Beginners Breaking a Horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 06-29-2011, 06:34 AM Thread Starter
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Beginners Breaking a Horse?

A couple friends of ours (my family's) are owners of a 3YO filly/mare. They're a pretty young couple, and between them they have probably less experience than I do, and that's saying something. The guy's parents have horses, but his family is more into just throwing a saddle on the horse and take it for a spin around the pasture than riding them and teaching them something productive. There are several proudly displayed pictures of him riding bucking horses, wearing running shoes and sitting on a saddle too far back with a curb bit in the horse's mouth and riding amongst the herd of other horses with a couple of the guy's friends gawking in the background, probably cheering him on. So yeah, I guess you could say he does have "riding" experience. He knows how to stay on a horse, but anything more complex than pulling the reins right to go right, left to go left and back to stop is out of his ball park. The extent of the girl's experience goes to maybe two or three deadbroke old trail horses she's dared to sit on over the years.

The filly has been nothing but a sweetheart for them. They ask little of her and she willingly obliges. The couple works and is busy with their social life most of the time, so every few weeks they just show up, no work or handling done with her and get on her back. Just this past weekend, it was her third "ride", and the guy is up on her bareback with a piece of binder twine tied to one side of her halter. The girl is still too cautious to be "breaking" her-she has always been nervous around the filly, though she is determined not to show it. The filly has bolted a couple times, during which the rider has of course fallen, but besides that she's never put in a wrong step. She just wanders around, stopping to eat grass occasionally and looking like she's having a grand old time while the rider pretends that he's in control. Both of them are so amazed at "look how quiet she is! She's such a good girl!" and I don't bother telling them that it's because they haven't asked her to do anything yet. Yes, it is impressive that she's taking everything so quietly, but all they're doing is pretty much sitting on her and letting her go where she wants. I've seen the filly pitch a fit, rear and the like, when taken out of the field and made to work and actually listen by an experienced handler.

It's frustrating because both of them think they are some amazing horsepeople. Because the guy sat on a few horses growing up, the girl thinks he is a great rider and that she's cool by referring to the horse to her friends as: "The filly me and ___ are breaking". My dad and I aren't the most knowledgable people when it comes to horses, but we have more experience than they do under our belts, and we have to just sit back and bite our lips and watch a wreck unfold because they are fairly hostile to any advice.

My parents like to order the 'Farm & Ranch' magazines, and I always like reading about the old stories of how young kids took unbroke horses and learned to ride on them and turned them into 'Ole Reliable'. I always wondered why people could effectively do it back then and why you hear so many disaster stories now. For their sakes, I really hope this is one of those success stories, but when you think about it, the reason they could do it back then was because the horses were worked hard and consistently, and were probably pulling a plow when they weren't hauling kids around. The horses back then had a good work ethic and were kept well exercised. Sooner or later, they're going to have to ask this filly to actually do something, and when she goes to throw a tantrum they are either going to give in so that they don't have to fight her (the more likely outcome), or they're going to get hurt if they actually do try to win.

The filly is such a character and you just know that with a bit of the right training, she'd be a spectacular horse. We KNOW a very good trainer who would put a great foundation on her, but there's not even any use reccommending it because they don't have the money to send her there anyways. It's frustrating watching the potential of such a sweet filly get pounded into dust. I don't know if there's anything anybody can do about it. Any way you look at it, she's going to become a monster of a horse nobody can ride and her owners are going to get hurt, and when they do they'll both become afraid of her and sour to riding, and she'll either sit in the field rotting until she dies or they'll ship her to the auction.

Does anyone have any advice, or success stories? Is this situation doomed to fail? It's not my horse, I know, but I can't help but feel like I have to do something.

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post #2 of 7 Old 06-29-2011, 11:04 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
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Ugh, recipe for disaster! Yes, I was pretty green when I got my boy as a 1 month old foal, but I took lessons not only in riding but also in care/nutrition/training, etc.... while he was growing. AND I had a horse trainer giving me advice every step of the way, that was part of the deal. I bought him as a baby and she would teach and help me raise him. I also worked with all 15 of her horses while he was growing to give me experience with many situations. As sad as it is, they probably won't realize the error of their ways until one of them or the horse gets seriously hurt. Do you have any very knowledgable mutual horsey friends that this couple look up to? They might be able to convince them of the danger a bit better.
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post #3 of 7 Old 06-29-2011, 01:57 PM
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I'm sure there are many factors between back then and now that effect young or beginner riders ability to break a horse. Back then, kids that grew up on a farm were right there in the action, constantly being taught to work with horses. This is because their parents needed them to be able to help on the farm as soon as possible. The kids learned what they needed quickly and as soon as they felt comfortable, were working with young, unbroke horses. But, even though they were young, they weren't beginners by any means.
Also, young kids are very fearless. They don't always think of all the dangers of a young, unbroke horse. This can be bad, but it can also be good. A horse can tell if you're confident. If the horse learns to respect or follow the child's confidence, they are probably more willing to let the child take control.

