Training a young horse is best left to the professionals, but even if you do that, it is still wise to know a thing or to about this process. Learning about saddling and riding young horses can help you avoid training mistakes, and even prepare your horse both physically and mentally for the lessons it will have to learn.
When to Start Training Your Horse
While riding exercises shouldn’t be attempted before the horse is two years old, that period of time can still be used wisely. It is important not to put too much weight on the horse before this age because the growth plates above and below the joint aren’t yet grown and calcified. Putting too much weight on a very young horse can lead to injuries, but running exercises can affect the horse’s health positively.
How to Start the Saddling Process
When the horse is about 2 and a half to 3 years old, the training process can begin. At this age, the horse is physically capable of accepting the rider, while it is not defiant enough to reject the training. One thing to note is that there should be a good relationship between a horse and a trainer, so establishing trust is very important.
Horses have a natural fight or flight response, and they are often attacked by the predator from the back, right where the saddle should sit. A good way to get a horse accustomed to the sensations it will feel later is to touch the horse over its entire body. To prepare it for the girth, you can use a scarf and slowly tighten it around the area where the girth will be placed. If the horse becomes nervous, just make the scarf less tight and start the process over.
When introducing the saddle blanket and the bareback pad, approach a horse, let it sniff the blanket or the pad, and then gently slide them from the horse’s neck onto its back. The saddle should be introduced the same way, but let the horse walk around with the gear so it gets slowly accustomed to it. Always check your horse’s mental state while doing something like this, and react accordingly.
Before attempting to ride a horse, it should learn how to accept the commands of the rider. Walking a horse by using a lead or strapping the lead to the older horse while it is being ridden are some of the good ways to do this.
While some people attempt riding a horse bareback before using a saddle, this is not recommended. It is better to use a saddle without stirrups. Again, everything you attempt should be done slowly and one step at the time to avoid making the horse afraid.