What Does It Mean To Break A Horse?

When we talk about breaking a horse, we don’t mean we are actually going to harm it! But what does it mean to break a horse?

Breaking a horse is the process during which it is taught to carry a rider. This can be very tricky, as having a person sat on their back is scary for a horse! Let’s take a closer look at what is breaking a horse.

What Does It Mean To Break A Horse?

We need to get one thing clear from the start – what does it mean to break a horse? ‘Breaking a horse’ means that the horse is being taught how to carry a rider on its back. Although the name sounds quite dramatic, this should be a calm and gentle experience for the horse or pony.

Most of us learn to ride on horses that have already been broken to ride. They have already been trained to carry a rider.  This means many people never get to experience the interesting process of breaking a horse to ride.

Breaking a horse to ride requires a patient and understanding trainer who is experienced in working with novice horses. This will help to teach the horse to enjoy being ridden, rather than fear it.

A gentle and patient trainer is needed to teach the horse or pony how to carry a rider. They must also help them learn how to understand the rider’s aids and commands.

Where Does Breaking A Horse Meaning Come From?

Breaking a horse is not an easy thing to do. Horses are not naturally comfortable with anything on their backs. This is because they are prey animals, and they fear that the weight on their back could be an attack from a lion or tiger!

In the past, horse riders aimed to ‘break’ a horse by sitting on a bucking horse until it became docile and calm. This is where the term ‘breaking’ comes from – the rider was literally trying to break the horse’s spirit until it submitted to carrying a rider. If you’ve ever seen a rodeo rider on a bucking bronco, this is how horses were once broken to ride!

Luckily, over the years the methods of breaking a horse have become much kinder. You don’t need to be a rodeo rider anymore to break a horse, and it is a much nicer experience for the horse.

These days, when a horse is broken it is given time to feel comfortable with each stage of the process. The modern-day breaking process helps to teach the horse to trust the rider and understand what is being asked of them.

Where Does Breaking A Horse Meaning Come From

Are Unbroken Horses Difficult To Handle?

Unbroken horses can be very difficult and sometimes dangerous to handle. How calm and obedient they are will depend on the type of horse and how much experience with humans it has had in the past.

If you’ve got a native or cold-blooded breed of horse, they are normally quite placid and accepting of human contact. At the other end of the scale, you have horses such as partly broken range horses which have had very little human contact.

Human contact is very important when teaching a horse how to be handled. Horses that have spent time with people from a young age will be much easier to handle. This is because they will have learned to trust humans and feel safe with them.

It is not a good idea for a novice or inexperienced rider to handle an unbroken horse. This is because an unbroken horse may be unpredictable and dangerous. When handling an unbroken horse, you need to learn to read the body language of the horse or pony. This is so that you can predict how they might react, helping to keep you and the horse safe.

What Is The Best Way To Break A Horse?

Any experienced and confident rider can learn how to break a horse to ride. You will need to have a good understanding of how to train a horse to be able to learn how to break a horse to ride.

The process of breaking a horse involves several steps. Work through each of these steps slowly to help the horse build up confidence. Do not move on to the next step until the horse feels relaxed and comfortable.

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1. Teach Your Horse To Trust You

Your horse needs to know that he is safe around you. He needs to be comfortable with being touched all over his body, particularly around his back and under his belly. You also need to make sure that he can be handled from either side.

Basic groundwork is essential before backing a horse. Skills such as wearing a halter, leading, turning, and stopping will be very helpful when it comes to teaching your horse to understand basic aids.

2. Introducing The Bridle And Saddle

If you have done your groundwork correctly, your horse should be comfortable with wearing a halter. The next step is to get your horse used to wearing a bridle.

When your horse first wears a bridle you should use a soft and gentle bit. This is sometimes called a mouthing bit. Use a bridle that has the same texture and feel as your halter.

Next, the saddle. This is often harder for the horse to accept, as he will not be used to weight on his back or a girth around his belly.

Firstly, lay a soft saddle pad over your horse’s back. If he is happy with this, put light pressure on the pad with your hand. The next step would be to put a soft surcingle around the pad and lead your horse around to get him used to the feel of it.

Introducing The Bridle And Saddle

If he is comfortable with this, you are ready for the saddle! Remember that the saddle can be quite heavy, so take it slowly in case your horse becomes frightened.

3. Backing Your Horse

Now, the big moment has come – time to back your horse! Gently lay your body over the saddle, to get your horse used to the weight. If he feels relaxed and happy, swing your leg over his back and move into a sitting position. Give him plenty of time to relax, then ask an assistant to lead him away at a walk.

Congratulations, your horse is now backed!


So, as we have learned, breaking a horse is the process of teaching it to carry a rider. This is a difficult and scary experience for a horse, and it must be only done by an experienced trainer. Take each step very slowly and make sure the horse is relaxed and comfortable before moving on to the next stage.

So, do you think you have got what it takes to break a horse to ride? Perhaps you have some questions about what does it mean to break a horse? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!

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