Is buying a young horse right for you?
What goes into having a young horse?
Why would you want a young horse?
What qualities should you be looking for, and what qualities are good to have in yourself before you even consider jumping on that boat and purchasing a young horse?
These are the questions you might want to ask yourself before deciding if buying a young horse is suitable for you. There are both pros and cons when buying a young horse. One pro is they generally come with a lower price tag. However, a young horse will cost you more time and money for training or coaching, and there is no guarantee of how it will turn out.
Another pro is the lasting relationship you can build when owning a young horse; you can learn and grow together. It can be gratifying to watch the young horse develop the patterns and behaviours they will need to thrive when introduced to new situations. You can watch them grow physically and mentally and learn how to be social with other horses and how they interact with other humans.
A negative could be if you are not prepared to provide the young horse with the proper training, it could be pretty dangerous, especially as horses learn the social dynamics and start to challenge each other. They may also challenge you more, and some horses can act more dominant than others; some will even explore nipping and pushing.
Young horses require more consistency and boundaries. You can accidentally teach them to be dangerous because they are big animals and have a social hierarchy that involves kicking and biting. And if we’re not careful, the horse can interact with us similarly, which is quite dangerous for us because we are not the size of other horses. The lack of knowledge can create hazardous situations for you and your horse. It’s not a great recipe for success for both the horse and the rider to learn things simultaneously. It’s better if one of you is at least knowledgeable. There’s a saying in the horse world: green on green makes black and blue. And what that means is that you can have a green horse (green meaning inexperienced), you can have a green horse, and a green rider, so an inexperienced horse and rider together make black and blue.
It can be a gratifying process to train your horse and bring them up through all the experience levels. It can’t be stressed enough the importance of being knowledgeable or having a knowledgeable trainer and coach that can consistently work with you to help you along the way. A smooth process is essential because it is so much harder to fix mistakes that have been learnt than just starting from scratch and doing things in a successful progressive way from the beginning.
With young horses, repetitions, making each experience positive and setting each situation up for success are critical. This will help guide the youngest to the “right” answers and provide them with the tools to learn, respect, and understand what you are asking.
What qualities do we need to have? The first one is experience; you want to have seen the process or been part of the process and have developed some timing and feel with horses. Not just from working with horses but from being able to teach horses new skills. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have trained a horse under saddle to be started from scratch. If you’ve only worked with a horse that already knows things and you’ve only worked on tasks that the horse understands, then you haven’t learned how to teach a horse new skills, and you’re not going to have that exact timing and feel that’s needed for teaching a horse something they don’t already know. So we want to make sure we have that type of experience to teach new skills to a horse.
Then we want to make sure that we have confidence. Confidence is a massive part of training because we can quickly become scared of young horses. After all, when they get confused, they may give you answers to your questions that you don’t necessarily expect or want. They’re also young and playful, and they might nip or stop and strike out just because we’re experimenting with how to respond to a new situation. They’re going to start to spook, go too fast, lose your balance, be wiggly; all of these things will happen. They might even trip and stumble just because they’re not used to carrying a person on their back. They’re not going to have that steady Eddy feel to them. And in those moments when they act their age, it’s going to be up to the rider or the trainer to maintain that level of confidence and guidance, and if you get scared at that moment and freeze up and don’t know what to do, then your horse can become fearful and nervous. Whereas if you have the confidence to say, Oh, we’re just going to go this way, or we’re going to go that way and continue like no big deal, or at the very least, keep your reins relaxed and not snatch up on your horse, then you can prevent the situation from getting worse. If you get nervous and start hanging on your horse’s mouth and gripping with your legs, that’s when issues can happen.
If you are very new to training young horses, a support system will come in handy. Somebody can work with you consistently, someone who can give you pointers or help out when needed. The support system will help when issues add up and become big problems. You don’t want to go weeks working on something thinking that it’s going great, but you’re just building up to an adverse reaction. So it’s better to have consistent, weekly, if not multiple times a week, support from a coach for somebody to be around to watch what you’re doing and be that extra eye to check-in.
What kind of facility do you have to work in? It can be hard to start a horse under saddle if you don’t have a safely fenced arena that’s not too large. Make sure you have a safe space with good footing because when we’re working with horses, you don’t want to start with added challenges.
Those are the big three, the knowledge/experience, the confidence/support system and the environmental aspect. So the question is, are you ready to have a young horse? Really think about this because we can learn so much from our horses that are already trained. Really think about what your goals are; think about what it is you’re planning to do with your horse. Sometimes it’s better to get an older horse with the experience that can teach you.
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