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Your experiences with starting an older horse?

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  • Your experiences with starting an older horse?

    Tell me about your experiences starting (not restarting) an older horse, over 10. Looking at a mare who's 16, never apparently even been halter broke, but not feral, just a broodmare.

    I wonder how one just never teaches a herd horse even halter breaking??
    "As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use."- William James

    Proud member of the Wheat Loss Clique.

  • #2
    Never have done it, but a while ago I asked my H/J trainer about an 8 year old mare, same thing. What she said was, that there is no way to really know just why that horse wound up in a broodmare band rather than being used. It could have ben unsound in body, or in mind, and wound up in the band rather than on the truck because it had a uterus and was registered, not even good bloodlines. So tread warily.

    I would think that a lot of the same methods used on feral horses would be the best ones to use because, lacking halter training, it is for all practical purposes feral.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible


    • #3
      I haven't started one at 16, but have worked with a few greenbeans that were around 10. My mare is coming 9 in June and I still consider her very green.

      I think that the most important thing to realize is that older horses are a bit more, "what you see is what you get", than youngstock who are still learning, developing, and growing. Not to say that they can't change, because they certainly can, but any vices or habits are going to be pretty well established and therefore harder to break. Same with conformation.

      On the plus side, you don't usually have to deal with the wonky growth spurts and teenage defiance!

      I've learned that age is just a number, and really... look at what you have right in front of you, as that is what really counts. If you feel confident in taking on the project... go for it. A lot of people make great partners out of totally wild horses, like off the range Mustangs, who I would think would be much more herd bound than a broodmare. Just start slow and take things one day at a time!


      • #4
        From what I understand- (not personal experience) It's much easier to train ANY horse who hasn't been messed with (messed up) regardless of age- than it is to retrain or bring up a horse who has gotten off to a bad start. So I would think he lack of halter breaking would be a good sign that she probably hasn't had many people experiences good or bad- and that she would likely do well with the right training. Good luck!


        • #5
          I started a 14yo pasture puff who was barely halter trained.

          It wasn't terrible. I honestly had less trouble with her than with my partially started 5yo who was just very confused about what was expected of her but is progressing nicely now that she's getting consistent cues.

          Once the ground manners were solid with the 14yo, it was pretty smooth sailing.
          She'd had no experience, but except for that she'd been allowed to evade haltering and thought it was acceptable to play hard to get and be fussy about grooming etc so she could be turned back out with her buds, she didn't have real bad experiences. No soundness issues either.

          Not sure I'd ever do it again, or with one older than that, she seemed to have been right at that point where she could easily have turned and flipped me the "I'm set in my ways and see no reason to change them for you" hoof. But it was a good experience and hopefully wherever she ended up after she went back to her owner was a good place and they're enjoying her.
          Owned by a Paint/TB and an OTTB.
          RIP Scoutin' For Trouble ~ 2011 at 10
          RIP Tasha's Last Tango ~ 2010 at ~23
          RIP In Sha' Allah ~ 2009 too young at 5


          • #6
            When I got Spy he was 10 yo, had been sat on, and sort of taught to longe.

            He was the most anxious to please horse I have ever met, and a joy to train.

            His full sister (owned by my sister) was only 6 when she got her,and had MUCH more attitude. Training her was a real adventure, but very successful in the end.

            I think it depends on the individual horsemore than just the age.

            chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


            • #7
              People do it with mustangs all the time...

              Once you get the ground manners down, starting older horses under saddle is often easier than starting young ones. They don't have the exuberance of youth to complicate the process.

              One of the best schoolmasters I've ever known was a former broodmare who wasn't broke to ride until she was 12! At 13, she was babysitting riders over 2'6" courses.
              Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


              • #8
                It depends on the horse. I do lots on the ground in order to learn the horse's mind before I get on. I do some in-hand stuff, lunging and long-lining. I do want to put pressure on a horse before I'm on his back so that I know what his response to that is.

                The good thing about an older horse is that their attention span is longer. The bad news is that that horse is psychologically an adult who never had a job. He might ask some questions about if you are really the boss of him and does he have to do what you say for as long as you say to do it. It's a fair question, but know that it's coming. Don't think of the horse as having no work ethic just because he asks it. Nothing about his previous experience told him how to be a good employee, that's all.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat


                • #9
                  We started many feral horses and best we could age then by their teeth, they were from 4 to 9+ years old, not sure how old on the older ones, of course.

