View Full Version : Breaking In

budgeting (Guest)
18-04-01, 08:21 AM
I was just wondering if anyone had had a young horse broken in recently and if you could tell me how much it cost and how long if took (roughly).


Folly (Guest)
18-04-01, 09:08 AM
Just remember not to choose your 'breaker' on cost reasons...

Average charge for someone decent - $1,000 total for four weeks schooling.

18-04-01, 01:09 PM
From a professional breakers perspective, I must agree with the previous poster. You pay for what you get like anything in life. Make sure you breaker has a long track record and is a full time career professional, not a casual.

Then you have to consider what miricles the breaker has to perform on your horse. The breaker knows that not only does he have to break the horse in, but he also has to educate it and that is the time consuming part. He also knows that he must go over the top in everything that he does and to try to cover every contigency that may arise when the horse goes home, like what crazy things that owners might do that young horses will not accept. It is a tightrope.

Remember, a newly broken in horse is a green broken horse when you get it back. It has to be treated and ridden as such and a lot of attention to not doing the things you might do with the seasoned horse, must happen.

Four weeks is the absolute minimum you should force a breaker to and the increased value that you get with six weeks is amazing.

$33-35 per day with the breaker supplying feed is fine. Any less and you must start to worry about the confidence of the person.


Rosemary (Guest)
18-04-01, 01:28 PM
Got nothing much to do with anything, I suppose, but I just guess I'm feeling talkative tonight :-)

With the little bit of instructing that I do, the thing that bugs me the most is the inefficient rider who brings his/her horse to me and tells me that said horse has been "broken in" for 6 months ... and the horse is going "against the hand" .. so the "breaker" didn't "mouth" him properly. .

It would seem that every single little fault the horse has up until the age of 20 is all the fault of the "breaker".

Horseproblems .. I don't envy you your job!! The "people skills" you display on this forum are obviously the key to your success!!

Hmmm ... the last para doesn't come out quite the way I meant it. I meant to say .. "you obviously do a damn good job with the horses, and the owners (the difficult part of the equation) you can handle equally as well .."


claire (Guest)
18-04-01, 02:25 PM
Having observed a local "breaker" in action I would be petrified to send my horse anywhere. I have seen this guy tie a hobbled horse tightly to a large gum tree with NO water on extremely hot days for several hours. I have seen horses with their heads tied tightly to their chests and left in his round yard like this for hours, one day when I came by his property the horse was lying down in his roundyard still tied in this fashion several hours after I originally saw it.

Most recently I saw a horse with its head tied into a position so that his neck was bent and nose touching the saddle and left once again in this guys round yard like this.

He is a western trainer and I'm sure he prides himself on the 'quality' horses he produces, but he just makes me sick. If this is how he achieves success he has certainly earned his name as a horse breaker, cos he could only break the horses spirit with his bloody methods. I could go on and on about this guy, sadly I drive past his property twice a day and have witnessed some awful things.

I would base any decision I made on a horse trainer recommendation from people that I respected, from my observations of the trainer at work. I would certainly prefer to be present during training sessions. In an ideal world of course!

18-04-01, 02:37 PM
That's mighty kind of you Rosemary. Thankyou.

This subject though, could be developed into a very educational one for those who never see the life of the breaker. (which is almost everyone)

I had our vet ring me last night, asking would I teach people parelli to improve ground manners of horses. He had been conducting the swabbing at the Oakbank Races and saw a genuine need to help people learn better ground skills with their horses.
This surprised me as he doesn't even know anything about Parelli work, but he was open minded enough to go in search of improving the lot of horses, even when he didn't know which way to go.

That is one of the satisfying moments the horsebreaker gets but they are very far between. It seems a common passtime of a lot of the horse community to knock the hell out of horsebreakers, farriers and vets. They never go home and look in the mirror.
If they are not blameing them, they are blameing the judge, the bit, the saddle, the diet, the weather or the mare on season.

Still, I suppose it is what makes life fun and at least we have plenty to talk about over a few beers.


Krystlepurple (Guest)
18-04-01, 03:23 PM
As for breaking in i have seen so many bad jobs and bad things done to horses, I was not going to send my beautiful boy away to some bushie, so I did it myself, therefore being really cheap!! But may I suggest that before you send your horse away to be broken in handle it and lunge saddle up and play around with it for a few weeks, it will not take as long at the trainers.(Depending on the horse) Dont do anything major to start with but I have done this with all of my horses and breaking them in wasnt such a big deal at all. even put a bridle on and walk your horse around the paddock then let it eat grass and do small exercises like so. If you do lots of ground work it will pay off in the long run. I also agree with the others that say what you pay for is what you get!! This is very true. But remember not to push your horse too far too fast, take it very slowly.
Anyway good luck.

18-04-01, 03:59 PM
Good advice Krystal,

One highly important add on to that is this.

Don,t play with your horses mouth. That is the most important part and there is nothing worse than to have to cope with a mouth that has been played around with. I can categorically also say with confidence and this may surprise many, that the two biggest destroyers of young horses mouths are:

1.Side reins

2.Long reining.


Rogilla (Guest)
18-04-01, 11:39 PM
I agree with much that has been said about sending a horse to a breaker. However, I always advise people to go and watch the horse trainer working before making any committment to send their horse. And secondly, I insist that anybody who sends me a horse MUST come along as often as practical to watch in the early stages, then to handle and ride in the later stages. I have some people who come everyday and some interstate owners who can only make the trip one day a fortnight. I don't allow it and you should never accept dropping your horse off at the breaker and then waiting for a phone call to say it is ready.

I totally agree with those who said that you should avoid amateurs and use professionals. However, there are many pros out there that horrify me with their approach to training. It may surprise you Claire that I have come across several people who think that unless you tie a horse down to take the fight out of them, you haven't really done a good job. These people go out looking for trainers that work that way.

Lastly, I am not that keen on having people do lots of work with their horses before sending them to me for breaking-in. I like the owners to have the horses good to be caught and comfortable around people and good about being touched all over their body. But I am not too fussed about how well they lead, if they can already carry a saddle or whether that have experience in Parelli playland. I find that this is stuff that I nearly always have to go over anyway and it is a lot easier to do it to my satisfaction the first time then to break a habit put inside the horse by somebody else. I'd rather have a horse with no handling than a horse with poor handling.

PS: I can't agree too strongly with Horseproblems concern about owners mouthing their horses. Please, don't side-rein, long-rein or bit your horse before sending them away. Just another quick thought to that is please don't train your horse to lunge in endless circles before sending them to the breaker. There is no quicker way that I know of to teach a horse to send his mind outside of the arena than to lunge circle after circle.

budgeting (Guest)
19-04-01, 12:14 AM
Thanks everyone. Horseproblems, even though I am budgeting, I am not necessary after quick and cheap, just after a ball park which you have given me. Your advice is wonderful and I shall be very careful with my decision.


tgh (Guest)
19-04-01, 01:33 AM
An interesting , instructive, and relatively non judgemental thread .. so far well done ..hope it doesn't go downhill from here..:-)

SIS (Guest)
19-04-01, 08:03 AM
It cost me about $700 (including stabling) in 1999. I have been happy with the results thus far and am happy to recommend her if you're in the Sydney area...


Shahron (Guest)
19-04-01, 08:39 AM
I wouldn't trust anyone other than Andrew McLean's team or Rob Goodwin to "break in" my horses. Yes they are little more expensive but I know I can get on the horse at the end of the training and walk, trot and canter and my horse will 100% give me the responses I expect.

Rob has just finished breaking one horse for me and is now doing a second one. He does this from my home (even better!) but I would normally expect to pay about $280 per week for about 6 weeks if I had to include agistment.

I halter train them from foals and they can be brushed, lead, have their feet done and wormed. Because they lead, they have been on the float and other than that, they are untouched. Personally, I wouldn't do anything else with them until they've completed their initial training.

I would never, ever, ever in 10 million years send a young horse I plan to make a performance horse out of, to a western style trainer. I don't want my horse's broken - I just want them trained - that's why I use specialists (wouldn't send a ferrari to a volkswagen mechanic....... so I wouldn't send my dressage horse to a western trainer). I may contradict myself here and say that I believe the method of training (pressure/release) is the same in all disaplines, but the 'feel' I want at the end of it, is not. So, please don't anyone jump down my throat about this, it's just the result at the end is different - the first 2-3 weeks probably wouldn't make that much difference at all; but it's the finished product that matters to me personally and my experience is that often the big movement of the warmblood has been 'hampered' by the western style training when you get them back. I want a horse whose paces have improved with it's initial training, not receded. Unfortunately, most western trainers (and non western trainers for that matter) do not understand this concept - it's just different.

19-04-01, 09:44 AM
If you can train horses in dressage movements, why can't you use that same knowledge to start a young horse?
This is just an innocent question, I'm no big dressage trainer.
Also, if you can't start a young horse yourself, should you really be training it over the next most important period of it's life?
Not an attack, a serious question.

Shahron (Guest)
19-04-01, 10:32 AM
I could easily start my horses training off - but if for instance,something goes wrong (bucking, rearing, bolting) I'm not confident enough to know I could fix it on the spot. It's not my job, I don't get enough practice in these things and thus I'm not an expert at it. "Breaking in" is great as long as nothing goes wrong. As soon as it does, that's when you wish like hell you'd got an expert to do it.
I'm not willing to take the risk.
Particularly when I was overseas, I used to break young horses in all the time; all different ways; but now that I've learned a lot more and had the bad experiences with the good, I'd really rather let an expert do it. For 9 out of every 10 horses, I would never have a problem, but if I got a real feral, I don't want it to go wrong and spend the next 2 years fixing something else.
I figure that my young horses have cost me somewhere between $4000 - $8000 to get them to 3yo. I plan to have good competition horses worth $20,000+ by the time they are 5yo (elementary level at least with FEI potential). I just see the $1500 as an investment to limit my risk and ensure that my investment has the best possible return.

I guess it depends on your attitude. My young horses are my future and I'm not willing to risk that for anything. Also, another consideration is safety - I'd be working alone and things can go wrong so quickly. Again, I'd rather make this investment that spend the money on a hospital bill.

I really believe that the best possible early training comes from people who specialise in it and who have correct facilities and support/numbers to enable them to do the job safely and without incident.

That's why personally I don't do it myself.

And micarter, no offence taken whatsoever; it was a good question.

19-04-01, 10:48 AM
And that was a most excellent answer. :D

19-04-01, 10:54 AM

You are spot on in everything you say. I don't quite know how to go on with this one without causing a blue with the very good trainers who come from the western or stock horse side of things.
However, there are very few breakers who can improve your warmblood from an English point of view. Now this is not their fault, it is just what life presents you with as you go along and which way you travel when you come to the cross roads. Because most breakers come from the say the non English (dressage) background, I have to agree with you that they can not achieve totally what you are after. That is not to say that they are not very good breakers and I have to say that the best ones come from that side of the world, BUT, they don't have the sophistication to hand your warmblood over at the end of six weeks, doing the English things that you expect.
I am a very lucky man in this respect and owe that luck to my wife who rides Advanced at the moment. Over the 11 years that we have been together, I have taught her a lot and she has taught me to be able to ride and train a dressage horse and yet I am a western trainer as well. She on the other hand, has just put the polish on a western bridle path hack or what ever they call it these days and turned it from not placing to beating National horses.

So to all of you young western boys out there, aspiring to be breakers, go and have dressage lessons and you will inherit the completeness that very few have.


Shahron (Guest)
19-04-01, 11:22 AM
Thanks horseproblems. I know that there are a couple of good western-based trainers around in this country as I have heard a few good reports; but they are few and far between. I'm sure you're one of the good ones.
I have a pet 'thing' about starting young horses because by the time they get to 4-5, I'm getting horses to fix that have severe movement problems and they're starting to break down or by 6-7, it's too late to fix what could have been a sensational horse.
We are breeding such nice young horses in this country now and yet still, people wont make the investment in training them or learning how to ride them. It gets up my goat! (this is actually a really stupid saying when you think about it but you know what I mean....)

Of course, I'm not talking about all horses here - just the sort that I own. I think it's a case of horses for course; or breakers for breeds,,,, or something.

I'm really interested in hearing Rosemary's views on this because she does her own breaking-in and she works alone and lives in the middle of nowhere (well, not really 'nowhere'). She's much braver than me!

