Last Updated on March 25, 2022
Have you ever wondered how to break a pony to ride? Many of us learn to ride on horses that have already been trained, and we never get to experience this interesting process.
Breaking a horse or pony to ride requires patience and understanding. The trainer or rider needs to help the horse to learn that carrying a rider can be a fun and exciting experience.
A gentle and patient trainer will help the horse or pony to learn how to carry a rider. They must also teach them to understand the rider’s aids and commands.
How Hard Is Breaking A Horse To Ride?
Breaking a horse to ride is not easy to do. Horses are prey animals and are not naturally comfortable with anything on their backs. Their instincts will tell them that the weight on their back could be an attack from a lion or tiger!
Don’t be put off by the word ‘breaking’ though! The phrase comes from many years ago when a strong rider would sit on a bucking horse until it became docile and calm. These days, you don’t need to be a rodeo rider when breaking a horse to ride!
The modern-day process of breaking a pony to ride is much more gentle. The horse is given time to feel comfortable with each stage of the process. This is important so they learn to trust the rider and understand what is being asked of them.
Can Anyone Learn How To Break A Horse To Ride?
Any competent rider can learn how to break a pony to ride. If you have mastered the basics of riding and have a good understanding of how to train a horse, you will be able to learn how to break a horse to ride.
When learning how to break a pony to ride, the trainer must learn to read the body language of the horse or pony. You need to know when the horse understands and accepts each stage of the process. This is essential to avoid rushing them and destroying their confidence.
It would not be appropriate for a novice or inexperienced rider to attempt breaking a horse to ride. When learning to ride you need an experienced horse who can keep you safe, and not put you in danger if you accidentally make a mistake.
A novice or inexperienced rider may also struggle to give the horse or pony much-needed confidence and may give confusing signals and commands.
How Long Does Breaking A Horse To Ride Take?
On average, it takes 4-6 weeks to break a horse to ride. This will vary widely though, as each horse is very different with a unique personality. A calm, placid horse may learn to quickly accept a rider, whereas a lively warmblood may be more of a challenge!
The time it takes to break a horse to ride also depends on how much training you have done with them beforehand. Teaching your horse to trust you when handling on the ground is an important first step. You can then build on this when you start to introduce them to the saddle and the bridle.
A horse that is relatively unhandled and fearful of humans will take considerably longer to break to ride than a well-handled and confident youngster.
The Steps To Breaking A Horse To Ride
It is important to work through these steps to breaking a horse slowly, and only move on when the horse feels relaxed and comfortable.
Gain Your Horse’s Trust
From the very start, the horse should feel relaxed and comfortable with what is happening around him. Work with him on the ground in the arena to familiarize him with the space. It is also vital to ensure that the horse is comfortable with being touched all over, and with being handled from either side.
Introduce The Bridle And Saddle
The horse should already be familiar with wearing a halter, so the next natural step is to introduce the bridle. Use a soft and gentle training bit – often called a mouthing bit. Try to select a bridle that is similar to your halter in texture and feel.
When your horse is comfortable with the bridle, it is time to move on to the saddle. This is a slow process, as the horse may not be familiar with objects on its back or around the girth.
Start by laying a soft saddle pad over the back. When the horse relaxes, apply light pressure with the hand over the pad. Move the pad around slightly to enable the horse to become familiar with the feel of the pad.
Get a light surcingle and fasten it gently around the girth. Lead the horse around to get them accustomed to the feel of the pad and surcingle. The next stage is to follow the same process, but with a saddle instead of a surcingle. Remember that the saddle is much heavier, so lower the weight gradually to prevent your horse from becoming startled.
The Backing Process
Once your horse can be lead comfortably in a saddle and bridle, it is time to start the backing process. With an assistant holding the horse still, gently lay your body over the saddle. It may be easier to do this from a mounting block but make sure your horse is used to you being up above him first.
When he is comfortable with your weight laying over the saddle, carefully swing your leg over and move into a sitting position. Gently reassure him and give him plenty of time to relax – this is a big moment for your horse! Allow your assistant to gently lead the horse at a walk for a few steps. Build this up gradually until your horse is comfortable with walking, turning, and stopping with a rider on his back.
Your horse is now backed, and you are ready to move on to teaching him the basic aids!
So, do you think you have got what it takes to learn how to break a pony to ride? The key to success is to take it slowly and make sure that the horse is comfortable before moving onto the next stage. Follow these steps to breaking a horse and you’ll be in the saddle in no time!
Do you have any questions about how to break a horse to ride? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!
Can you break a horse in water?
The methods used to break horses vary, but one way is by running them into deep water and letting them buck until they tire themselves out. This method can be used as an alternative to a “long” course where the horse has to run several laps of a race track to get tired out. Indians had another method – they used either a deep sand or a steep grade to help them tire out their horses, but this is not as common anymore.
What age can you break in a pony?
Same as for horses you usually break in a pony between the age of three to six years old. The exact age of breaking in depends on the horse’s breed, temperament, and how fast a certain breed mature. Some breeds, such as Irish horses, are slow to mature. They reach their fully developed phase only at around six or seven years old. The average maturation period for a horse is about three to four years, though. Young horses are more vulnerable and more susceptible to injuries, so it is better to give them more time to develop.
Is it hard to break a horse?
Breaking a new horse isn’t as hard as it seems but it’s for sure a slow process that requires a lot of training and patience. You really have to make each step a habit before moving to the next one. In that way, each time you train a new concept, the old concepts should help your horse to understand it more and build on top of the previous knowledge. One of the most important things is also that the horse always has to be sure of the correct response. This means that you must teach the horse exactly what to do so he can respond confidently.
The first thing to do when breaking a new horse is to start with a basic concept. This will help you make progress and gradually build a good foundation on which to start working with the other concepts. When you are ready to move on to the next level, you will have to do it slowly. You don’t want to rush into a new concept because you may make mistakes that will confuse your horse. You will also want to give him plenty of time to practice so he can get comfortable with it. Remember, this is all about teaching the horse what you want him to do, so he must understand it before you can ask him to do it. You can expect that you will have to work for a while on each step before you can progress to the next one.
How do you break a stubborn horse?
One of the easiest ways to train a stubborn horse is to distract it from the reason it’s being difficult. You can distract him by pulling backwards on the reins or lead rope, until his nose sinks towards his chest. You can also try to give him the command to back up and get him moving in that way, even if the direction is not correct. This will usually make him more willing to move. If you’re dealing with an aggressive horse, it may be better to simply let him have his way until he moves.
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
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1