Florida 2 years  8 months old Paso Fino facilities to work the horse are pasture, round pen, arena with experienced rider.

Question: I want to train my 2 1/2 year old gelding Paso Fino myself , and I have never started a horse before. For the past year I haven't worked with him, other than grooming
him, because of my pregnancy. Now he is completely wild, living in a pasture with cows, and one other old horse. He spooks at everything. I can't catch him in the field, and I
can't even pick up his feet. 

It's like he's forgotten everything I have taught him. Soon I will be moving him to a stable with pasture board, and hundreds of other horses. They have an arena and a round pen. What steps should I follow in order to train him to be ridden? I weigh 125, and my horse is about 650, how long should I wait before I get on his back? 

From Panelist Jonathan

You say he has forgotten everything you have taught him . This should be a very large red flag to you . A horse can only learn/retain according to the manner in which it was taught and bred . You say you have never started a horse before . Well learning how to do it from a question and answer board , IMHO , is a folly . 

A question or many questions is expected , but training a horse is a hands on moment to moment decision making process . I can only advise you to 
1) get a trainer to do the job 
2) get a trainer to show you how .
Furthermore , moving this horse to a isolated (from you) busy stable would be counterproductive in my judgment . If you think he is hard to catch in a pasture with cows and one horse , what do you think it will be like with hundreds ? If you are planning on locking him up in a stall until you have him under control . Wrong , in my judgment again . I understand sometimes we have to do , what we have to do , just don't expect the horse 
to understand or cooperate .
As to when you should get on him . This is always a very personal decision . So I'll tell you what i have read and leave it up to you . The plates in the spine of the normal horse do not close completely until 5 to 7 years of age . Being a 650 lb. PF with fine bone (no doubt) you can understand the caution you must consider . 

Sometimes when we brake them , we can't put them back together . In other words , sometimes with a young green horse we only get a millisecond to make a choice of action that only experience can assure  won't cross the line to injury .

Sorry I couldn't help more.
Good luck to your horse and you.


From Panelist Stella

If you have difficulty catching him now, you will likely have a bigger problem pasture boarding with a larger herd of horses. That's his first "win" at getting over on you, having some dominance over you. 

Young horses go through a mental maturation to develop self-confidence as well as a 
physical one, and without regular human supervision, this involves "moving up the social ladder," not necessarily differentiating between humans and other horses- this is part of the importance of handling young horses regularly, to clarify and reinforce this difference.

At this point, it is really important to "set yourself up for success," and first you will have to make up for lost time in the groundwork before having any thoughts of green breaking him correctly - to have a nice horse, and have it be a safe experience for you. Ideally, it would well be best to send him to a professional with the facilities, time, and expertise to get him caught up in his ground behavior thoroughly, and for the first few rides at least, going as much as possible yourself to learn along with him, and have the guidance to feel secure in going on yourself. 

If this is really not possible, its best to upgrade the boarding situation the first few months at least to full board with turnout, or smaller turnout area where he can be caught, or be trained to be caught more readily, handled daily, even several times a day, most particularly if you cannot work with him daily yourself (which may be more difficult now that you have a baby yourself). If you start each session spending half an hour chasing him 
down till he "allows you" to catch him, being the facilities are to his advantage and not yours, this simply reinforces the idea that he is capable of being in charge of some decision-making, and that's not a good way to start a session. 

His success will motivate him to go on to bigger and better things, often unpredictably.
Even 2 1/2 year olds that are physically mature enough and have been handled regularly may not be mentally mature enough to start under saddle; better to wait, in which case continued regular groundwork to gain the horse's confidence, trust, willingness and respect for you is essential if the greenbreaking process is be a positive experience for all.

If the foundation is solid, things progress smoothly, safely and naturally, but if there's "bricks missing" from the foundation, you can pretty much expect some problems down the road in one form or another. This is as true for professional trainers as for amateurs.
An important element of training is patience, and not rushing through any learning processes. Right now, you need to focus catching up on the groundwork and necessary preliminaries to starting under saddle, not be worrying about that. One reason most trainers cant tell someone how long their horse will take until after they've handled and gotten to know it, learn the "holes" of any previous work, better understood the horse as an individual, and then, only be able to approximate. They know not to rush any one step, as there is often a price to pay for that, sooner or later. Spend as much time with your horse as possible, keep repeating your lessons and gradually building on them; once you really get to know your horse, and he you, you will know when both you and he are comfortable to start the under saddle work, and proceed at your own pace. Remember, you are building a long-term relationship, not competing in a race or against a timetable....


From Panelist Erica

I would not even worry about putting a saddle on this young horses back for another year and a half. It is too much for a young horse to bear on his underdeveloped back to put any weight on him. A horse's back is not completely ready for a rider until between the ages of 4 and 6. I prefer to start a horse no younger than 4yrs as they are better physically, mentally and emotionally to handle the demands of a rider, even for small amounts of
riding time.

In the meantime I would focus on getting your ground work put back in order, i.e. catching, picking up feet, etc. etc. Most likely he didn't forget, but simply has put it away in his mind as it has been so long. A mature horse can remember roughly up to 18 months clear as a bell before things start to fade, however a young horse will remember less. Depending on how you plan to start him changes how the methods go. There are many good ideas for starting out there - I will throw you what I have used with great success in the past and during the present, John Lyons Round Penning. You will be able to teach ground manners, advanced leading (no lead rope or halter), catching, stopping on the rail, turns, and come to you as well as moving onto saddling and riding. 

Good luck in your new boarding facility!
Erica Frei

From Panelist Carol


First, let's see if your idea of experienced is the same as mine.  I would consider someone who has spent at least 1,000 hours working with and/or riding horses to be somewhat experienced. By contrast, a seasoned professional trainer will probably have put in 10,000 hours or more.  This horse sounds as if he needs someone with experience to show him what to do.  If you are still sure that you want to start him yourself, there are several good step by step programs sold on video tape and books.  I personally like the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program and also John Lyons program, but pick a program, stick with
it, and don't vary from that program once you pick it. The sooner you get started, the better. 

Good Luck!!

Carol Camp Tosh

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