Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, March 16, 2017 08:22 PM
Working with young horses is very rewarding experience but it also can be frustrating and plain dangerous.
A lot of times attention is put on not to frighten young horses and this is correct. However, the other side of it is
not all young horses are easily frightened, some are very bold, sure of themselves and not easily convinced
they must listen. This is particularly true about young stallions and fillies. The following is my response to
one of my student's question regarding work with a young filly:
"I bet your filly is a little bit sassy and sharp at times. It is always
harder to deal with young stallions and mares as they have more hormones
than geldings. And also, you are a very kind and quiet person. This makes you
very good match for a sensitive but easily frightened horse, however, not so
good match for your filly.
2-year-olds need very clear boundaries. These boundaries need to be set
quite black and white and if youngsters cross it they are in big trouble.
Your response must be quick, sharp, surprising and impressive. I am
wondering if you are too nice to her and only go to big responses when she
makes you upset enough or mad, if you ever get mad :) This is where your
weakness. You are inconsistent. You must keep very positive attitude while
you are ready to "beat her up" any second if needed :)
Your space is absolutely out of reach for her. She must never invade it
unless invited and if she does do not be afraid to lash out at her.
2-4-year-olds are quite pushy. They can be very dangerous if allowed to
misbehave even a little bit. You can relax later when they become 6-7, even
then once in a while you must put them in place.
I have started several young horses in recent years including 2 of mine.
My horses have very good ground manners, everybody who come in contact with
them notices that. I started 2 stallions, 2 mares and 1 gelding.
As 2-3-year-olds they all needed a lesson in boundaries and paying
attention to me or they are in trouble. But really hard work lasted only a
few sessions, then it is just watching and correcting swiftly and that is
all. Once in a while they will challenge more and you quickly put them back in place
like before without getting upset, surprised or vengeful. My main horse,
Santo, would be a monster in the wrong hands because he is so nice most of
the time. And then innocently tries to cross the boundaries. Many people
will have hard time putting him back in place right away and that would be a
I wrote that letter two years ago and I agree with everything I said in it. What I would like to add on the subject is this. If you want
to start a young horse yourself do not buy a barely halter broke 3-4-year-old. Buy a yearling and start working with him
slowly, gaining trust, building relationship, setting up rules and teaching a youngster all the necessary
concepts without being rushed or pressured with time. Two years will go by quickly and by the time he is 3
you will have a horse who knows you well, knows all the ground rules, has been exposed to things, trailered, learned to be longed/driven,
will carry saddle willingly and understand rein and whip aids from work in hand. Arroyo, my 3-year-old, is at that stage.
I already rode him a few times last fall and this winter, being led. I was planning to do a bit more during winter but the weather and footing
didn't work out in our favor. Arro is ready for his riding career to start this spring.
Here is a list of blogs I wrote on his progress over 3 years: