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horses and horsemanship
4-H HORSE PROGRAM
4-H HORSE PROGRAM
HORSES AND HORSEMANSHIP
This educational material has been prepared for 4-H use by the Cooperative Extension Services of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture and State Land-Grant Universities in cooperation with the National 4-H
Council and the American Quarter Horse Association.
Trade or brand names used in the publications are used only for the purpose of educational information.
The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no
endorsement of products or breeds of horses by the Federal Extension Service or State Cooperative
Extension Services is implied, nor does it imply approval of products or breeds of horses to the exclusion
of others which may also be suitable.
This material was originally published by the National 4-H Council, 7100 Connecticut Avenue, Chevy
Chase, Maryland 20815.
Programs and educational materials supported by National 4-H Council; Extension Service, United
States Department of Agriculture; and all Cooperative Extension Services of the State Land-Grant
Universities are available to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin or
handicap. All are equal opportunity employers.
TRAINING YOUR HORSE
It requires patience, careful handling and skill to
develop a horse.
In training a horse for pleasure or work, your object is
to obtain a friendly, obedient animal that will respond
quickly and with animation. How do you get these
1. START THE GENTLING PROCESS
Handle the foal frequently, build his confidence, and
he will lose his fear. You may want to halter-break him
when he is only a couple of weeks old. He is easier to
handle at this age. Many horsemen do not start the
training process until weaning age, but training should
start before he is many months old.
In these early weeks and months he gradually
accustoms himself to handling. These daily training
sessions should be short lessons, repeated often. Young
foals, like young children, have a limited capacity to
absorb new things. They learn by repetition, and in
step-by step order. A half hour lesson every day is
2. THE FIRST LESSON HALTERING
The best classroom for the foal is a small pen away
from other disturbances. There should be no outside
distraction. He should be handled gently but firmly.
Frequent brushing with a soft brush or hand rubbing
tells him there is nothing to fear during the lessons.
When he has learned to eat grain use a little to help
gain his confidence.
The very first halter lesson can be done by two people
crowding the foal into a corer where he is altered.
After haltering he is pulled gently and slowly to one
side. As soon as he takes a step or two steps the pull
is eased up, he is petted and given a taste of grain. The
trainer then steps to the other side and pulls in the
opposite direction, repeating the process.
Usually after 8 or 10 lessons the young foal has
become an apt pupil.
After he has been gentled to a halter, a non-skid loop is
slipped over the hind quarters to help teach him to lead
promptly. This step should not be taken until he
3. YIELDING HIS FEET
After several lessons on haltering and leading, start
working with his feet. After the colt is leading, then
start handling his legs. Work with him quietly, picking
up the front feet first. Do it many times and, if he
resists, put the foot down, pat him, quiet him down,
and do it all over again. First lift up one foot, then the
other foot. Next train him to yield his hind leg as if he
were going to have his foot trimmed and shod. Patience
and time are necessary. If he starts struggling, let the
foot down and pet him. In a few minutes pick up the
foot again, repeat this process until he no longer
objects to yielding his feet. Some colts learn in two or
three lessons, while other colts require many lessons.
4. TEACHING VOICE COMMANDS
The lessons as a foal or weanling were on leading,
handling the feet, and gaining confidence. As a
yearling he is ready for the next grade. Many ranchers
and breeders of a large number of colts do no further
training until he is two and one-half years old, but in
training your own colt the yearling age is an ideal time
to work him on a 25-30 ft. line in a circle (longeing)
where you teach voice commands of walk, trot, canter
and whoa. It combines muscle building exercises with
TEACHING TO LEAD
TRAINING YOUR HORSE
learning. Start the foal slowly in a quiet confined area.
Carry a whip that he can see and begin by making the
circles very short. Gradually he will work to a larger
circle as you play out the line. Make him go in both a
clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. Teach him
to stop at the end of the line and reverse his direction.
These lessons in the beginning should be for no more
than ten minutes, and can gradually be lengthened to
20-30 minutes as he advances in his training.
5. PREPARATION FOR SADDLING
As the colt approaches two years of age he should be
getting ready for saddling. If you have worked patiently
and frequently with him he should not fear movement
about him but to help him conquer any remaining fear
tie him up and rub him with a soft sack. Then flip the
sack over and about his body and legs. The same thing
can be done with a soft cotton rope by drawing the
rope back and forth across his body.
In this series of lessons, the next step is to use the
saddle blanket. Lead him for awhile until he is
completely quiet: then let him smell the blanket which
is then slipped over his neck and withers. Then push
back to its proper place. This is continued until the
young horse accepts the blanket without moving.
After he becomes thoroughly used to the feel of the
blanket, a surcingle can be slipped on and tied
moderately tight. Then lead him around a few times.
This is repeated until he no longer flinches. The
surcingle can then be fastened snugly around his chest.
WORKING ON THE LONG LINE
If, in the beginning he should jump and start to fuss
you can put a hand against the surcingle and pull the
colt toward you and thus keep his movements in a short
circle which prevents much jumping.
SADDLING AND RIDING
The young horse is ready to be taught the feel of a
saddle. First, review his previous lessons. He should be
quiet and gentle and understand that no harm will
befall him. Slide the blanket on and off several times
until he is used to it. Then slip on the saddle, cinching
it only moderately tight with a single cinch. Lead him
around the corral at a walk while he gets accustomed to
the feel of the saddle on the back. During this leading
session, lead him close to you and turn him either way.
As the lessons progress, gradually tighten the cinch and
continue to lead him. It would be well to saddle and
unsaddle him several times to get him accustomed to
the saddle before you ever try to ride. Some trainers,
after leading the colt with an empty saddle, like to tie
up the bridle reins and turn the yearling or 2 yr. old
loose to trot and canter until accustomed to the feel and
squeak of the saddle and the swinging of the stirrups. If
he should happen to buck, which is rarely, then catch
the colt and lead him at a walk before you turn him
loose again with the reins tied up.