                  Those horses had never even seen a human before and all learned just fine, the young ones or the real old scrubby ones, all were still stallions and we took care of that quickly.
                  The only one of the probably three dozen feral horses we had problems with was a four/five year old mare that had an old bad back injury and one four year old now gelding that just never quit being way too spooky, watchy and unpredictable, that we finally made a wagon horse out of him, he took to like a duck to water and quit trying to ride him.

                  With a horse that has been a broodmare, I would be more careful of what story comes with her, if she was truly never started or started and had some problem you need to watch for.

                  16 seems a little old to want to train a horse from scratch, but why not?
                  If you want to do that, I would not let her age matter.
                  Let us know how it goes, that would be interesting to know.


                  • #10
                    My anglo arab mare was unbacked when I got her somewhere in her early to mid teens (Id have to look it up as I cant remember), and she was fine, completely fine.
                    I would say she was about the easiest horse I'd backed up to that point.
                    She's a nice ride, a bit firey but safe and willing, probably what she would have been like had she been backed as a 4 year old, I dont know.

                    She wasn't backed as she was a bugger to catch back then, and the prior owners had too many horses and not enough time to spend on something they couldn't catch.


                    • Original Poster

                      I'm not sure of the story on this mare, but I would keep her as a broodmare, but want to give her a job for after breeding, in 3 years or so. I will find out more about her temperament, but was thinking, if she is quiet and trainable, maybe in 4-5 years she could be a good horse for a kid or therapy or something...just so she has a job..not just a mama.

                      I'm just pondering on it, haven't asked all the questions yet. I'd have to contact her former owners before the ones who have her now, to get any back story.

                      Sounds promising from all your stories. Now I need to know hers...

                      "As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use."- William James

                      Proud member of the Wheat Loss Clique.


                      • #12
                        It depends on the horse. I've started a couple older broodmares and restarted a couple old buggy horses who hadn't been ridden in years. Some are easy and take to it like a duck to water, and some are confused and resistant. I start them like any other younger horse. Time and consistency. It's hard to judge their personality until you start working with them. One pony broodmare is the quietest, sweetest thing to handle. She had a buck like I've never seen once we started riding her!


                        • Original Poster

                          Well, so far all I can tell is, since she's branded and was bought from a sale FROM that brand's ranch, that she probably was born there, and became a range broodmare, never bothered to halter break her, as who does that with 50 broodmares? Easier to run em in stocks and deal with it, breed free range.

                          So I'm guessing, if her temperament is kind, she'll learn quickly. Still not sure if I want to take the chance....sigh... Thanks for all your stories...
                          "As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use."- William James

                          Proud member of the Wheat Loss Clique.


                          • #14
                            My very first legit event horse was a 13 yo grade gelding who, though saddle broke, basically had 2 speeds and only followed the horse in front of him. He had zero brakes other than what the horse in front of him had. he didn't stand to be mounted...basically he was halter broke and you could sit on him. No real steering, didn't stand to be mounted... but he was a kind soul with a streak of brave that I wish I could have in every horse I own. The plus with the boy was that he'd seen all sorts of crazy and would get on a trailer with, "Let's go, boy" and you point to the trailer.

                            The first year I had him was little different from having a young horse except there were no young horse sillies to contend with. He came to me being ridden in some spade bit, bicycle chain curb chain contraption in case he ever took off. I switched him to a tom thumb pelham and tried to ride off the snaffle rein as much as possible. Continued to graduate to softer bits the more broke he got. He left me as an older horse no longer sound enough to event, being ridden in a hot dog/dog bone snaffle. My experience with him was such that I wouldn't shy away from breaking/re-breaking an older horse.

                            While I wouldn't go looking for an older horse necessarily, breaking a nice, quiet older broodmare with a good brain wouldn't scare me away. So long as she wasn't dangerously reactive... And, for me, I wouldn't be paying for said horse. There are far too many critters available to pour a lot of resources into making up a horse that old. There are no guarantees with any of them, but still...

                            Good luck whatever you decide to do!