Yes, you only break a horse once. However, I have heard people say that they re-break a horse, but I don’t buy it. From the first day you start the breaking process, you are making indelible markings on your animal; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I could understand re-schooling but if they are broken in a way that they have developed bad habits from the experience, it can take a very, very long time to get that out of their heads. So, take your time, be patient and get it right the first time and life will be much easier for you and your horse down the road. Alright, enough of that, let’s get down to business.
Please keep in mind that everyone does things differently, especially when it comes to horses. My methods are the ways that I have found to be best for me and my horses. You can take what I have to say and use it as a guideline, but follow your instincts as they are usually right. Just as each horse is different, each person is different as well. Use it to your advantage.
Break each horse as an individual because they are. The very first thing in starting is introduction. You are going to introduce a bit into the horse’s mouth for the first time. Naturally, they are not going to like it. So, take an old bridle, take the reins off of the bit and I prefer a rubber D bit. This is a D bit but has had the part that goes into the horse’s mouth covered in usually a black rubbery type coating. I don’t really like the bits that are covered in a hard plastic. If they can kind of chew on the bit I think it is more interesting and less intimidating. Have a halter and shank on your horse and gently put the bit into the horses’ mouth. It is wise to have someone there with you to help. I never suggest that anyone start to break a horse by themselves. You are entering into the unknown. Once you have the bit in their mouth, adjust the bridle correctly, not hanging too far down; maybe just one little wrinkle on the side of their mouth. Take an old saddle blanket, show it to the horse and let them look at it and smell it, and gently slide it onto their back. Take it off and put it back on over and over again for about 5 minutes. Now that you have finished that, take the shank off and leave the horse in the stall for about ten minutes or so with the bridle still on. Stand there and watch them to make sure they don’t do something silly. If your horse is not reacting very much, snap the shank on after the ten minutes and take your horse for a short walk. Take them back into the stall, take the bridle off and pat them on the neck or wherever you usually do and talk to them in a voice of approval. You are done for that day.
Day two and three: repeat the same process, if your horse is not reacting at all, take your horse for a longer walk. NO grazing or eating anything when the bit is in their mouth. Ok, back in the stall, bridle off, big words of approval, you are done. The next day, make sure your stall has plenty of fresh bedding in it. I always used an old, light English type of saddle; less weight, less intimidation. Put the bridle on, put the saddle blanket on. Have your helper hold your horses head standing in front of the horse. Pat your horse while talking to them, show them the saddle, let them get a good look and a good sniff then slowly put the saddle on their back. Wait a minute or so, walk your horse around in the stall a few times. If their eyes are not popping out of their head, show your horse the girth and then walk to the other side of the horse. Always make sure that the person holding the horse has the horse standing in the middle of the stall, facing the same direction every day. Put the girth on, leave it hang and go to the left side of the horse. Talking, talking, talking, bring your girth up and just barely tighten it. Take the horse for another walk or you can tighten the girth just enough to keep it on, leave the stall, let the horse holder unsnap and leave the stall and watch your horse. Some babies are going to blow up, start bucking and making a few noises. Some are going to just stand there and not really care. For the ones that are bucking, give them about ten minutes or so before you go in to take off the tack. For the ones that are just standing there, walk them around the stall a few times, talking, talking, talking to them. Big words of approval, lots of stroking and pats on the neck, take the tack off slowly while the horse holder stands before the horse. You are done.
Day four: follow day three, once the tack is on and your horse is not bucking anymore if that be the case, then a good ten minute walk with a slightly tight girth. Back in the stall, tell your horse what a great job they are doing and you are done.
Day five: repeat day four except, instead of walking, attach a set of side reins to the bit and to the girth. Put enough tension on them just so your horse has to bring his or her head down a little and nose in, to be comfortable. Leave the stall, watch for a few minutes. If your horse is not fussing about the side reigns, then take them for a ten minute or so walk. If they are fussing a lot, you may have to repeat this step. Getting used to a little pressure on their mouths is very important. Some horses’ mouths are very sensitive and you must give them time to adjust or even go to a simple straight rubber bit which does not have any steel in it.
Day six: On this day you will put on the bridle but instead of a saddle you will put a surfsingle on them. You will also need a set of driving reigns which are extremely long reign used when horses pull carts or wagons. This is so you can bring them outside either in a shedrow or paddock and attach driving reins to the bit, through the surfsingle and you behind the horse. Now it is important to have someone at your horses’ head at all times. You should have reigns that are long enough that you can be within a safe distance behind the horse and leather reigns are the best in my opinion. They should be soft and supple in your hands. What you are doing is getting them first, used to having something touching them on their sides at the same time having someone behind them This also is a very important step in teaching them how to turn, again getting used to the pressure on their mouths. Have the lead person start and stop a few times. Chirping means forward, whoa means stop. Have them turn the horse around as you are giving signals through their mouth and using the reins just as you would use your legs to turn them. Take your time. If your horse is getting excited, then just walk straight and save the turns for the next day. Follow the untacking and approval procedure. Take the reins off of the horse before you walk them back into the stall using the usual approval words and gestures. Maybe even a nice carrot or apple would be a very good idea.
Day Seven: Repeat everything from day six for a few days until you can unsnap the horses’ head and they know how to go forward, turn, turn around just with you guiding them from behind and stop. Remember, give or take a total of about ten to fifteen minutes. Keep it fun and with a treat at the end of the session is helpful.
Within a week to ten days depending on how quiet and accepting your horse is, you have your horse accepting a bridle and saddle, long lining, knowing how to go forward, turn, turn around and stop. Not bad. Good job. Keep talking to your horse while you are going through these motions. It makes a difference. Well, that is it for now. I’ll be back real soon and happy training.