Most experienced horse people would be familiar with the concept “green and green equals black and blue”, referring to matching a green or inexperienced rider with a green or young horse resulting in disaster, often with rider or horse getting injured, hence black and blue bruises.
Many of us have come across the inexperienced rider or even first time horse owner with a young horse so that “they can learn together”. This immediately sets off alarm bells and you’ll likely see us cringe! While it has all the warm, fuzzy feels of you and a young horse figuring things out together, bonding while learning, it is a romanticised view of horse training and in truth, a recipe for disaster.
Training horses, particularly young “green” horses is not for the feint of heart. It is a huge responsibility to take on, ensuring the horse becomes “a good citizen”, both with being handled on the ground and when ridden, and one that will be a valued companion later in life. Horses learn by creating habits through repetition, unfortunately bad habits are just as easily formed as good ones. Not only that but due to how pathways are developed in the brain, if a bad habit is formed it takes even longer to retrain a good habit to override the bad one!
It can be a very quick path from bad habit to dangerous behaviour, and any horse that becomes dangerous will generally not have a very good or long life. There are no good or bad horses initially, there are just horses that have had either good or bad training, and this is why it is such an enormous responsibility when it comes to training.
There is a reason good trainers are often booked months out and why good “schoolmaster” horses can be hard to come by and hold their value. Horse riding has many inherent risks associated with it, it wouldn’t be a good idea to try to learn to drive a car or operate dangerous equipment on your own and the same goes for training a horse. Novice and beginner riders should appreciate the value in a horse that will forgive their mistakes, because making mistakes with a green horse can have disastrous consequences for both.
As a riders’ skill develops, so then they can advance with a less trained horse, but in the beginning we all need those good old horses that put up with us bouncing around, pulling and kicking at the wrong times, doing all the wrong things but try to do their best for us anyway.
Jenni Fugate is a team member of The Equine Expert LLC, a multi-discipline equine expert witness and consulting firm offering legal expert witness and consulting services in court cases, legal matters, appraisals and business affairs. Jenni is an expert in Arabians, Teaching, Dressage and Biomechanics. She is a native of Australia and has been working with horses since she was a child. She now lives in Utah on her farm where she trains and teaches. For more information on Jenni visit www.theequineexpert.com or you may contact Jenni at Jenni@theequineexpert.com.