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The Backyard Trainer
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The Backyard Trainer

Education. From the time we are born (humans) we are getting an education. Our parents teach us all kinds of things. Then we go off to school and learn some more. By the time we're done with school, we have learned how to drive a car.  Those of us kids who fall in love with horses begin learning any and everything we can about them and most can recite every bone in a horses body by the time they are 16. 

Then there are those late bloomers, people who start later in life with horses. They learn as much as they "want" to, and after a couple of years they think they're close to experts. They have their horses in scantly made corrals lined with mixed boards, poles and chain link fence. Or I'll give some the benefit of the doubt and say they have them in nice green pastures. I'm certainly not knocking them by any means. They mean well, and do the best they can for their horses, until they start breeding them. 

Now the new baby or babies are here. By six months old, these folks have got a halter on them, leading them around, saddling them. By one year a child has hopped up on them and is being lead around the yard. By two years old, they're "broke" to ride. 

(Insert me banging my head against the wall here.) I don't believe there is anything out there that disturbs me more than to see countless ads on craigslist or in Facebook groups like this: "Two year old mare, broke to ride, doesn't spook, buck, rear etc." 

If I had even just a penny for every one of these ads I've seen, I'd be uber rich. The fact is, these babies might be gentle, and don't have vices (yet) and I'm sure your kid had a great time being lead around the yard, but that colt isn't "broke". Green, perhaps, started under saddle, maybe, but not broke. 

If you're considering going into the training business, do yourself and others a favor: get educated. Find a reputable trainer and learn all you can from that person and then find another one and learn all you can from that one. Read books, research online, do your homework on this subject. 

There are many problems with the backyard trainers. First & foremost, don't start "riding" a filly or colt until they are at least three to four years old. You're not likely to be starting thoroughbred horses for racing or quarter horses for futurities. Give the babies a break and wait until their bodies are better able to handle it. Bones, muscles, tendons etc are still fusing and growing. I have no doubt many will disagree with me, but I have seen first hand what can happen from riding a colt too early and it's not pretty. 

There is a difference in starting under saddle and riding. You can take a colt and teach it all kinds of things from the ground without ever putting a foot in a stirrup. You risk compromising the overall health and well being of the horse by riding it too young and for what reason? To get more money because it's "Broke to ride". What problems are you passing along to someone else who might not know any better, but think they're getting a great deal & will have this horse to ride for many years? 

Bottom line, just don't do it. Wait to ride them until they are at least 3-4. A horse, no matter if it's a stud or filly isn't mature until they are 6, period. Starting them later gives them a much better chance of finding their own balance, building the muscles they need to support a riders weight and it gives their legs a chance to become strong and healthy. 

If you don't really know what you're doing, get together with someone who does, and educate yourself before putting someone else's life at risk. Now I'm not saying that all backyard trainers are bad. There are some out there that do know what they are doing. If you're considering buying a horse from a backyard trainer, do your research on the person. The one thing that will save you a lot of headache in the long run is common sense. Even if you're just starting out with horses, remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

 

