Some trainers claim they can saddle and ride every young horse in half an hour. They often time themselves and make a big deal of how quickly the horse was ridden. This makes no sense. Starting a horse under saddle isn’t a race. There’s no prize for how quickly you can ride a young horse. The only prize is to end up with a confident, relaxed horse. In every training situation, what you achieve today is irrelevant. It’s where you’ll be tomorrow, next week, next month and next year that matters.
If you ride a horse for twenty years, you’ll soon forget how quickly you rode him in his early lessons. However you certainly won’t forget if he still bucks with the saddle every morning. And you won’t forget if your horse is nervous and worried every single time you ride him.
I’ve seen many horses that were pushed too fast early in their training and are forever after nervous and worried every time they’re ridden. People often say such horses are “mad”, “highly strung” or “hot blooded”. I know that temperaments vary but every horse can be taught to be confident and relaxed, just as every horse can be pushed too hard and made nervous and worried.
Some horses handle stressful experiences better than others. And some horses never get over being stressed and pushed too hard. I’ve often heard that ten or twenty percent of horses will never be any good, no matter what you do. This is totally untrue. There’s no such thing as a bad horse or a horse that can’t be trained.
Everyone’s aim should be to train every horse without chasing, bucking and fighting. Every horse can be started under saddle without chasing, bucking and fighting. Every horse can be started without fear and sweat and distress.
If a horse has been well handled and is confident and relaxed, it’s easy to sit on his back within half an hour. However, if a horse hasn’t been handled or has been badly handled and is nervous and worried, it’s ridiculous to expect him to accept a rider in his first couple of lessons. Such a horse must be taught to overcome his fear of humans. He must be taught to lead, to have his legs handled and to be confident and relaxed. There’s no point trying to sit on any horse’s back until he’s been taught these basic things.
Riding a nervous, sweating, worried horse is cruel and pointless. Some horses will get over this experience but plenty of others never do. They’re the horses that buck every morning and are nervous and worried whenever they’re ridden.
Next time you see a nervous, sweating, distressed horse being chased or ridden, remember that there’s never any need for this to happen to any horse. Every horse can be started without chasing, bucking and fighting. There is a way around every horse and it’s up to us to find it.