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Where Do You Start The Training?
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [May 6, 2001]


Training Question:

I am a new horse owner and I have been given an 8 month old mustang filly who is to say the least wild and un-gentled. I am wondering where I should start training this new horse. Do I start with sacking out, halter breaking, standing tied, round penning, or maybe something else? I am confused as to what order I should train these to my new filly. Could you help explain it?


Trainer's Response:

For almost every horse that I train, I first turn him loose in a round pen, paddock or pasture. From there, I make sure that the horse has been taught to be caught and haltered properly. If the horse turns away from me at any time, I work on training him (using the round pen training techniques) to enjoy being caught and haltered before any other training takes place.

After that, I teach the horse to be halterbroke. It is amazing how many horses are not properly halterbroke. About 50% of the horses I receive for training have been ridden for years, and are not even properly halterbroke - and this is where all the problems under saddle rise from (the horse does not understand, or has never been taught how to give to pressure consistently).

A horse who is properly halterbroke will be able to stand tied nicely even on the first time you ever tie him. So, teaching a horse to stand tied is actually a halterbreaking lesson. For a horse to stand tied, he needs to learn to almost instinctively give to pressure when any amount of pressure is placed on his halter, whether gentle or rough. Once he has learned this 100%, he can be tied to any object and be expected to stand nicely without panicking or breaking anything.

As long as the horse will allow me to catch him and lead him with no troubles, I continue the training with the simple ground manners in my article titled "Get Some Respect". Once the horse has learned the lessons in that article, I begin with sacking out, lunging, driving, and eventually saddling and breaking.

If the horse shows any signs that he is not understanding me or that he has any fear at any point in the training, I do not progress to the next step in training until that previous step has been mastered, 100% consistently. So, as long as you are very observant of what the horse does not yet know, what behaviors you'd like to replace with others, and what cues the horse needs to learn, you'll do wonderful training your horses.

Just remember, horse training is not hard. The only challenge in training horses is having the patience to do it. Anyone can train a horse, young or old. Most people who believe horse training is hard, only believe that because they try (and fail) all the shortcuts that only temporarily "fix" a problem (such as the use of harsh bits, spurs, whips, figure-8 nosebands, hobbles, twitches...the list could go on and on). The easier and more permanent way of training the horse is to throw away all those material things and "gadgets" that promise good training results, and replace them with a patient mind and gentle hands.


Happy Horsin'
Cheryl McNamee-Sutor






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This article was published on: May 6, 2001. Last updated on: May 6, 2001.