When you train a horse your end goal is to ride it. Everyone's end, end is different some people may want to run barrels, others rope, some trail ride. For me, I want a horse that knows how to do all of those things. I want it to be safe for anyone of my friends or family, even those who have never ridden.
For a horse to be safe enough for anyone to ride you have to give it a foundation. It's like building a house if you sit it on mud it'll sink or slide off the blocks but, if you fix the pad like your supposed to. You make sure the corners are square, and the lines are straight you've got a good footing to start your build.
Some people can get a horse to 'ride' in a day. A long day, but a day. I admire those people but, I can't help but wonder what type of foundation the horse had for them to be able to do that.
I currently have 4 in training. The only reason the 5th isn't is because she's on baby duty. She has a job to do and she's doing it well. The baby though, he's in training. He's learning to wear a halter (yes that's a thing) he's also learning to lead. Everyday the last few days I've gotten my lead rope, I've put it around his end, and we've walked around the pasture. At 2 months old growing and getting stronger every day the last thing I want is to have a big ole baby I can't control because I didn't teach him early enough. Babies do baby things, they kick, play, jump, rear, run, and buck. If I don't give him the foundation to lead now he might try to do all of those things when he's bigger and stronger and me, him or both might get hurt. Again I want them safe.
My yearling is becoming a little stud (literally) we're about half way there but we're not ready to ride to yet he's not old enough or developed enough. That's ok. There are things that he can do learn that will help with his progress later on. Right now, he's learning patience. When I start working with them I pull them all out & handle them, groom them, make sure their feet are cleaned out, their bridle path and ears are trimmed, I comb their manes & tails and scrub any mud off. He then stands there while I work on the next one. Since he's not ready to have a saddle on I don't gear him up. He has had a blanket on and he's done fine with it. He of course leads, and halters fine because he's being led to the location where he's tied. Occasionally he gets in the round pen but, for now his primary job is to grow so he is handled so that he won't be unruly, and he is allowed to be a horse the rest of the time.
The 2 year old, he's ready. He's closer to 3. His bones can handle small doses of a rider. He's done everything the younger ones have and then some. He's learned most of his ground work and I do something some other trainers don't. I taught him to drive. I want him to know how to move forward without a 2nd person and a flag and all that 'excitement' for his first ride. In order to accomplish this I have taught him verbal commands and I run the drive lines through the stirrups and move them to simulate leg pressure to help him know that he's supposed to move forward with the combination of verbal and leg ques.
He's carried a small person once. He did fine. He's quite, easy going, takes everything in stride, not spooky. He would just assume eat the tarp as to spook at it. (He thinks everything is edible.) Since it's been a while we're taking it slow and easy and starting over to be safe. Today he did is round penning exercises. He drove. I climbed in the saddle on 1 side laid over made sure he wasn't excitable and was ok with me being up there several times and finally I climbed on up and sat with him. He was fine. No excitement which is exactly what I was looking for.
Then there's the 3 year old. You might laugh at me but when I bought him I asked them if he was gaited. They said no. I rode him. No gait. I bought him in November so I wasn't getting to ride him a ton for a while. December, January, they were inconsistent. I rode him as often as the weather and holidays would allow. The days were short, I had work, things got in the way but... we rode. It was a good time for him to be a horse, grow, learn, and even though he was broke when I bought him he's young and green so he's learned how to carry a passenger. As I rode him I noticed he would only pick up 1 lead. His gallop was off. He would crossfire. I tried working with him and working with him and one day my dad is watching and he says are you sure he's not gaited? Of course the answer was no. He has a TNW shaped head. So he suggests that I try something. It took a bit but after a few rides it clicked. He took to it. It was slow. It was awkward. He was gaited. So for the last month we've been riding every day it hasn't rained or been too nasty muddy. He's cruising down the driveways now. I get him on a straight path where I can here the click to the rack which helps me know he's doing it correctly and we just go. Riding him now is completely different than when I first got him. He's quite. He's safe. I've ridden him 60-75 rides probably (I haven't kept count I do something everyday,) He's spooked 3 times. He's also 3 years old. If your riding a young horse you should be ready for anything at any time all the time.
I've got 4 different horses at 4 different stages. They all have the same basic foundation. The littlest isn't there yet but he will be. The others are learning all about tarps, distractions, music, obstacles, wearing shirts (yes, that's what I said; I tie them to the saddles so that they flop around while they're doing their round pen work). All these little things make it easier. They make it safer. After the first few rides in the round pen I can move them to the arena and then to the trails in the pasture. Teaching them to cross water, logs, go around trees, the rustling wind, the leaves everything makes horses nervous so the more I train them to trust me and not be nervous about the bright green shirt tied to them that they can't escape the less likely they are to try to escape the squirl that they think will kill them.
Foundations are key in everything.
What is your foundation made of? Do you sit on the pad that's lined out straight and square or do you sit on mud and slide when it rains? Me? I started out on mud and I moved over and around so much that I finally got shifted onto the pad. I'm working on squaring everything up and making things straight. It's a work in progress but, one day I'll be safe and not spooky too.