Now that your youngster has learned to accept you on their back, doing figure eights at a walk and accepting the bit when asked to stop is a good beginning. This next step can be hard if you do not have a lead horse to help your baby understand that they not only need to go forward, but at a faster pace. Most young horses are not that willing to jog with you on their back. This is a new experience and a new feeling for them. Their whole life they have been able to run, jump, buck and play whenever THEY felt like it, not when someone asked or told them to. Usually you can get them to go a few strides but they will automatically go back down to a walk. Some of them will do this many, many, many times, because they do not want to do it or they are just not sure what it is that you are asking of them. This is where another horse in front of them comes in very handy. If your baby is in the shed row by themselves or in a paddock by themselves and you are trying to get them to jog and they are not liking it, as soon as they see another horse, especially if it is a friend of theirs, they usually are very happy to follow. Part of this is because their attention is on the other horse and not on you. So if their buddy jogs, well then, that’s ok with me, I just want to be with another horse instead of being out in this paddock by myself. At this stage of the breaking process, try to travel the road to least resistance.
If you have a young horse that is being stubborn and just refuses to go forward, or even puts their head up in the air and tries to run off, then you may want to bring your lead horse next to your baby and see if that helps. Try to converse with the other person and stay very relaxed. If your youngster still is resistant, have the person on the other horse take a rope shank and snap it onto the babies’ halter that is under the bridle. Take another five or ten minutes to try and help your baby to understand that you very much would like for them to move forward at a faster pace alongside the other horse. If they still are not giving you the results you want, just continue doing the best you can, staying calm, until the time is up and untack. The next day, make sure you have that same horse with your baby, snap the shank on again and repeat the same lesson. If you are not getting the results you should be getting, you may need to use another horse, which will be on the right side of the baby. Usually this is not necessary, I am just explaining in case you come upon this problem. If you feel it is necessary, you may need to use a riding crop, another name, a persuasion stick or whip. Personally, I have never used spurs on a young horse, I prefer a riding whip. This is not to be used to beat a horse up. It is to be used strategically at the right moment. If you are going to use a whip, make it count. When I was learning to break yearlings, you were allowed to use a stick, but if you just gave them a love tap, it was taken away. If you are going to use this valuable tool, you need to crack the horse on the rump, really mean it and leave it alone. If you are very stern they will get the message. Just be prepared at all times, when you are turning your stick on a youngster and are using it with conviction, be prepared for anything. Some babies will heed to your demands and that may be the one and only time that you will have to use this drastic measure. On the other hand, if you have a defiant baby that is in the attitude mode, you may be going for a rough ride. Some horses when you turn the stick on them will turn inside out because they have never had anything sting their butt like that before. The best case scenario is to have someone at their head, preferably on another horse or someone at their head on the ground.
Now your youngster has the idea that you really want them to go forward at a jog and keep going at a jog. Forward, forward, forward. You as the rider must keep this on your mind constantly when you are on your young horses back. As you are thinking forward, all of your body language will convey this to your horse and they will pick up on it and have a better understanding of what it is you are asking for. Once they have accepted the forward concept, half of the battle has been won. Now, take what you have taught them, work on the jogging until they are very good at responding to your commands. I cannot tell you exactly how many days or weeks but make sure they are good at jogging and paying attention to you on their back before you move on to the next step. Remember; keep it short, sweet and to the point. As the days progress, and your horse is becoming a little fit to the task and really is not minding it at all then you can move up to cantering or loping depending on your discipline. Always end on a positive note with your horse and lots of praise. They do not know the words that you are saying but they certainly understand the tone and excitement in your voice and the kindness in your heart. Again, I will be back shortly with more tips on making the breaking process an easy one.
Please let me know how you feel about this or any other article by leaving a comment. I would love to hear from you! Bev