Are you new to horses but looking to buy one? While horses are fun (I will be the first one to tell you how much joy they can bring to your life!), they can also be challenging without the proper knowledge and experience.
Before buying your first horse, one of the things you need to know is whether or not the horse has been trained, and for how long.
If you’ve been in the equine community for very long, you’ve probably heard the term “green horse” before. Understanding this term, along with several other related ones, can be helpful when buying a horse.
So in this article, I’m going to tell you all the basics you need to know about green and inexperienced horses, what to expect from them, and how to train them.
What Exactly Is a Green Horse?
The term “green” has a broad meaning when referring to a horse or a rider. It is subjective and thereby open to interpretation. But in general, “green” describes a horse’s level of experience and refers to a horse (or rider!) with minimal training.
There are various levels of “green” when it comes to horses. Some green horses have been started under a saddle, while others have never been ridden at all. The level of green is going to depend on how much time and effort you’re going to need to spend training the horse, but either way, getting an inexperienced horse is going to take more time to train.
The term can also be used for horses that are not ready for a particular use. For instance, a green horse may be good for trail riding but not racing.
If you are new to horses, it is important to make sure you get lots of information before buying your first horse and don’t be afraid to ask a more experienced person to help choose the perfect horse for your needs and skill level. Ask the seller how far along the horse is in its training to understand the experience level. When the seller is riding it, you should pay attention and note how the horse responds to cues. As a beginner, refrain from getting on the back of a green horse without first observing someone else ride it.
What Is a Green Rider?
A green rider is a rider with little to no experience and training. It’s almost always advisable to pair an inexperienced rider with a trained, well-broke horse (more on that term in just a minute).
It is possible to train a green horse as a novice rider, but you’re going to need help from someone more experienced, it’s going to take a lot of time (and probably a good deal of frustration), and there is a higher chance of getting injured in the process.
That being said, if you do decide to train a green horse as a green rider, it can really pay off in the long run because you and your horse will have worked extremely hard to establish trust and develop a tight bond.
Other Terms Associated With Green Horses
As I mentioned before, there is a wide range of green. Knowing and understanding these terms is crucial in the complex horse world. Here are some other terms to get familiar with:
The first step to training a horse is to ensure it is safe for people to be around it. For this to happen, it must be halter broken. This is essential in establishing a bond between a horse and the rider. It is usually done to inexperienced older horses and foals ready to get started under the saddle.
With a halter broken horse, you can catch it, place the strap on and lead it with the slightest cues. This part of training helps with the care of a horse. It allows you to use the horse’s feet, groom it, or even let the vet check it.
This is also known as bombproof, beginner-friendly, or finished. A well broke horse is a well-trained horse that can be ridden and/or driven. It is suitable for beginners because it is sensitive to leg aids, reins, and seats. They are safe and reliable with a solid walk, canter, and trot.
Horses have different personalities. Some may be calm, while some are spirited. But all in all, a well broke horse is forgiving and not easily frightened. Finished horses understand more than just the basics of stop and go. It is quiet, obedient, and with a smooth transition between gaits.
Horse owners and sellers also have different meanings of a well broke horse. A horse that a seller considers well broke can be barely ridden to you. It is advisable to ride the horse yourself and check if it meets your expectations. Be sure to get all details about the horse and its training before making a purchase. You should also visit the horse several times to observe its personality and reaction to commands. (Here are some other questions you should ask before buying to make sure you get the right horse.)
What Does It Mean to “Break” a Horse?
Breaking a horse is not as mean as it sounds. It refers to making a horse rideable, reliable, and safe. This training process allows the horses to respond to humans’ commands.
Can I Break an Old Horse?
Breaking a horse is not limited by age. However, teaching an old horse new tricks is often more challenging than teaching a youngster.
Green + Green
Have you heard of the saying, green plus green results in black and blue? Well, this can be the case here. Buying an untrained horse as an inexperienced rider can present an array of challenges.
As mentioned before, it is usually recommended that inexperienced riders stick with a well broke horse and leave the horse breaking to an experienced rider.
Green Broke Horse
This horse has recently learned to be under the saddle or accept a rider on his back. It is incompletely broken for beginners and intermediate horse riders. A green broke horse would take a saddle, halter, and bridle. You can also ride it at a walk, trot, and canter, but it does not usually respond immediately to your signals.
A green broke horse also describes a horse that does not buck with a rider on its back. It’s usually a young horse that is generally safe to ride but still needs quite a bit of training if you’re going to show it or take it on long rides.
Pros and Cons of a Green Horse
Working with untrained and inexperienced horses comes with varying highs and lows. Here are some pros and cons to give you a clear picture of what to expect from a green horse.
More Affordable Than a Well Trained Horse
Most horses that are well broke can cost up to five figures. But if you’re interested in saving some money, love training horses, and don’t mind a challenge, consider buying a green horse instead! They tend to be cheaper because more work is required in order to get them finished.
Green Horses Have Fewer Bad Habits to Break
Sometimes, horses can develop bad habits that may be hard to break. A horse that is already ridden may pick up bad habits along the way. These dangerous behaviors include bucking, rearing, or bolting.
Re-training such horses takes time and energy. Think of a green horse as a blank slate that you can mold into what you want them to be.
Green Horses Have No Option But to Trust
Training a new horse can be a rewarding experience in developing a good relationship between a rider and the horse. Much time is spent together, and bonds and trust are built between the animal and the person.
Green Horses Are Usually Young
Any horse can be green. But most green horses aren’t very old, which usually means they have their whole life ahead of them. You can get 20 or more years of fun if you are willing to train it. Get a long-term riding buddy and enjoy your money’s worth.
As I’ve already alluded to, there are some downsides to buying an untrained horse, too:
- Breaking a green horse is time-consuming and can take months
- Green horses are usually unreliable and more dangerous
- They are easily spooked
- They are not suitable for inexperience or novice riders
- They can be unpredictable
Tips on Dealing With and Training a Green Horse
Training and handling a green horse requires patience and commitment. It should be done by a professional trainer or under the strict guidance of an expert. How quickly and how well you can break your horse often depends on you, the handler.
So here are a few tips:
Groundwork is the first recommended step to get started with your new horse. It allows you to bond with the horse, develop trust, and show what you expect from it. Young horses are often anxious, so take the time to really know your horse before you attempt to ride it.
The safe way to assess what your horse knows is by staying on the ground. Ensure that your horse understands your cues for trot, walk, whoa, and canter before getting on their back.
Here are some great groundwork exercises I highly recommend!
Most green horses are young and lack full strength to support weight on their back, abdomen, and hindquarters. It is essential to protect the joints and tendons to prevent permanent damage. Gradually increase the physical training, either adding time or increasing intensity.
A green horse should learn to balance itself before fully supporting your weight. Allow them to build body strength without putting on excess pressure.
Ready for a Green Horse?
The thought of buying a green horse can be exciting, but also intimidating. Ask yourself if you are really experienced enough and/or willing to spend a LOT of hours to break a horse. If you’re a green rider, you may want to enlist the help of a professional while you develop skills with your young horse.
Ready to train for your new horse? Sign up on Equestrian Boots & Bridles for a beginner-friendly horse-riding course. We provide a progressive training system with a selection of topics for every level of rider and horse.