Starting horses is always a big topic; there are hundreds of different ways to start horses, but in my experience, there are two ways that set a horse up for success when it’s time to put your first ride on and progress through your training. These two things are significantly underestimated with horse people, and if you’re not sure how your horse will be under saddle, you want to make sure they’re ready and comfortable. I can’t stress enough the value of longlining your horse and spending more time under saddle at the walk and getting your horse super comfortable.
Longlining or ground driving is when two ropes are attached to either side of their halter or whatever you’re using on the head which are then run through the stirrups or a lunging surcingle. It’s not recommended to have reins just hanging down beside the horse because they may drag on the ground. Once the reins or long ropes are in place, you can steer left and right and back. Once they get the hang of it, you can start to drive over bridges through cones or over a tarp. Asking your horse to be brave enough to do these obstacles essential by itself is a great confidence builder.
You can even ask them to trot while driving, remembering to keep far enough back in case they kick out. You can even ask for a canter; it is easier to stick with the horse if you are on a circle. Once they are comfortable with w/t/c you can ask them for a rollback; this helps get the horse giving to the rein pressure. All of these tasks while longlining will help get the horse used to rein pressure, voice cues, someone being behind them, turning, backing up and things flapping or bumping their sides. Once you have established good control on the ground, the transition to the first ride should be much less stressful and much smoother than if you didn’t get your horse responsive to all those aids on the longline.
Once you have saddled your horse and it is comfortable with you getting on and having the weight on its back, the next step is to do a lot of exercises at the walk. Everyone is always in a rush to get the horse trotting and cantering. Still, at the walk, you can work on getting the horse confident to bending, halting, and different maneuvers (turn on the haunches or forehand, sidepass, etc.), and you can even start them on obstacles.
These exercises at the walk will build your horse’s confidence and set them up for an easy transition to the trot and canter. There is no harm in taking a little bit more time on the ground and at the walk under saddle; this will ensure an easy transition and speed up the process because the horse should learn things more quickly as you progress through the gates and your training. There will be less confusion and fewer corrections.
So, when it’s time to start your horse, remember longlining and taking more time at the walk are two ways you can set your horse up for success and essential speed up the training process by building your horse up to be confident and willing to go to the next step in your training.
What do you think of those two steps? Have you used them before, or do you think they would fit well in the way you start your horses? Let us know!
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