How to Begin Training an Unbroken Colt

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Training an unbroken colt requires time and patience to build trust.
Training an unbroken colt requires time and patience to build trust. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Training a young horse, regardless of the horse's gender, requires flexibility in terms of approach. Every horse, just like every trainer, has its own personality traits, preferences and quirks. As such, trainers and owners should consider trying a variety of training techniques to find what best meets the needs and goals of both horse and the owner. No matter what training methods are ultimately used, the first stages of training should involve socializing and teaching the colt appropriate responses to pressure.

Things You'll Need

  • Horse enclosure
  • Halter
  • Treats

Begin socializing young colts as soon after weaning as possible, to acclimate the colt to the trainer's presence. No specific lessons need be introduced until after the colt is at least a year old. Simply getting the colt accustomed to the sound of the trainer's voice and close proximity is enough at this stage.

Touch the colt in various places as soon as it becomes comfortable with having a person in close proximity. Start with large body areas, such as the barrel, withers and hind quarters. Move on to shanks, fetlocks, muzzle and tail as the colt will tolerate.

Move the colt to an appropriately sized enclosure to begin training. Since few colts will accept a halter immediately, lead its mother into the enclosure while allowing it to follow. Once the colt is inside, the mare can be removed, or tethered out of the way, depending on the colt's initial response.

Continue challenging the colt with touch for the first few times it is in the enclosure. Focus primarily on the muzzle, poll and crest in preparation for a halter. He should become accustomed to handling of its ears, nose and mouth, as sensitivity in these areas can result in shying when approached with head gear.

Rub the colt's neck with one hand while speaking in calm, relaxed tones. With the other hand, attempt to fit a halter over its muzzle. It will likely take several attempts over the course of several days before it stands still to be fitted with the halter.

Start pressure training as soon as the colt willingly accepts a halter. With the colt haltered and a firm grip on the lead, apply open-handed pressure to quarters until the colt begins to move away. As soon as the colt moves away, release the pressure. Repeat until the action is consistent and instantaneous.

Tips & Warnings

  • It takes several days, even weeks, to progress a colt from weaned to halter broke. Be patient.
  • Limit lesson time to 20 to 30 minutes per day to keep learning time fun and interesting for the colt.
  • Use a combination of praise and treats to reward and further encourage correct behaviors.
  • Even young horses are dangerous. Kicking and biting is common, especially if a colt is scared, bored, confused or startled. Inexperienced owners should not attempt to break a colt without appropriate understanding of horse behavior, proper precautions and humane training techniques.

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