How to Train A Horse:
The Steps To Get You Started

So you want to learn how to train a horse? You have come to the right place! Let's get started.

The first thing to look at when learning how to train a horse is your experience level when riding and handling horses

If you don’t have any experience with riding horses at all, you shouldn’t attempt to start training a horse to ride right away.

  • It takes confidence and knowledge about what response you need from the horse in order to teach the horse. This comes through experience.
  • If you are really new to horses you won’t have enough confidence and know-how and you could wind up getting hurt.
  • If you want to learn how to train your horse and you lack experience, start with groundwork.
horse training information

If you do have a few years worth of really solid riding skills and are a confident rider, you may be able to attempt to train a horse.

  • Pick an easy first project.

This could be a horse with a mild issue that you feel confident about retraining.

  • Don’t start with the wild mustang that has never been handled!

If you are riding or around horses the term "training" is deceiving.

Remember that:

horse riding training

Make sure you are teaching him POSITIVE things!

The second thing to look at when learning how to train a horse is the horse’s current training level in relation to your goals and current experience level

I want to share an example with you to illustrate this point.

My first horse had never had a rider on her back and I was just 12 years old when I bought her as my first training project. Since she was not broke you might think I was in over my head but here are the other circumstances in relation to my experience and the horse's experience.

  • I had loads of time and desire to learn how to start training a horse to ride
  • Four years of riding lessons and experience on several different types of horses.
  • Experienced trainers around (including the former owner) to help me reach this goal
  • Supportive and experienced horse friends that were willing to help out.
  • This horse was a formerly starved Arabian horse that had been rescued by the trainer I bought her from.
  • The trainer had already put in significant time with groundwork on my new horse to get her prepared for riding.
  • I knew the horse because it was boarded at my barn

how to train your horse

The trainer was too big to ride the horse. Her growth had been stunted from starvation.

At barely 13hh the trainer thought she would be a good first training project for me given my experience level and size, and I agreed.

My goal was to back this mare and teach her basics at the walk, trot, and canter.

So, what that means for you is:

  • Be HONEST with yourself about your abilities and current experience level
  • Confidence is easy to lose and hard to get back.

Just ask anyone that has had a fall off a horse they "didn't expect". You don't want to get in over your head when you are just learning how to train a horse. That is dangerous for you and the horse.

  • Have a good support system in case you get stuck
  • Pick a horse that matches your CURRENT ability level

The less experience you have the easier your training project should be.

The third thing you need consider is the horse's temperament and his view of people

Look for a horse that is pretty easy going for the first several horses you train.

  • Check to see if he is curious, friendly, and interested in people.
  • It will be much easier to train a horse that doesn’t already have a negative view of people.
  • Undoing bad training or abuse is much harder and dangerous.

The fourth thing you should know is what type of training method you are going to use.

training your horse

There are as many training methods as there are breeds of horses out there!

  • Do a lot of research on different trainers and fall back on what you have already learned while riding and caring for horses.
  • Watch different types of training DVD’s and find a method that makes sense to you and seems fair to the horse.

Once you find a method you should stick with it unless you find it just isn't effective for that horse.

Switching around to a bunch of different methods, especially in the beginning will only confuse you and the horse. Be consistent, and as your skills grow you can try different approaches. Later when you are more confident you can blend what you are currently using with something new.

Do take a look at clicker training for horses.

The fifth thing to do when you want to learn how to train a horse is to keep a good written training plan and follow it.

Break your training goals down into manageable sections and write down the smaller milestones and time frame when you can reach them.

For instance, if the horse you are training has never worn a bridle, it would be a good smaller goal to introduce and have him be comfortable with things like

  • Being able to have his tongue and lips touched without fear or aversion
  • Having basic steering and commands with a rope halter or bit less bridle first

Get him used to the bridle you are going to use by setting these goals,

  • Introduce it slowly. Let him smell it, sniff it.
  • Make the bit a pleasant experience

Adding flavoring to the bit, or a treat when you put on his bridle may encourage him to take and enjoy the bit

  • Let him carry it for a week or more before you use it
  • Do some ground driving first so he understands the communication from the ground without the extra work of carrying a rider

By tracking your progress with goals, you can see how far you have come and any gaps in your training.

Learning how to train a horse takes a lot of time and patience on your part. It is an art form born from experience that you keep refining with each horse you work with.

Remember we are all ultimately, students of the horse. They will teach YOU much more if you are willing to listen.

You may also be interested in:

Horse Training Tips - Great ideas for how to train a horse right ... right from the beginning.

Horse Training Career- Do you know what is required to be successful?

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