Taking care of your very first horse is an exciting moment for any prospective rancher, rider, or genuine horse lover. As you learn every quirk and behavior of your equine friend, you’ll also find that training is an essential part of their daily routine.
Though horses have different personalities, each one requires thorough training to ensure a rider’s safety on horseback—even the most well-behaved horses. Prepare yourself with these essential tips for training your first horse to ensure that you start on the right hoof with each other.
Start a Lasting Friendship With Your Horse
The first step to training any horse—but especially your first horse—is to establish a trusting relationship between the two of you. Horses are intelligent animals and may not obey your commands immediately due to their apprehensive nature. Don’t expect to be best friends with your horse on day one—they may not even allow you to approach them without difficulties.
Work with your horse, slowly acclimatizing them to each piece of equipment they’ll use or wear and every movement you’ll make by creating positive associations with treats and patience. After the horse trusts you, it’ll be easier to move forward with training and riding.
Learn the Source of a Bad Behavior When You See One
If you witness your horse acting up or displaying bad behavior, don’t immediately assume that they’re doing it on purpose. Behaviors often have meanings that require a discerning eye to decipher. Investigate the potential causes of unwanted horse behaviors—you may find that there’s an object, action, or health issue triggering your horse’s actions.
Some problems are easy to correct, like taking away an object or avoiding a specific motion. Other issues, such as a bad diet leading to poor behaviors, may take more work and research on your end to correct, but it’s necessary to prevent bad behaviors from becoming bad habits. Bring up any problem you think may correlate with a health condition with your horse veterinarian.
Work From the Ground Up
Even if you follow every tip for training your first horse in the world, it’s unlikely that you’ll jump directly to riding your horse right after they get to the stable. Don’t get impatient as you train your horse—start with the simplest of basic groundwork exercises and work your way up from there. Groundwork exercises that you’ll need to perfect before moving on include:
- Getting your horse to stand still.
- Moving your horse to one side by pushing them.
- Leading the horse.
- Having the horse bow in response to pushing on their head.
- Walking your horse in a circle around you.
Don’t move on to more intense exercises until they’ve completed one to your liking. It’s unsafe to ride horses that don’t know their groundwork, as they may not respond to your commands. Always respect the size and full weight of a horse—don’t lose focus as you train even the gentlest horse.