Getting Ready for Training a New Horse

Hi, I am getting a new horse in a week or so. She is an AQHA yearling filly and I need advice! I would like to train her for pole bending and trail riding. Are there exercises I can do with her now that would make all that easier for her when she is ready for serious training?

Story originally posted by: Maggie Training Director

Subject: New Yearling

Want to get her used to small jumps for trail/cross country riding and get her used to crossing water as well. I was just wondering if there were any fun games or exercise I could do with her to prepare her for what is ahead. I also want to show her under halter. Any suggestions? When is too young to start a horse under saddle? Or would it be dangerous to start her on small jumps right away? Please give me all the information you can about young horses on this subject.

Thank you!


All you need to do is start her and consistently be thorough with her ground training, lunging and round pen introduction. She to know the close relationship between respect from ground level and the respect that will come from the saddle. How well your horse responds during a trail ride, or at a show or rodeo depends on how cooperative and well behaved she is about ground work–beginning with her attitude in the stall or corral or paddock.

I would personally not do too much game play if your filly is young, she will tend to want to play more than wanting to work. Use the little games or silly time as I call it, as a reward for good responses and work done well. Before you go on the teach to jump small jumps, your ground work here plays a very important part for safe and positive response. Games are a distraction and unless your horse pays attention to you, it will never advance in its development–unless your horse gives you its complete attention, it can’t give you its obedience.

One of the first exercises to teach is backing up. Contrary to what some trainer think, backing up does not destroy your horse’s impulsion or forward urge. You know that the first thing we teach horses is to go forward, and that nothing can be accomplished without that. Backing up, rivets your horse’s attention. Causes your horse to concentrate in order to move its feet somewhat precisely. It straightens your horse. It teaches the horse “manners”–not to come into your body bubble unless invited. Backing up is of immediate value for horses shown in halter, as it teaches them to “square up,” pay attention, and get their ears up on their own, without the use of whips or any kind of “spooking.” It teaches the horse to coordinate its hind limbs, coil its loins, collect itself and balance over its hindquarters. All of which will be need for when you start, pole bending or barrels, or just plain trail riding.

Please don’t be in a hurry to start her under saddle. Give her a good solid foundation on the ground and give yourself the chance to have a horse you can trust and be proud of. By taking the time to properly instill these ground work sessions your time to saddle and the time to training for specific events will be cut to less than half.

So start the ground work when you get her, and when you are ready to proceed to the next phase, you e-mail me again and I will help as much as possible. Keep a training journal and update if everytime you have a session. This will help you self evaluate her progress and keep you in current awareness as to what areas you need to concentrate on whether weak and strong spots. Depending on the breed, in you case Quarter Horse, the best age is about late 2 to early 3 years of age, that’s when their knees have closed and have developed good strong leg muscles, thanks to all the ground work you would have done.

There are many articles in the training tips archives that you can get a lot of information on jump starting and training how to cross water. You can actually get any information you need from the archives. Don’t be side taken if the article is for English discipline…the basic are the same for any style of riding. Go to the main page of HorseCity, scroll down until you see the Power Search box, type in any key word of any topic you wish information on, click to search. A list will appear, choose and read to your desire. Good luck!

Maggie Flowers