First of all, of course, today horses are no longer broken in by force, but are slowly accustomed to it. One always speaks more of breaking in than of breaking in a horse, because the training after the first habituation to saddle, bridle and rider is then still a long way, which is described in the FN guidelines with the scale of the training.
In Germany you start mostly three years old breaking in the horse.
Breaking in a horse – What you should pay attention to
It is important that the skeleton is developed to the point where it can bear the rider’s weight. But even with a mature skeleton, preliminary work in the form of muscle building training is essential to avoid damage that only becomes apparent much later.
Surely the question arises, why not start riding the horse at the age of five or six?? This is also very good for some gentle horses. Others, however, build up such a strong personality by then that they become difficult horses and cannot subordinate themselves. Here it is important to weigh up and decide on the basis of the horse’s character.
Is the horse ready to be broken in??
Whether the skeleton is already mature enough to bear weight can be easily determined by an X-ray.
Normally you start very early in the daily handling of the young horse with simple things like halter handling, tying up, giving hooves etc. to practice. Continuously increase the demands until you get to the training on the lunge line.
There is nothing to be said against putting on a saddle at an early stage, so that the young horse gets used to having something on its back. If the horse is then three years old, the muscles are trained, it knows the basics of the lunge, you can usually start to sit on it slowly and be led a few meters on a straight track … this is the real beginning of breaking in.
When you are four years old, the real riding begins
After the first few times with a rider on the back, many owners send their remonts to the pasture for the winter, let them rest to develop further and then start with real riding the next spring with the then almost four-year-old horse.
Surely, there are horse breeds, which count to the late developers. These should be given one more year to develop physically. PREs and Arabians are prime examples.
Is late breaking in of the horse useful?
Even if late breaking in is appropriate for the horse, it is important to keep in mind that you will not be able to compete in the young horse competitions, because your horse may be too old and you will only be able to participate in the normal competitions.
This is in no way a plea for early and fast breaking in, as it is unfortunately often practiced in sales stables. A horse that stands longer on the pasture costs the breeder money … and also in equestrian sports, unfortunately, financial interests sometimes count more than the horse’s health.
Here it is necessary to weigh and find the best way for the young horse, the time in which it is mentally, as well as physically fit and mature enough, but not yet too adult. Taking your time is the most important thing when breaking in a horse.