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  1. jst4horses
    I love Rene's articles. This is a good one. While I also have nothing against the backyard horse owner, or trainer, I do have a problem with "broke" horses. I have been told by many a person "this horse is so gentle", and "broke to ride". I have put one foot in the stirrup and known immediately, this is a horse that minds because it loves the kids and/or family, but it is not developed, or trained. This is the horse that out on the trail is very likely to "broke" the rider on a tree, or slamming the rider into the ground. I worked with racehorses, and it is sickening how many young horses have knee breakdowns, or back problems and are just sent to the slaughter because of that beast, the triple crown. We need to make that race triple crown at least a year later. For any horse unlucky enough to have been born in July or later, it turns a year old on Jan. 1. Thankfully the tracks have now forced regulations on vets certifications with scans that the bones in the front knees are mature enough to race, but it still leaves far too many horses injured and junked before they are even three years old. I think clinics are the most amazing place to learn, and have your horse learn. I have watched my little filly learn from her mother, it has been so interesting and fun. One day she was watching her Mom scratch her sides on the fence. She looked and looked, and then she tried it. She loved it. She scratched on trees and fences and people until they said NO. She scratched on her Mom until she got kicked. It was just so amazing how she looked, and tried it and learned. She has been a joy to train since she does what her Mom says is OK.
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    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      Thanks! I'm glad you like my articles. :) I'm with you on the "broke" horse. Now days it's just scary to buy a horse from someone who isn't at least semi reputable. Unless you're uber knowledgeable it's best to take someone who is along with you who is. Most folks just don't get that part. Oh the stories I've heard and could tell! I also agree with you on pushing the Trip Crown year up at least 1 year. I mean what is the hurry anyways? They would be in far better shape and chances are they would have a better shot at long term re-homing. I still watch them run.. but it breaks my heart to know that if one thing goes wrong it could end their life. I haven't been able to find any local clinics here where I live. Maybe I could talk with some folks and see if they could host some. They have had a few 20 miles away, but that's too far for me to walk/ride seeings how I don't have a trailer. :-S lol
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      1. jst4horses
        If you have a stable somewhere near that might become interested, you can call any of the big Natural Horsemanship programs and they will tell you student instructors, and different level instructors who are able to give clinics. Some of them only charge $20 or so, and if you host the clinic, you can post that you need a ride for your horse. Build a good horsey network. We live in big forest fire areas, and have networks that can call each other and get trailers and horsepersons out there immediately to help the firemen if needed to get horses out in a disaster. These groups are built by anyone who just says, "why not me" and starts them. In our county we have what we call Corrals, all over in the public riding parks, and they build groups. Even many who do not join the Corrals are friends and help out when necessary. Many people who live below the fire areas will take in horses for free until the evacuations are over. We have two big public stables and the track who take in horses during fire emergencies. Many of the big paid hauling companies also will bring out trucks and horse haulers to help in disasters. Find some natural horsemenship people and get some fun going. After I broke my back in a freeway accident, I went free to big clinics because I could just sit on a bench, or walk around and help first level riders work with their own horses. It was fun. For two and four week certification programs I went and helped cook meals, and helped first level riders with their horses. Some of the big trainers even will bring in level one, two and three students come and help train horses for people who have more than one horse and only one butt to ride!
        Log in to reply.
      2. jst4horses
        If you have a stable somewhere near that might become interested, you can call any of the big Natural Horsemanship programs and they will tell you student instructors, and different level instructors who are able to give clinics. Some of them only charge $20 or so, and if you host the clinic, you can post that you need a ride for your horse. Build a good horsey network. We live in big forest fire areas, and have networks that can call each other and get trailers and horsepersons out there immediately to help the firemen if needed to get horses out in a disaster. These groups are built by anyone who just says, "why not me" and starts them. In our county we have what we call Corrals, all over in the public riding parks, and they build groups. Even many who do not join the Corrals are friends and help out when necessary. Many people who live below the fire areas will take in horses for free until the evacuations are over. We have two big public stables and the track who take in horses during fire emergencies. Many of the big paid hauling companies also will bring out trucks and horse haulers to help in disasters. Find some natural horsemenship people and get some fun going. After I broke my back in a freeway accident, I went free to big clinics because I could just sit on a bench, or walk around and help first level riders work with their own horses. It was fun. For two and four week certification programs I went and helped cook meals, and helped first level riders with their horses. Some of the big trainers even will bring in level one, two and three students come and help train horses for people who have more than one horse and only one butt to ride!
        Log in to reply.
  2. Eve Sherrill York
    Eve Sherrill York
    This makes so much sense. Voted.
    Log in to reply.
  3. KWolf
    KWolf
    Voted! I am new to this site. I am NOT new to horses, and it's so nice to finally read something written by someone who knows a thing or two. You hit the nail on the head. Great job!
    Log in to reply.
  4. Eve Sherrill York
    Eve Sherrill York
    Very good advice.
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