A Guide to Horse Training and Handling

Horse training is a large commitment. This comprehensive guide will help you get started successfully.

| June 2012

From building a yurt to maintaining a thriving winter garden, The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011) by Nicole Faires is all you need to live off the land. With diagrams, charts, photographs, original illustrations and comprehensive, detailed instructions that anyone can follow with relatively few supplies, this massive full-color book answers all of your self-sufficiency questions. In this excerpt from Chapter 4, “Horses and Other Animals,” learn about horse training, from hooves to harnesses. 

Horse training words to live by

Note: Inexperienced people must get some experienced advice and help when buying a horse and equipment, handling a horse, etc. 

  • Respect and learn from the horse.
  • If the horse doesn’t respond to something, try something else.
  • You are the leader—be positive and confident.
  • Recognize warnings that something is wrong.
  • In a battle of strength the horse will win.
  • Use intelligence to work around problems.
  • Have everlasting patience.

About horse handling

Horses are not color-blind and they can see almost all the way around themselves, except right in front of their feet and a space behind them. They hate to step on unstable ground or anything unreliable. A mare will be more moody and have difficult times during her heat cycles, unlike a gelding, but will be more sensitive to your feelings. Be aware of what the horse is doing even when your back is turned, and keep alert at all times. Horses should only be tied with a quick release knot (see illustration in the Image Gallery). It is dangerous to you and the horse to use any other knot because you might need to be able to untie the horse quickly.

Lifting the hooves

Run your hand down the leg to the bottom of the cannon bone, just above the fetlock. Put pressure on either side of the leg with your thumb and forefinger. The horse will lift his foot for you if you find the right spot. When you left a rear leg, keep the hoof turned upwards instead of down and support it with your legs. If the horse doesn’t pick up his foot, lean against him slightly to push his weight to the other leg, which will encourage him to lift it.

How to put a halter on a horse

  1. Have the halter unbuckled and the lead rope attached before you approach the horse.
  2. Stand on the left side of the horse and pass the end of the lead rope under his neck with your left hand. Put your right hand over the horse’s neck and grab the end. Pull the rope down and catch it in your left hand.
  3. Pass the halter buckle under the neck of the horse and grab it with your free right hand.
  4. At this point you should have the rope and halter strap in your left hand with your right arm over the horse’s neck and the halter buckle in your right hand.
  5. With your hands on either side of the horse’s head, position the noseband so the horse’s nose will slide into it easily. Raise the halter into position.
  6. Bring the halter strap over the horse’s head, placing it right behind the ears and fasten the buckle. Keep on holding the rope in case he tries to walk away.
  7. Remove the loop of rope from around the horse’s neck and lead away. The halter should fit properly, not too loose or too tight. The noseband should lie two fingers from below the cheekbone, and have two fingers of space between the nose and the noseband.

Vocal horse communication

Neighing: greeting, fear, or anger—depends on the tone.

Nickering: greeting, calling foals, or courtship.

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