Last Updated on September 28, 2022
Have you ever wondered how long does it take to break a horse to ride? What about breaking a horse to harness, or halter training a horse? Let’s find out everything you need to know about breaking a horse!
What Does Breaking A Horse Mean?
The term breaking a horse might sound horrible, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to physically harm the horse. Breaking a horse is the phrase used to describe the process of training a horse to do a particular task. For example, breaking a horse into a harness means we are teaching the horse to wear a harness and pull a cart.
Most people associate breaking a horse with teaching it to carry a rider. You may also hear this called backing a horse, as the horse is being trained to carry a rider on its back.
The length of time it takes to train a horse will vary widely from horse to horse. Some horses have a calmer temperament and will readily accept new experiences without too much hesitation. Other horses may be less trusting and take a long time to accept something new.
How long it takes to break a horse will also depend greatly on the previous experience of the horse. Nowadays, most foals are born into a domesticated situation and are familiar with humans right from birth. These foals will be taught various tasks from a young age, such as how to wear a halter.
When it comes to backing a horse that has been well handled for the first few years of life, the process should be relatively simple. A bond will already have been formed between the horse and its rider, and it should trust and accept the experience readily.
However, if the horse has had very little experience with human interaction, then things may take a lot longer. This is often the case with semi-feral horses which are rounded up and adopted. It will take a lot of time and patience to break these horses as they are naturally distrustful of humans.
How Long Does It Take To Break A Horse To Halter?
Breaking a horse to halter means teaching it to accept wearing a halter and lead rein, and how to walk alongside a human handler. It will be taught basic commands such as stop, start, and how to turn.
The importance of breaking a horse to hold to correctly is often overlooked. This is normally one of the first things the horse is taught and builds the foundation for all other training activities. If this is done in a kind and sympathetic way without rushing the horse, it will make any future training activities much easier.
A horse that is comfortable around humans can be taught to wear a halter after just a couple of days, but for a feral horse this may take weeks or even months.
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How Long Does It Take To Break A Horse To Ride?
As with any training exercise, how long it takes to break a horse to ride will depend on the temperament and experience of the horse. An experienced rider may be able to back a horse in just a couple of days, but teaching it how to understand commands will take longer than this.
When it comes to breaking a horse to ride, there is no point in rushing the process. The horse must feel comfortable with each new development before the next phase is moved on.
A good example of this is teaching the horse to become accustomed to the weight of a rider. This is done in several stages. First, the saddle will be placed on the horse for a short period of time, which is extended each day.
Once the horse remains calm and happy with the saddle in place, the rider will gently lay his weight across the saddle. It is only when the horse accepts this stage that the rider will attempt to mount.
Summary – How Long Does It Take To Break A Horse
So, as we have learned, how long it takes to break a horse will depend on the previous experience of the horse and its temperament. A young horse that has been well handled and is comfortable around humans can be broken to ride in a very short period of time. A semi-feral horse will take much longer as it will need to be slowly nurtured through each stage of the process.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on how long does it take to break a horse to ride! Have you got a tried and tested technique for backing a horse in just a couple of days? Or perhaps you’re considering breaking your horse to harness and have some questions about the best process to follow? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
Is breaking horses cruel?
If done in a kind and sympathetic manner, breaking horses is not cruel. The name 'breaking 'harks back to when back in horses was done in a rushed and unpleasant way, with the horse forced to carry a rider until it submitted. Modern day methods are much kinder and are not considered to be cruel.
What are the stages of breaking a horse?
When breaking a horse, it will first be taught to accept wearing a saddle and bridle. For the next stage, the rider will lay his weight over the saddle. Only when the horse is comfortable with this should the rider mount the horse.
What age should you break a horse in?
Most trainers start to break a horse in when they are around three years old. At this age, the horse is physically capable of carrying the weight of a rider, but is not yet fully mature. A horse should not be expected to carry out physically demanding activities until it is five or six years old.
Can a beginner break a horse?
It is not a good idea for a beginner to break a horse because the horse will not understand what is being asked of it. It takes time and expertise to learn to recognise the signals a horse is sending. A beginner rider will not know when the horse is feeling uncomfortable and this could lead to a dangerous situation occurring.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE