Once you have established getting your young horse in the halter and doing some basic work, you can move on to some more exciting and trust building exercises that will take you a long way when you are ready to ride your horse for the first time.
Before you get started with the exercises here, make sure you have worked on the exercises in Part 1. Also, make sure you can get your horse to move around you without a pull on the rope, stop, turn and face you and change direction.
Continued from Part 1……
7. Do Basic Ground Work With Him-
Start by getting your horse to move around you in each direction by opening your hand in the direction you want him to go. The goal is to get your horse moving around you and keeping a loop in the rope. See if you can get him to stop and face you just by changing the position of your hand all while keeping a light feeling on the rope. Now you can move on to groundwork that requires you to develop a little more skill.
Get your horse to move around you in each direction and stop parallel to you. This will test softness & how well they are tuned in to you. You can’t really pull to get them to stop parallel to you so it really requires a soft feeling in the rope and a good rapport between the two of you.
When you change directions, Watch to see if his hind leg crosses underneath his belly and in front of his other hind leg. You may also notice when he steps over in the front, his front leg should cross over the front of his other leg as well. A horse can only do this if he lets his body loose.
You can work on touching him with a flag as he moves around, toss the end of your rope on him as he moves around, and you can work on getting him to follow a soft feel of your rope by having him to follow the feel in the rope over different parts of his body. Hand walk him around scary objects, over tarps, kids on bikes, you name it.
8. Tie Him and Brush Him-
If you’ve done steps 1 – 7 well, tying him won’t be a big deal at all. Just tie him on and give him a good brushing. He should love it. It’s just another way to build trust. Notice if he is pushing all over you or making ugly faces when you brush him. If those things happen, There are some things missing in 1 – 7 and you’ll need to work on getting more respect from your horse. I know cross ties are a normal thing in a lot of barns, but I wouldn’t consider cross tying a horse until they are clearly comfortable and quiet with a single tie.
9. Work Your Young Horse From the Fence-
This is a great thing to do. You can get to rubbing on them and moving them around from above. You can get a lot done quickly this way. See if you can get your horse to step up parallel to the pen or fence you are sitting on. See if you can get them to stay parallel to you and step up until they are standing in the same place they would be for you to get on. Make sure you can do that on each side. Just because you get it on one side doesn’t mean you will automatically get it on the other!
Another great thing to do is if you have another very trustworthy horse to ride, just have your young horse lose in the ring with you as you ride. Horses DO learn by observation so it will be a good absorbing experience to see one of their horse friends being ridden around them. If you are able, you can ride up to your young horse and reach out and touch them while you are horseback. It is very helpful to do this if you are able. Please do not try this if you are unsure of your skills or unsure of the horse you are on.
10. Put a Children’s Saddle On-
Even If you have never started a young horse before, this is a fun little thing you can do if you have done a good job with all the basics outlined above.
Put a children’s size saddle on your young horse and let him carry that around for an hour. Leave him in the round pen or fenced arena with it on with a couple of horse friends. They will move each other around and work it out amongst themselves. You can grab some lunch (while monitoring the situation) or work your other horse (keeping an eye on them of course). People have the impression they have to put a saddle on and chase them around the round pen or make them “buck it out”. That is ridiculous. Your Young Horse can have a pleasant time carrying the saddle around without all the hoopla. They can get used to the feel of the saddle and they will get the feeling it is just another part of life.
Note*** In the video I saddle my youngster near the fence. This is not good practice for saddling your horse the first few times. I did this for the ease of filming, but ideally, you should give yourself a bit more room in case your young horse does jump or get spooked. The last thing you want is them jumping or spooking on top of you because they didn’t have enough room to move.
Keep me posted on your progress with your young horse! Please Share you successes and struggles in the comments- I read every one!