As for older, beginner riders. I think what really works is really understanding the horse. Many beginner riders will get a young horse, then basically pick a training method they understand.. not always the method that works for their horse. They get sucked into whatever method and will do whatever they can to force it to work with their horse - either getting lucky, creating a dangerous horse, or getting a horse so over-worked or beat that it wont do anything. Beginners that are successful are the ones that almost let their horses teach them. They listen to their horses, but are also confident enough that the horse does not feel in charge. By doing this, your horse almost teaches you how to train him/her.

To me, it sounds like they just want a horse to say "hey, we have a horse we can sit on and ride." If he were really serious, he'd be using a saddle and bridle. Now, I'm not saying you have to use a saddle and bridle to actually do something with a horse, but with such little experience and that being really the only way they've ridden in the past, they should. I would suggest asking them what they have planned for the horse. If it's gonna be a backyard horse that they want to sit on every now and then, maybe offer some ways they can actually work the horse - maybe lunging. If they want to do more, ask them their philosophy on training a horse. A simple question like that might get them thinking. If they can't afford to send their horse to a trainer, maybe they can afford to meeting with a trainer themselves for a session or two on basic training. It's not the best, but it's something and it'll get them really thinking about the work and training they really need to go through with the horse.
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post #4 of 7 Old 06-29-2011, 02:38 PM
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I was first-time owner with very limited riding experience taking in 2 unhandled yearlings out of pity. First of all, I have to say I would NOT advise anyone to take this road. I went through lots of frustration, complaining, when I was about to give up, learning, researching, etc etc etc. Not for everyone definitely.

I can tell from my own experience (and what I've seen around) if you want to progress in some discipline you HAVE to use trainer sooner or later (of course if you are very good rider with lots of knowledge under your belt including working with greenies, then it's the whole different story). For just pleasure trail riding (when you don't really care about how horse moves, don't want to compete, etc.) you can train horse yourself (again, not something I'd advocate for, but I've seen it happened). Of course if you are not a total beginner and horse is not a wreck trying to kill you.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass: it's about learning to dance in the rain..."

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."

"How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours."
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post #5 of 7 Old 06-29-2011, 09:19 PM
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When I was younger 'beginner' I had a weanling.. recipe for disaster.. nope? though in saying that a heck of a lot could of gone extremely wrong! ha ha!
We got her professionally broken and didn't attempt to do it ourselves which is a different story!

I'm pretty open minded when it comes to 'greenies' teaching young horses new things considering I taught my grey gelding EVERYTHING he knew, I got him as an abused, scared horse and he turned into a very well educated dressage horse.. though I only done 1 dressage test on him and showed him instead ha ha, I WAS a greenie too!

In the end if they're not abusing, neglecting etc the horse they can do what they wish, if we all worried about what everyone else is doing.. we'd have no time to worry about our own problems! :)
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post #6 of 7 Old 06-29-2011, 09:56 PM
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when i was young i rode a horse on a leadline. as soon as i sat on it it bucked me off and i was bit by the horse bug, when i turned 15 my parents bought me a mustang that had never been ridden.. and i had never rode a horse since being bucked off, i broke this girl myself and she's now one of the best horses we have, i am now 18 and she's had tons of miles put on her by me, sure i bet she could be better with a proffesional, but me and her work very effeciently together and we can accomplish anythign we set our minds to from pole bending to jumping, we can do it. there are success stories, and of course i knew nothing of horses when i first started so my bit consisted of a ported shank bit, then i went bridle shopping and bought the "prettiest" bit i could find. it was luckily an Argentine snaffle with shanks(yeah not a snaffle but thats what it's called) it's a very mild bit and i luckily found the bit that she works perfectly in, as i learned about the forum i begin to critique myself and find ways to train her in ways i hadn't before and all we do is grow together!

i don't know what you can do to help them, but i thought i would throw in my success story.

Baby, Sparta, Carmen, Henry, Hooch, Mercedes, Butterscotch
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post #7 of 7 Old 06-29-2011, 10:24 PM
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There is a sentence is your post that I need clarification on - 'I've seen the filly pitch a fit, rear and the like, when taken out of the field and made to work and actually listen by an experienced handler. '

Who was taking the filly out of the field and working her? The experienced handler is ?
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