I got on Sierra yesterday for the first time in four months. When we first took her in, we were told she was trained to ride. During our first ride in August, she was a frustrated mess, and all I was asking was for her to walk forward and maybe turn. She crow-hopped, reared, bucked, and spun around. It was pretty obvious she was afraid of what I was going to do to her, and she had zero idea of what was expected of her. I got off.
I took her back to basics- just working with her on the lead lines, ground driving her and teaching her that she was safe and letting her know what I wanted in a safe and calm way. The rearing stopped. The crow-hopping stopped. The bucking stopped. It took a bit, but the spinning stopped. She realized I was not going to hurt her, and she also started to learn what I was asking her to do.
I didn’t rush her, but let her set the pace. When it was obvious she knew what bit pressure meant, I moved her from a full-cheek snaffle to a French-link. She started relaxing during our ground driving sessions instead of fussing at the bit the entire time. She walked forward and was confident, instead of spinning around and staring at me, wondering if I was going to hit her. I worked her both in a surcingle, and then, I drove her while she wore a western saddle.
The past few times I worked her she seemed super confident and knew the routine. She almost seemed bored, which was great- that meant that she was ready for the next step. So, we took the next step- I got on her after four months and rode her around both yesterday and today, just walking around, turning, and getting her used to me. She did great- no balking, bucking, rearing, kicking, biting, etc. She was calm and happy during both rides, and did everything I asked.
I don’t know how often I need to say this, but aggressive training techniques DO NOT WORK. Taking the time to train your horse slowly and humanely ends up taking less time overall, and at the end of your time, you have a horse who is not only trained, but emotionally well-balanced.
Finally, there is no magic number as to how long it takes to train a horse. People throw out random numbers like 30, 60, or 90 days of training because they don’t want to pay for training. The reality, however, is every horse is different. Age, temperament, and past trauma all play into the necessary time a horse may need to train under saddle- and that’s just for the basics. Learning higher-level techniques can take years.
Take it slow, steady, and work at the horse’s pace. Those are greater keys for success than 30, 60 or 90 days.
Below is a video of Sierra yesterday when I first got on her. You’ll notice how relaxed she is, especially versus the hot mess she was four months ago!