I receive countless inquiries and stories from horse lovers that contact me about the education of their foal or filly. It seems that a growing number of first time horse owners and novice riders are choosing to purchase a green horse and hoping to turn it into their dream partner. Green on green makes black and blue! This is often a dangerous combination. Horses learn 4 to 7 times faster than humans, that's the good patterns and the bad patterns, depending on what they are being exposed too. It is really easy to teach them a negative pattern without even being aware that you are doing it. The common myth is that you will 'grow together'. Reality is, you will most likely end up frustrated, injured, scared and unable to manage your young horse. Principle no. 7 is Horses teach humans, then humans teach horses. What that really means is that unless you have a lot of knowledge, feel, timing, balance and experience under your belt, you are not just not ready to develop a horse that has everything to learn. Neither of you are being set up for success. Young horses have not yet learned to tolerate or to fill in for human error. They react quickly and often very strongly if they don't understand or feel forced. They are super sensitive, quick, easily scared. On the opposite, if all you do is love them and desensitize them to stimulus, they can just as quickly become dominant, disrespectful and pushy, and often dangerous. You cannot just be loving them, even the babies need a big dose of language and leadership to grow up balanced, happy and well adjusted to the human environment and to learn to be good partners. You cannot expect to be able to learn this at a weekend clinic or by watching a few videos - it takes years!
Starting a horse is a specialty and requires a ton of savvy and experience. The risks are very real. It is also imperative that whoever starts the horse endeavors to preserve the young horse's confidence, curiosity, sensitivity and dignity at all cost, for the sake of the horse. Good horsemen know how to play for and with the horse, and never feel obliged to dictate their ideas and force things onto them. Colts and fillies are perfect at birth. They need a lot of feel, understanding and savvy because they learn so fast and are so easily spoiled with bad habits. It is humans that turn them into dangerous horses, terrified neurotics or disrespectful pets. Educating a young horse on the ground and in the saddle is much more difficult than you might think. You need to be committed to your own education in all aspects in horsemanship and if you have no experience with young horses, you will most likely require the help and coaching of a professional on a regular basis. I see too many people getting hurt out of lack of knowledge, and too many horses mentally and emotionally damaged because they have not had the benefit of a good start in life. This is why Pat recommends waiting until you have Level 4 before attempting to educate a young horse. Then and only then do you start to acquire a mastery of the formula Love, Language and Leadership in equal doses!