How to start a horse – Exercises for the first month

Starting your horse and the begging of the whole training process is the most important part of your horses’ life. At least when it comes to the abilities and willingness to listen that he is going to have in the future.

Starting your horse is about introducing him to the idea of carrying a saddle and a rider on his back. You want to do it in the least stressful way possible.This phase usually doesn’t take very long.

The first months define your horse

Equally as important as introducing the saddle itself are the first few following months of the training. Your horse is going to be like an empty bottle that you are begging to fill. It is only up to you what you are going to “fill the bottle” with.

You can teach him that riding means walking right behind another horse at exactly the same speed.Or you can teach him to listen to your cues and to what you are asking. You can teach him to react on low pressure, so when you pull your reins he stops willingly without fighting with you.

Or you can “teach” him that it doesn’t really mean anything when you pull your reins, that he just has to stand the pain without really knowing what it is for.

Your horse needs to learn this first

In the very begging of the training (by which I mean the first month) it is important for your horse to learn what pressure means and what should he do to get rid of it. How to get rid of the pressure when you pull your reins, and how to get rid of the pressure when you squeeze him with your legs.

In this stage of the training, I only use the simplest cues.

I press my horse with both of my legs to ask him to go faster.

I pull a single rein to ask my horse to turn.

I pull both of the reins to ask him to stop.

Then you can improve

In the begging I just teach my horse to go faster, to turn and to stop in the easiest to understand way possible.

I can work on improving and learning more cues to ask for the same thing later on. (For example stopping by putting more weight in the stirrups instead of pulling the reins and so on)

Also in the begging, I don’t care about my horse’s body position while stopping. If his head and back are not in the correct position I ignore it in the very begging and only work on it a bit later.

Another important thing is maintaining a steady pace. In walk, trot and in canter. I consider it important because riding on a horse that maintains a steady pace is much more pleasant than riding on a horse that speeds up or slows down by himself all the time.

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Also if your horse doesn’t keep a steady pace, he is likely a bit stressed. Steady pace usually means a calm horse.

When your horse calms down physically, he is also going to calm down mentally.

You need a clear plan

It is important to have a clear training plan, especially in the first months of the training.

You have to know what to start with and what to do next. You have to know what to do when things don’t go as expected.

You should be able to teach your horse how to properly react on your cues and you have to know how to improve his reactions to those cues over time.

The most important thing to focus on

The most important thing to keep in mind with all this is that the moment that really matters is when you release the pressure.

When you apply the pressure, your horse is going to start looking for a way to get rid of it. Then, when you release it, he will discover what the way to get rid of it actually is.

For example, if you start pulling the reins to ask your horse to stop, but release them when he tries to pull them out of your hand and goes against the pressure, you are teaching him that the way to get rid of you pulling the reins is by going against the pressure.

Your horse thinks differently than you think

Your horse doesn’t think about what you want, he is thinking about how to get rid of the pressure. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pressure that you create with your leg, or by pulling your reins. That is why the release of the pressure is so important, it gives your horse the answer.

The first few months define the way your horse is going to behave for the rest of his life. He is never going to fully forget what he learned in the very begging.

I wish you all the best with your training!

How to start a horse – Exercises for the first month
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