At this point, some trainers teach the horse to drive so
he will learn responses to the bit. Cotton rope lines (0.3
inch diameter and 20 feet long) are attached to the bit
and passed through the saddle stirrups for driving
lessons. In the first lesson the line on the near side is
left out of the stirrup. Then if the horse turns and looks
at the trainer, this near line can be used as a lead to
straighten the horse out. After the horse is accustomed
to driving, the near line can also be passed through the
stirrup. This training teaches responses to the bit and
lets the horse become accustomed to having ropes
touch his hind legs. Initial schooling in backing can
also be given at this time.
The next step is to mount the horse. Be sure that he has
satisfactorily passed all his other lessons. First get your
horse under control by adjusting the reins evenly with
enough tension to feel the bit and hold the horse
steady. Don't get the reins too tight. Hold the reins in
your left hand and place this hand on the neck in front
of the withers. Grasp the ridge of the neck or a lock of
mane. Twist the near stirrup with your right hand and
TRAINING YOUR HORSE
place your left foot in the stirrup with the ball of your
foot resting securely on the tread. Brace your left knee
against the horse and move your right hand to grasp the
saddle horn. You are now braced against the horse with
two hands and the left leg forming a triangle of
support. Push with your right leg and spring up and
over the seat of the saddle. Swing your right foot over
and into the stirrup quickly, lightly, and smoothly.
Because the colt is trained to lead, it is often better to
have someone lead the colt with you on his back
until he gets used to the new experience. Some colts
may walk the first time he is mounted without any
This first lesson, which is held in a corral, should be
done with only a little guidance from you. When the
colt learns to relax and walk well, you can turn him and
make him travel back and forth.
Start your horse by squeezing your legs gradually. At
first you may have to tap him with your heel, but with
patience he will learn to start on pressure. A horse will
learn faster with two short 20 minute lessons than one
long lesson a day.
Remember he is just a youngster and tires easily. As his
lessons progress, gradually start training him to trot
and later on to canter a little, but take it easy.
To teach neck-reining you probably will need to use
two hands at first, one to pull with and one to bear on
his neck. This. is called "'leading and bearing rein". By
working with him in the corral you can anticipate his
turns and use the reins as a signal. As you ride up to a
barrier and you know he is going to have to turn, then
RIGHT 4 LEAD LEFT
use your reins to indicate to him that the rein is the
signal to turn.
4. TRAIN AT SLOW WORK
A horse learns best at a slow walk, a walk or a trot, so
the initial lessons should be at those gaits. Except to
train him to break from a walk into a canter his other
lessons should be done at the slower gaits.
Usually his training to this point is with a hackamore.
However, at this stage a bridle may be placed under the
hackamore until he gets used to it. Then add reins and
use the two together until you can finally use the bridle
It has been said "no mouth, no horse". A properly
bitted horse responds to the bit and becomes a pleasure
to control. Be careful and never bruise the bars or
tongue of your horse. Be sure the head stall fits. These
early lessons with a bit are to get him accustomed to its
feel and use.
5. BACKING UP
Horses used for stock work should back well. Start this
training from the ground.
Stand in front of your horse and push back on the reins,
tap him with the quirt or reins on the breast and legs.
Be patient and repeat often.
Then mount, squeeze your legs as you would to start
him, cause him to pick up his foot, pull back lightly,
making him move his foot to the rear instead of the
front. These short lessons will soon train him to back
6. SCHOOLING AT THE WALK, TROT, and
The young untrained horse has no difficulty handling
his own weight at any gait but he does not have
sufficient coordination and muscular development to
carry a rider. This must be accomplished by proper
training procedure which is a progressive movement
from a walk to a trot and to a gallops follows:
First, walk the horse slowly in a large circle until he is
fully relaxed and carrying your weight with ease.
Second, move the horse into a slow trot for a round or
two and then advance to a fast trot.
Third, when the horse is moving fully at a fast trot, use
the correct aids to push him into a gallop, leading in the
direction you are turning. Hold him on the gallop at
TRAINING YOUR HORSE
this lead around the circle two or three times. If the
horse does not take the correct lead or changes to the
wrong lead, stop him and start over again, beginning
with the walk.
This training procedure is actually an athletic exercise
by which a horse is developed for further training.
Until a horse can perform these movements with ease,
he is not ready to be advanced in his schooling.
Fourth, stop the horse, reverse and repeat the walk,
trot and gallop in the other directions.
Fifth, forget speed and strive for perfection in these
movements. Remember, 20 to 30 minutes per lesson is
DRAW OR PASTE A PICTURE OF YOUR HORSE HERE.
TRAINING YOUR HORSE
1. This document is 4HHSG02, one of a series of the 4-H Youth Development Program, Florida Cooperative
Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Printed. Please visit the
FAIRS Website at http://hammockifas.ufl.edu.
2. Albert M. Lane, University of Arizona, Debbie Glauer, member of 4-H Animal Science Design Team,
Department of Family, Youth and Community Science, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.
.LI, UNIVERSITY OF
Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES, Christine
Taylor Waddill, Director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this information to further the purpose
of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only
to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, age, sex, handicap or national origin. The information in this
publication is available in alternate formats. Single copies of extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available
free to Florida residents from county extension offices. Information on copies for out-of-state purchase is available from Publications
Distribution Center, University of Florida, PO Box 110011, Gainesville, FL 32611-0011. Information about alternate formats is available from
Educational Media and Services, University of Florida, PO Box 110810, Gainesville, FL 32611-0810. This information was published
December 1989, Florida Cooperative Extension Service.