Published by Eventing Connect
When it comes to producing and riding young horses,the word ‘breaking’ can have many connotations. The wrong methods,the wrong subject (equine or human) or the wrong environment can lead to things getting very broken indeed. I personally hate being the first man on board any young horse. Soiled pant city. What I hate even more than being the first man on board,is being the second man on board. That’s when you might find yourself truly lost in the wilderness,and exactly this resulted in me getting my face magimixed by a 4 yr old. I wasn’t always this ugly…..
I have my own way of doing things and a lot of my methodology has been born out of necessity. I work by myself and actually,I’m happier this way. The first and most important thing for me is to start with the raw product. As in,scarcely seen a white man raw,but with a small amount of quiet handling. The next most important thing is teeth-for me,there’s no earthly point trying to mouth and educate a horse if he still has wolf teeth or needs dental attention. They can’t possibly be expected to learn and respond favourably if they are uncomfortable. I don’t like spending weeks and weeks introducing things and dragging out each step as I find that keeping the horse’s mind engaged can be a big help in preventing him from forming other,more fun ideas for himself. Equally,I don’t progress unless I’m certain that the horse fully understands what is being asked of him. In recent years I have taken a real interest in proper natural horsemanship,and combining this with some of the traditional breaking methods works really well for me. My main aim is to try and put the horse in a position where the response he offers me to any question is exactly what I was looking for to begin with. Their confidence explodes,they start to enjoy their work and you form a great rapport very quickly-vital when you throw a leg across them for the first time.
The voice is an oft forgotten aid,and it is never more vital than when breaking a horse. Use it always-when you get on board,you can apply aids along with words he understands from his education on the ground (walk,woah etc) so he can quickly learn and work it out.Try to remember that if Dobbin is heading purposefully for the rhododendrons during the backing stage and you give him the standard aids for ‘stop’,he might have no real clue what you’re on about. If you apply the aids for stop with a loud clear ‘WOAH’,well now he has a chance. Praise him often, for every tiny thing he tries to do well. Horses are totally unique in that they are born with an innate desire to please. No other mammal has this. If you can preserve it,the horse will always try for you and you will make something very special out of your relationship with him. In finding the right way for you and your horse,the breaking process can be a safe and enjoyable experience for both-no broken bones required.
It is my firm belief that incorrect handling in the formative years can ruin everything forever-the horse doesn’t necessarily have to have been abused,but if he experiences repeated inexplicable situations where his every attempt is punished or ignored he will pretty quickly start doing the bare minimum and stop trying so hard. And thus the end product is lost,before it has even begun.