Training For All Ages
 By Saferaphus   •   1st Dec 2017   •   392 views   •   0 comments

Itís said that we never really stop teaching our horses. Every time we handle or ride them, they are learning something from us. This is why consistent handling is so important. And training doesnít begin when we start to introduce the bridle and saddle. It starts from the moment the foal is born. To skip any portion of training means there could be problems later on. Here's what your horse should know at every age and stage.

From its first day, a foal should be taught the basics of good manners. This means biting, kicking and other undesirable behaviors should be dissuaded. It may be fun to teach a foal to steal a treat from your pocket or shake a hoof, but it can lead to destructive or dangerous behavior later on. If you wouldnít want a 1000 pound horse to do it, donít let a foal do it.

The first things a foal should learn is how to lead, and how to have its feet handled. It should learn to accept brief groomings, and someone touching all over its body. Any Ďtrainingí session should be very short. And training needs to be done in a way that doesnít upset the mare or the foal. This means youíre not going to separate the foal from the mare while you work with it. Because foals often scratch their ears and head with a back foot, itís wise to take its halter off when youíre not working with it. And, because foals can damage themselves, itís best to leave lessons of being tied to a solid object until later.

Weanlings and Yearlings
When a foal is weaned from its mother, itís called a weanling. At this point, it can get all its nutrition without its motherís milk. It still needs some guidance though so it learns how to be a horse. So, often weanlings are turned out with older horses that will help them learn good horse socialization. It should also learn how to live by itself, so brief periods of time separated from others is a good idea.

Its human handlers should be teaching it some things too. It should continue to learn how to walk quietly on the lead, stand to be groomed, stand for hoof cleaning and farrier work, and introduced to the horse trailer if it hasnít already been in one. This is a good time to install all the good ground manners that will make it a pleasurable and safe horse to work with for the rest of its life.

In all phases of horse training, patience is important. Keep learning time brief for weanlings and yearlings, and expect a young horse to play up a bit. Young horses especially have a short attention span and get bored and frustrated easily. So, hour-long training sessions have to wait until they are more mature.

Two and Three-Year-Olds
At this age, starting a young horse in harness or under saddle should be easy, because they already have good ground manners and trust their handles. Many people think that horses can be ridden as two-year-olds, but there are some good reasons to delay this until their mind and body have matured.

But, a two or three-year-old can learn to be lunged or worked in a round pen, although the sessions should be kept brief so their joints and tissues arenít overstressed. They can learn to hold a bit and to be ground driven.

Four and Five-Year-Olds
By the time a horse is four or five years old, itís time to go to work. With all the basics in place, the horse can be ridden or driven, gradually building its condition and asking it to do more demanding work. How long formal training goes on depends on the goal of the rider or driver. A pleasure horse might not be schooled unless there is a need too. But a dressage horse might be schooled for the rest of its working life if the goal is to develop and refine a really top level horse. So, donít give up on that older horse. As long as you are willing to learn, it will too.
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