when he leaves the saddle on and is calm.
Next its time for the bridle. Although it can be hard to get your horse to take the bit, you can rub something tasty, such as an apple, across it. This will distract the horse so you can slip the bit in and secure the bridle. If this still doesn't work, make sure to take it slow. Pull the bridle up as far as it will go without having the bit in. Then, take your index and middle finger and put them in your horses mouth, back towards the back where the teeth end. By gently pressing down, your horse will open his mouth. Slip the bit it, if he spits it out, do so again until he starts to get used to it, and then fasten the straps. Don't rush your horse into something that could frighten him.
Since you've gotten your horse tacked up, try a saddle with cinches now. Don't make them as tight as you can right away. Make them tight enough to keep the saddle on, and let your horse get used to that. Make sure he doesn't try to roll. Rolling with a saddle on can break a horse's back. As a last minute precaution, a martingale should be added. This is a strap that hooks onto the bottom of the bridle and the cinch between the front legs. A horse needs to be able to through its head up to rear. With the martingale keeping the head level, the horse cannot rear. This gives you one less thing to worry about.
When your horse is comfortable with all his tack, its time for weigh to be applied. To get your horse used to having weight on his back, a 50 lb. Bag of dog food works nicely. If your horse bucks it off, keep trying. When you feel your horse is ready, you can try getting on. It's a good idea to have someone holding your horse, so that some control can be had. If you can boost yourself up in the stirrup, balance yourself there and let him get used to the saddle shifting. Then, try laying across is back. Be ready for a quick dismount if need be. If your horse accepts this, swing you leg over and be ready to hold on. Remember to grip with your knees and hold on with your hands too. The mane is a good place to grip. There is a good chance your horse will buck. Do your best to stay on. If you cannot, roll away from your horse as soon as you hit the ground to avoid being trampled by his hooves.
If you have been thrown, make sure you get right back on. It can be hard, I know. I've been thrown my fair share of times. But if your horse learns that he can keep you off by bucking, you'll never break him. Wait until your horse calms before you end your training session. Don't stop just because you are scared. Eventually your horse will get used to this and stop bucking.
Next comes reining. To do this, start split reining. When you want your horse to turn, do what you would normally do to neck rein. That is, lay the reins against the side of his neck. Put apply pressure to the other side, pulling the horses head in the direction you want him to go. This will teach your horse to rein. You will be able to stop pulling after a while and simply neck rein.
More by this Author
Siberian Huskies come in shades of black, grey, and red, and in various color patterns.
Tennessee Walking Horses, a History The Tennessee Walking Horse surfaced as a breed of its own in 1935, with the registry of Allen F1 (Also known as Black Allen), the foundation sire of the...
Some Siberians are show-quality and some are not. Both make wonderful pets! If you want to know the official show-quality breed standards for Siberians, read on.