About Training Horses

How to train horses by a lady from the western U.S. who was working her way through college.

At least two of the horses I trained during the summer are to be In the next horse show and for this reason I have been particularly excited during the last month. That is one of the joys of training young riding horses – they may turn out to be winners in the horse show.

A well trained riding horse sells for about $400 (this is back in the early 1900’s) unless it has been developed into show horse form. In that case the price goes up to $1000 and over. The two horses I referred to were selected for riding animals; one for a combination horse and the other for a park hack.

Oh yes, there is a lot of difference. The one point in common between the two classes so far as I can see is that they are both just horses. I mean by that they do not claim to be any special breeding. The thoroughbred saddle horse is a type by itself. The thoroughbred has been produced by careful breeding and should always be good enough to win a ribbon in a show.

The combination horse is the most popular both in the north and the west, but I understand that in the south it is not so good a seller. The combination is the riding horse for country life because they do well both in harness and under the saddle.

In selecting such a horse it is better to get a riding horse that goes well in harness than a driving horse that will be expected to do well under the saddle. More is expected of a saddle horse then of a horse that is to be driven. According to the present standard such a horse must have a good walk and trot, be not too rough in a gallop and be bridle-wise. Bridle-wise means being guided by the pressure of the rains on the side of the neck. If the horse is to be a harness animal only, then all that is essential is that it should have a good trot and a good mouth.

The great majority of horses brought here are already broken to harness, so all I have to do in that situation is to drive the horse enough to prevent it from becoming exclusively a riding horse while I am trading it for the saddle. The best height for such a horse is 15 1/2 hands. As to length there is no fixed requirement, so the general rule is the longer the horse is the better, holds as well with a combination of animals as with any other.

Good shoulders are absolutely necessary if the horse is to carry it’s rider with ease. Narrow shouldered horses nearly always have rough, uneven gates and are given to stumbling.By good shoulders are meant long shoulder blades, flat and well placed, though it is not necessary that they should slope back provided they move easily.

The neck should have a good length and the horse should have a light head with a strong back and quarters and a narrow body; but above all a riding horse must have strength in its forelegs. Out west they say the hind legs will follow where the four legs lead, and unless there is a good pair of forelegs they will never use a horse for the saddle.

The best leg for the riding animal is straight and clean looking. The tendons in such a leg are apt to be well developed and strong. A leg that bends slightly over in front is much to be preferred to a leg that bends backwards at the knee. This nearly always shows a weakness and should be avoided.

If a horse has never been trained to the saddle and you want to get a combination animal the best plan is to get your dealer to give you a driving horse with the points I have described and train him yourself. This is an easy enough matter if you are a good rider. It is not important that a horse should have an easy gallop at first. There is nothing in which a horse improves so rapidly as in galloping. All it requires is practice and a little kindly guidance.

Neither is it of importance that a new horse should guide on the neck. This also can be taught with but little trouble.

It is important, however, that a riding horse should be of a quiet temperament and should lower his head and lean on the bit. A high headed horse is disagreeable to ride and has uncertain gaits, while a fretful or nervous horse will take all the nervous energy of the rider to keep it in check.

This is a bad fault in any horse, but most horses can be broken of it if they are taught to obey without fearing the rider. Indeed such horses need to be taught to have such confidence in their rider that they fear nothing. A horse of a quiet temperament does this instinctively, but the nervous fretful animal must have patient teaching.

I don’t believe that anyone who cares for horses is sorry that the ladies saddle horse, as it was called a generation ago, has gone out of style. In the first place each horse in a stable should be so well trained that it can be ridden by either men or women. In the second place horses used by both men and women are much less apt to suffer from a sore back.

Of course the use of the side saddle is not the only cause of sore back. It may be caused by neglecting to keep the lining and padding of the saddle dry. If this is not done the padding becomes hard and uneven and the only remedy is to have the saddle done over.

Oh I ride both ways, on the side saddle and cross saddle. There is a horse under me in both positions and that is the thing that counts. When I am at home, I mean in the west, I never think of riding sideways except to keep in practice. Riding astride is not only easier for me but is also better for the horses back. The only point is that a woman sitting in the side saddle is ever so much more feminine looking then when she rides astride.

I am not a bit sure that I couldn’t ride around the globe without feeling fatigued provided I had an even tempered horse with fairly easy gaits under me and I rode cross saddle. When in a sidesaddle I begin to feel the strain on my back before I finish 20 miles. I’m quite sure the horse feels it even earlier.