Building Confidence in a Young Horse

Posted in: Ask A Pro, Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

When riding a green horse — or even 2 or 3 ride colt — outside for the first time, I have a few tips, for building confidence in that young horse and even in yourself.  We all know firsthand how overwhelming it can be, thinking about all the things that could go wrong on that ride. Don’t focus on those,  instead feel for the horse under us.  

Is she tight?

Is she relaxed?

Is she touchy?

Is she bothered or aware of something going on across the road?  

They’ll tell you where their mind and comfort level are if you listen. We may have struggled with listening for a long time but we’ve found that these things will help you — they sure helped me!

  1. That first outside ride, your horse may really want to travel.  Let them. If you try to contain that curiosity, and energy, to see the world, you may end up getting bucked off.  
  2. Ask them to get soft and check back to you, if they’re ready to be soft in their face. If they are, and they can travel forward soft, pick up on them once in awhile just to make sure they’re listening.
  3. To help a really forward colt focus, you may want to do some changes of direction — time up with a foot, and ask them to move left or right even at the trot. Choose a spot, ride to it. And then choose another spot. It may be that you don’t make a perfectly straight line leaving the barn. That’s okay. It’ll get straighter with each ride.
  4. If your colt is quiet and walks out nicely, but you feel them wanting to trot, or lope, beat them to the punch — ask them to go faster — before they do it on their own. They’re going to tune into what you’re asking of them a lot faster.  Change the speed you want them to go – upward and downward transitions will get a horse thinking back to you. We like to tell people, you’re going to ride faster or slower and you only kick if changing the energy in your body to more or less energy didn’t work.
  5. Ride where you’re most comfortable. Maybe it’s only in the yard, or maybe in the hay pasture right outside the arena. Ride where you’re confident you can help your horse if he were to come apart. The arena can be boring and predictable. With the next ride outside, ask a little more of your colt, or go a little farther from home.  With each trip away from the barn, your confidence in helping them through whatever may arise grows, and so does theirs — in your ability to keep them out of a bind.
building confidence in the green horse

First outside rides for the blue roan and the red dun colts…Take a solid saddle horse with you that first time and he can also support your young, green horses.

The goal is that each ride gets better than the last.  It may be that *one* thing is better today than something that was better yesterday. But with each mile, each step, you are building confidence in your horse. They find the center of your rectangle and check back to you — how fast or slow do you want them to go? Should they be concerned about the dogs or a deer or a clump of weeds?  Today we share our confidence with them. Someday, they’ll lend us theirs and there won’t be anything you can’t do on your horse.

I hope these tips help you with your colts and green horses as much as they’ve helped me.


Happy Trails!

Posted in: Ask A Pro, Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

About Jenn Zeller

Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...

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