Poll Recap: Starting Horses Under Saddle

Poll Recap: Starting Horses Under Saddle

Of the 700 respondents, 522 (75%) said yes, they have started a horse under saddle themselves

Photo: iStock

Starting a young horse under saddle can be a daunting task. Each horse has their own personality and learning curve, requiring trainers to tailor a training program to each animal. 

In last week’s online poll, we asked our readers if they have ever started a horse under saddle themselves. Seven hundred people responded and we’ve tallied the results!

Of the 700 respondents, 522 (75%) said yes, they have started a horse under saddle themselves. The remaining 178 (25%) individuals said they have not.

Additionally, more than 140 people commented about their experiences starting a horse under saddle:

Several people commented that they have started a horse under saddle:

  • “Yes, because I didn't want anyone to be rough with them. It turned out well.”
  • “I have been breaking and training horses most of my life.”
  • “I train driving horses and part of that is saddle-work, even for 11 hand Shetland ponies.”
  • “I've started several, but I'm longer getting on youngsters as I am just too old now.”
  • Yes I used to start Thoroughbreds destined for the show ring, and bred a few that I started myself.”
  • “I had no money for a trainer and I wanted to. I felt able to. Then, horses taught me.”
  • I don't have the money for a trainer, but do have the resources to do it myself.”
  • “In my youth I started all of my colts. I didn't like the way a lot of horses was trained by others.”
  • I train horses from the ground to finished cutting horses and I am also a farrier.”
  • “I have started several horses under saddle. They all became valuable saddle horses.”

Many individuals commented on their experiences starting horses under saddle:

  • “Fun, frustrating, satisfying, enjoyment, hilarious, serene, silly, dumb, revelation, smiles, humbled.”
  • “I had good experiences with all of my Quarter Horses.”
  • “I raised him from a weanling and he was one of my best horses ever. Everyone loved him.”
  • “Yes, I've started four of them. Each one has been easier than the first as I know more!”
  • “It was a nice challenge and great fun.”
  • “Three times now. As a kid I never got trained horses-too expensive; so we did it. I've never thought twice now.”
  • “I started my first yearling filly at age 16. She was a great show horse to age 21.”
  • “I wanted to be the one to introduce every 'first' to my gelding...including the saddle and rider.”
  • “I raised Tennessee Walking Horses for many years. Starting the babies was part of their ongoing training.”
  • “My experience was good, but a little disappointing that she was so good the first time I got on her back.”
  • “I wanted my Paint mare to know everything I knew so we can speak the same language. It's great.”
  • “It was a fantastic experience, despite some frequent flyer miles I earned.”
  • “I wanted to breed and train my own trail horse. It didn't work out: She's too hot and I'm too timid. I Still have her though.”
  • “It's rewarding. I help owners start their horses. They're never to old to reach the goal!”
  • “I have done two. I used the Clinton Anderson Method. They turned out great both times.I love ground work.”
  • “My very gentle fillies were easy to break out and train. I've also have helped break out colts and stallions.”
  • “I want to know what they know, so I like to start them or refresh the previously started ones.”
  • “I've started a Quarter Horse and an Arabian (both fillies) from birth, but the Arab was much easier. She was calmer like her dam.”
  • “I have done four. The horse is very connected to me, and knows exactly what I want. Increased trust both ways.”
  • “I raised my boy Checkmate from day one (I have his mom) from day one he has had me touch every inch.”
  • “I've retrained several off-the-track Thoroughbreds, but now I'm enjoying the experience of starting a rescue from scratch”
  • “I was young and could not afford a trainer. She turned out pretty well, but hindsight is 20/20”
  • “I like to start my own horses because I want to know my horse hasn't been mistreated.”
  • “I've started two. The first was great-minded and easy, the other was a challenge. Both were wonderful outcomes.”
  • “I love babies and training them from foal to riding. I've trained close to 50 in my life.”
  • “I raised Oldenburgs for 20+ years. I started all my young horses in harness and under saddle.”
  • “It was my first horse. We pretty much broke each other! It was a great experience.”
  • “One, and he'll be the only one ever. He was an Amish buggy horse who transitioned easily to saddle.”


A few commented that they did part of their horse’s training, but also received help from a trainer:

  • “I started with an English saddle and sacking out at six months, but just the basics. I got a trainer for rest.”
  • “No, but I've gotten them anywhere between two weeks to 60 days after someone else got on them!”
  • “Yes, but always to get them started. After that they're off to a trainer.”

Some gave reasons why they had not started a horse under saddle:

  • “I am too inexperienced of a rider.”
  • “I'm not that ambitious...or crazy!”
  • “I am not experienced enough to work with a green horse.”
  • “I'm not a trainer. I wouldn't even know how to start a horse on my own.”
  • “No, I've never had the opportunity to gain the skills to start a young horse.”
  • “I need to learn more before I try.”
  • “I don't know enough and am too old to want to hit the ground more often than necessary.”
  • “No. I'm only 16 and definitely still learning, but I have trained about three yearlings in-hand now.”

Others left general comments:

  • “I have in the past, but I don't bounce as well anymore!”
  • “I'd never raised a horse from a baby and it's just something I wanted to do. It was a great experience.”
  • “Very few people have the necessary understanding, knowledge, and skills to start a horse”
  • “It's a good bonding experience for both the human and the animal.”
  • “It is not hard to do if you take your time.”
  • “Starting yourself builds an amazing relationship that can only grow!”
  • “It was the greatest experience if you know how or have a knowledgeable person show you how to properly.”
  • “Connect with your horse as an individual. Be consistent. Know what you are doing.”
  • “It was part of a course I took in college at Texas A&M. So much fun!”
  • “Keep it simple, be kind and calm, and keep each day lesson brief. End on a positive note and encourage your horse.”
  • “I have found it hard to find nearby trainers whose horse-handling philosophies match my own.”
  • “In my younger days enjoyed starting a few horses, but I can't risk injuries now.”
  • “If I planned to keep a young horse, I preferred to train him myself!”
  • “It's a great experience if you go into it with knowledge needed for success.”
  • “Working with your horse from birth is the ideal way to develop a close relationship.”

You can find more information about training horses 18-24 months of age, conditioning young horses, lessons every young horse should learn and more at TheHorse.com!

This week, we want to know: Have considered adopting a wild horse from the BLM or National Parks Service? Please tell us why or why not, or about your experiences! Vote now and share your comments at TheHorse.com/polls

The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health E-Newsletter, which offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on TheHorse.com.

About the Author

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer, is a lifelong horse owner who competes with her Appaloosas in Western performance events. She is a University of Kentucky graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in Community Communications and Leadership Development, and master's degree in Career, Technical, and Leadership Education. She currently lives on a small farm in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

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