FIRST AND FOREMOST, recognize your experience and ability for what it is. Take a scrutinizing look and quit lying to yourself. If you can semi-confidently w/t/c around an arena on a school horse, that does not mean that you are an experienced rider capable of taking on a green horse. You need to be looking for a finished horse that knows his job but needs a rider that can ask properly. That way, when you are riding correctly, heíll do the job right and heíll let you know when you are riding poorly by doing the job poorly.
Between the horse and rider, there needs to be a combined ability level of expert. What I mean by that is this, if you are completely new to riding, then you need a horse that has been everywhere, done everything, and has proven himself cool and calm in even the most exciting of situations. You need an old schoolmaster. As the riderís ability and knowledge increases, they can safely begin to ride horses that are less than finished.
There is a good reason for the old saying ďgreen+green= black and blueĒ. A new rider paired with a green horse will almost always end up with one or both of them hurt and/or ruined. If the horse knows nothing, then the rider better damn sure know what a good horse is and know how to create one.
Next, make a list of what you want and need in a horse. If you are wanting a good trail horse that you can relax on and gain some confidence with, then donít take a second look at the reject barrel horse that is being sold because he flipped over backward and broke his last riderís leg.
Make a list of the things that are a necessity, things that would be nice to have but arenít a ďmustĒ, and things that will be avoided at all cost and stick to it.
Must haves: Neck reining, trail experience, arena experience, good stop, good leg yield, calm with crowds and large groups of other horses, okay with kids, clips, ties, loads, not spooky.
Nice but not necessity: Solid flying changes, consistent sidepass, patterned on barrels or poles, started in dressage/reining/cutting/jumping/etc.
Avoid at all cost: Cribbers, biters, kickers, buckers, buddy or barn sour, aggressive with other horses in turnout.
Stick to your list, no matter what, and donít compromise. Donít horse shop with your heart because your heart will fool you into thinking that you can handle something that you are not ready for. Donít shop strictly for color, either. While there is nothing wrong with having a particular color in mind, donít compromise on the conformation, temperament, training, or ability just to get the color. Youíll be much happier with a plain chestnut that has a great personality and is a proven winner than with a buckskin that bucks you off in the ring and bites when you try to pet him.
ďBut Sparky is so pretty, Iím sure I can help him to get over his problem with rearingĒ. No, you canít and youíll end up hurt if you try. Leave the beautiful Sparky for someone who has dealt with a rearing horse successfully before. The fact is, the first time you handle a horse with a particular problem like rearing or bucking or bolting, you need to have someone there who is experienced who can tell you what to do and give advice on what works and what doesn't.
If you are on your own and have never dealt with an aggressive horse or a horse with a serious and dangerous vice like bucking, bolting, or rearing, donít bring one home with the hopes that you can figure it out as you go along. Even more importantly, donít bring home a monster with the deluded idea that you can ďcureĒ him with love and end up with a ďmajikal bondĒ. It doesn't work that way. The horse will get worse and you will get hurt.
ďI want to get a young horse so that we can learn togetherĒ. That is the most naive and asinine idea that there ever was and someone will end up hurt. Young horses are completely unpredictable and unpredictability with an inexperienced rider or handler is always dangerous.
It happens all the time and I can currently think of at least 3 open threads about this exact thing and the stream of them seems to be never ending.
ďIím a beginner and I am trying to train my horse but they are doing <insert misbehavior here>. What do I do?Ē
I know that many people who know nothing about horses tend to jump in head first without checking to see how deep the water is and thatís why Iím writing this post, in hopes of maybe educating some people so that they can save themselves, and an innocent horse, a lot of trouble.
I enjoy books and movies like The Black Stallion, National Velvet, My Friend Flicka, and the like as much as anyone but I think itís time we get realistic. Love doesn't train a horse. Nobody can take a horse that has behavioral issues like bucking, bolting, rearing, biting, kicking, charging, etc, etc, etc and re-train it to be a perfect, respectful companion with nothing but hugs and kisses and sugar cubes. It simply doesn't work that way.
9 times out of 10, that horse that you brought home because he was free or just really cheap will cost you much more money in the long run (between trainer costs and hospital/vet bills) than if you had just went ahead and spent a bit of cash on a well broke horse to begin with.
The most important rule that any potential horse buyer can follow is this: DO NOT buy a horse that is beyond your ability to handle and/or ride.
If you are a complete beginner, then you do not want to go buy, adopt, or take home the first horse you see thatís ďprettyĒ, especially if itís an unhandled yearling, or worse, a stud. A free horse is never free and if a young, pretty horse is being given away for free, then there is some reason for it. Normally, it's not a good one either.
Maybe the horse is unhandled, in which case it is certainly not suitable for a beginner; maybe the horse is lame or sick, in which case it is not suitable for a beginner because there are many things that come with caring for a lame or sick horse that a beginner doesn't know or understand and that could cause more suffering on the horseís part.
More often than not, young horses that are green broke or advertised as ďbrokeĒ are being given away for free or very small charge because they are dangerous or have serious vices or behavioral issues. None of those things are suitable for beginners.
Also, let me clarify one thing. Just because you have been taking lessons or riding broke horses for 5 or 10 or 20 years, that does not automatically qualify you to buy an untrained horse and train it yourself. There is a very big difference between being able to recognize/ride a made horse and being able to create one. A person should work their way up to working with untrained horses.
All children and beginners should start out with a horse very much like this one, very well trained and responsive but at the same time, docile and a bit lazy.
As a person gains experience and Ďfeelí, then they can begin working their way up to green horses. The best way to do this is by working under a trainer or hiring a trainer to work with you.
I had been riding for about 10 years before I ever set foot on a horse that was less than finished. It was about 5 years after that when I successfully trained one from scratch (under the watchful eye of a professional trainer). I trained one other on my own a couple of years before that but Iíll be the first to admit that it was a mistake. I wasn't ready and the horse paid the price. Thankfully, I had the means to give him a forever home so he didn't end up on a killer truck.
Iíve been riding now for about 25 years and training (mostly my own horses until recently) for a little over 10 and I still donít know how to handle certain things that come up with green horses: for instances like that, I still have my professional trainer to turn to. To believe that someone who had been riding a schoolmaster for 5 years would know when to push and when to back off on a greenie by themselves is ludicrous.
There are a great many things that simply cannot be taught over internet forums or chat rooms.
Will be continued in next post...too much text.