A Guide to Breaking and Training
Just as a guide line for breaking the standard horse or pony I use a six week system.
This is totally flexible and It may take longer or even less time. Here is a brief description of my six week programme:
WEEK 1 Bring in at night, tie up, groom, pick out feet, get used to rugs. at end of week, start grooming with a bridle (nylon bit preferred) and roller on. Equine will then be ready for the next weeks work.
WEEK 2 Start walking out in bridle and roller, continue to groom and handle during every day duties, Walk round school, let equine move away from you as you walk, eventually they will be far enough away from you that you will have to use voice commands alone to bring them to a standstill. I like to use "woooah" for bringing them to a halt as halt sounds very much like trot to the untrained ear of your baby! To make them stand before moving off I use the command "Stand" This indicates to the equine that it has to be doing something that isn't walking or stopping it must be something different, it is also a command used a lot in the stable, ie when grooming or mucking out. When they are halting and standing on command you can begin to increase the size of the circle that you are allowing them to walk on. This should still be with you walking round with them. Gradually you can walk less and less far until you are standing in your own territory in the middle of their circle! When you are lunging the equine, always establish "woah" and "walk-on" before doing anything faster. If you take the attitude that they will hare off in trot or canter at first they will always hare off, it is far nicer to have a horse that just walks away when it is asked to! It is at this stage that you can start to introduce side reins, loosely at first.
WEEK 3 When walk and halt have been established then you can start to ask them to "trot-on" use a bright but firm tone of voice and the equine will probably be more than willing to oblige, if not a swift flick with a lunge whip towards their hock will encourage them to listen. This week, I would be starting to introduce a saddle whilst grooming. The feel of a saddle is very different to a roller. There is a lot more to it than just a piece of leather round their middle. Most equines do not object to having a saddle put on them, It is usually when the girth is tightened up to prevent it from slipping that many equines go "ballistic" . From here on it is a case of refining the aids for what I call the 3 S's Stop, Start and Steer. You can start this by introducing a second lunge line around the equine's quarters, this is getting them ready for long reining. as you get to this stage you use the reins more WITH the voice. I usually start off by lunging from both sides of the cavasson, when I actually start long reining I use the bit, after all it is the response to the bit that you are starting to fine tune! I would not long rein in week 3 but I would be introducing the second line at this stage.
WEEK 4 This would be when I would start to long rein. I would gradually move out from the centre of the circle towards the rear of the equine. with a young equine it is important that they remain able to see you, so never walk to go directly behind the equine. Walk round the arena, practise walk to halt transitions and halt to walk, also make them stand whilst you are not with them, get someone to talk to or look at the countryside, then walk on, It is important for any young horse to learn to stand, especially if they are going to be used as show animals. By the end of this week, I would be long reining them around the yard and possibly out in the fields, getting them used to not playing in the fields whilst tacked up! Depending on the equine I would also be near to taking them on the roads (with a helper to walk by the head just in case!!!)
WEEK 5 Here I would be starting to lean over them as I groomed them, for example, stand on a box to brush the top of their back and lean over to do a bit of the other side. This is easier to do with ponies than horses admittedly!!!, Never actually lean on a horse/pony with your feet off the floor/step in the stable, it is so easy to be thrown into the roof or a wall, or even banged up against the wall!!! With the assistance of someone capable, take the tacked up equine into the school as usual, Lunge as normal, at the end of a good session, get the assistant to give you a boost so that you are laying across the saddle. Stroke the equine where your legs would go, get him used to it whilst stationary, Do this a few times and call it a day, The next day, do the same thing again but after doing it a few times at standstill, you can usually tell if the equine is happy with it, ask him to move on a few steps (whilst being led) Eventually you will get to walking round and round the school, again you must keep on at the walk - halt - walk transitions. That is as far as I would take it for this stage.
WEEK 6 Start off the session as before, leaning over, walking round the school. when equine feels confident with this, come down and get a fresh boost up, stay leaning forward but this time put your right leg over the saddle. stay low!!!! When the equine has relaxed with you here in halt, again, ask for a few steps, if equine is ok with this, slowly sit up. Remember that the horse is a fight or flight animal and if you sit up too abruptly he will think you are animal attacking him and either run away or bronc you into orbit! If you stand on a step to groom he will have an advantage as he will be a bit more used to something above him. Gradually ask him to walk around the school, using your voice commands. Gradually introduce leg aids with these voice commands. Soon you will find yourself in reasonable control, have your friend lead you round all the time!! I never lunge a young horse with a rider on, they have to find a new centre of balance and in a small circle it is very difficult for them. This is also the reason I never canter a young equine on the lunge! They learn how to go fast soon enough! Eventually you will feel enough in control to have the assistant just walking beside you without holding on to you. when this happens, the assistant can start to move away (like when teaching the baby to lunge) and soon you will be flying solo!!!
Article by Maria Kelson