Skip to main content

How I Train a Horse

Rick Benningfield is an old-time horse trainer and farrier with over 50 years' experience.


Start With a Safe Enclosure and Simple Equipment

I like to start with a 2-year-old horse! I use a round pen, 50' in diameter with NO protrusions or any way that the horse could be caught up. First, I utilize a halter with a 25' lead line attached to the halter, and I use a 7/8" diameter rope with a hasp braided onto one end.

The halter is placed onto the horse, and the lead line is laid out on the ground on the left side of the horse. Step back about 3' and call the name of the horse. If the horse doesn't respond, then wet the rope down (use a cotton rope) and leave the horse alone for about 2 hours. Return and call the horse's name again. If no response, re-wet the rope down and leave for another 2 hours!

Observe and Familiarize Yourself With the Horse

Go to an area where the horse can't see you but you can watch the horse. Try to get to the horse at least three times during the day. Do feed the horse and let him become aware that the trough is always in the same area. Do the same with the water trough. During the training, I usually feed only hay and water at first!

To make things even better, you should be the one feeding the horse and caring for him. At the end of the day, brush him down and clean his feet before putting him up in the stall. Also, talk to him continually every time that you see him, just like you would talk to a person.

After about 7 days and sometimes less, when you call the horse's name he will come to you. At this point, you can remove the long lead line and go to a shorter lead line for training purposes. The 25' lead line will be only used for lunging from now on.

Start Lunging Lessons

To lunge the horse, set him up in the round pen in the direction of movement with the 25' lead line on the halter. I use a white staff which is about 6' long. I like white because this is the color that they see the best.

To get his attention, I raise the staff and make a tight circular motion while holding the lead line with the other hand. This will get the horse to begin to move. Keep him moving until he has made at least 5 trips around the round pen. Then, set him up in the opposite direction and get him to move around the round pen for 5 trips in the opposite direction.

Watch the hips of the horse at all times for any type of up and down movement (bucking).

Introduce the Saddle

When this has been accomplished, now we move to the saddle! First, take the saddle and place it on the ground in the center of the round pen and allow him to "check it out." Of course, you will have him under halter at this time!

Scroll to Continue

Let him smell it and look it over good. Then, take the saddle pad and on the left side of the horse and ease it up over his back very gently! Remember to praise him and rub him while placing the pad on.

Next, take the saddle and ease it onto his back much in the same way. Now, easily, strap the saddle down so that it will stay in place.

Lunge With the Saddle

Once this has been accomplished step back, take up the 25' lead line and get him to move around the round pen, watching the hips very close for any up and down movement while he is at the trot (this is where bucking can easily occur). If there is no such movement, then this is good!

Stop him, change direction, and move him again as before (remember 5 times around the round pen!) When this becomes easily accomplished (after about 7 days), then approach the horse on the left side (the on side) and attempt to put your left boot in the stirrup. Be sure to have a helper hold the horse for this. Don’t leave him loose, and don’t tie him. You need someone on the ground to help you.

Mount Up!

If the horse resists, go back to lunging. If you can successfully put your foot in the stirrup, then carefully add pressure with your foot until you leave the ground. Test the horse to see if there is any reaction. If not, then continue to raise yourself up. Once you are high enough, simply and carefully bring your right leg over the saddle and ease yourself down. Find the right stirrup with your foot and place your foot into it. Relax and get a good seat in the saddle.

For the next movement, continue to use another person for ground work! While sitting in the saddle, have the person move to the front while holding the lead line and getting the horse to take the first steps while you are on his back. This should take about 7–11 days to accomplish properly.

Introduce Voice Commands and Reining

After this, we will then begin to mount the horse without any help from another person! Take the horse to the center of the round pen, bring him to the halt, praise him, and rub him on the shoulder area. Take the reins in one hand and place your foot into the stirrup, mount the horse, and hold the reins out wide from the horse—you want him to move rather slow!

Say "Turn right!" and slightly pull on the right rein and relax the left. When he does this, praise him immediately. When he has accomplished this, say ”Turn left!" and apply pressure to the left rein and relax the right rein. When he does this, praise him and continue.

These reining and voice commands should be reinforced every other day at the least. It will take about 40 good saddles (this is riding with NO problems from the horse) then you can state that the horse is "green broke."

Be Patient!

All horses are different. Some take only a few hours, and some may take longer than 2 months—it all depends on the horse and what has been experienced in the past from human intervention into their lives. Horses actually like to learn and are ready to perform, they just need to be pointed in the right direction!

Well, there it is—I hope that this helps. I don't think that I have left anything out! But this is how I have done it for many years, and I have hit the ground very little! Take care, and always have a person watching for safety purposes and to help as needed!

© 2018 Rick Benningfield

Related Articles