Rosemary (Guest)
19-04-01, 12:49 PM
Don't know that I'm brave, Shahron, or just stupid!! :D

This is such an interesting thread, because there's something to be learned from everybody. Me personally, I've lunged my young horses. Then got them used to the saddle, then the bridle, then put side reins on. Never to hold them into a frame, but to encourage them to stretch into a contact. Before I get on. But I hear what horseproblems and Rogilla say.

Speaking totally personally, this is the way I prefer to do it, but my experience in breaking young horses is very limited. I've really only done it for myself.

I find the lungeing (and I never let them get bored .. always keep them focused and moving forward and back, in and out, for maybe 5 minutes each way .. ) helps them to find a certain balance and bearing and helps them to later on carry a rider (me .. :7 ).

Judith NZ (Guest)
19-04-01, 01:21 PM
Like Rosemary I lunge too so am interested in why those that say don't do it feel that way. I have always lunged and driven my horses in a pretty traditional way and they all have excellant mouths. For sure they are not lunged to boredom levels. Just enough to keep them focused and obediant to aids. I donot lunge from the bit always with a good fitting lungeing cavesson.
Shahron mentioned once that Andrew McLean does not lunge. I am not familiar with his work but would be interested to know what he does in leiu of lunging. My horses are all very well handled on the ground before I get on as I have no help. They have to be quiet enough that I can trust that I can just get on myself. I always mount the first time in the stable. I've never had one buck yet so it works for me. :-) I must admit though I am always very cautious and won't get on until I am very certain that they won't throw a wobbly.

Susan (Guest)
19-04-01, 02:26 PM
Hi Horseproblems, could you please give me your views on long reining. Do you mean it is bad for the horse if amateurs do it or you do not like long reining in general. I am just curious about this as I have always been taught that it is better than lungeing. Thanks.

Susan (Guest)
19-04-01, 02:48 PM
Oooops I have just seen Patsy's thread so my question has been answered. Thank you. :)

SIS (Guest)
20-04-01, 08:13 AM
Mmm. I'm worried that some of you may be reassured by the illusion that the more you pay, the better off your horse will be ('cause we all love them so).

I guess this can be the case in a lot of things... but I feel compelled to add that being reasonably priced doesn't always mean cheap and nasty...I guess you all know that deep down, but its just nice to see that there are some proffessionals out there not charging like wounded bulls for quality work...

Tracee Males is the person who broke in/started/trained (whichever word you prefer) my horse. She is highly esteemed, uses kind methods and is well known in the Sydney area (especially in the Arab world) - and trains a lot of horses for both dressage and endurance.

She is so well esteemed that Bates asked her to represent their saddles (she uses the kimberley stock and Precieux) in some advertisements they were running.

I cannot recommend her enough - and I just wanted to convey that ... and no I'm not trying to put anyone down - I'm that chuffed with the work she has done, and the quality of instruction she continues to give me that I felt compelled to sing her praises...

I'll get off my tuckerbox now... and no - no royalties or kickbacks come my way either

Vanessa (Guest)
20-04-01, 09:00 AM
It is hard to budget for these kind of expenses,as the horse will determine the time it spends at the breakers. On average, the horse will be ready to go home in four to six weeks at around $230- per week if full livery is required.
As the others have said, do not attempt to mouth the horse yourself, it only makes the job harder for the breaker. These are the horses the owners call half broken in! Most importantly, be sure to tell the breaker of any troubles the horse has had - it can save time and therefore money!
Another point, if you are sending a horse to someone with a big "name", make sure it is actually that person breaking the horse in, not an inexperienced 16yo stable hand who works there!
I strongly recommend owners coming to our property to watch as much of the breaking in process as possible. Where possible, we encourage the owners to ride the horses here for several days before they take them home as well.
If you are interested in a service in central Victoria,please post back to me.

Folly (Guest)
20-04-01, 09:04 AM
I didn't mean in my earlier post that it's better to pay more, or that you will necessarily get better service for more money. I was purely pointing out not to choice who you choose to break in your horse based on price, but to look more into their methods.

SIS (Guest)
20-04-01, 09:17 AM
No worries Folly - I didn't think that of your post at all... and I agree wholeheartedly with what you said about the methods. Its just some of them appear to be so expensive...

Shahron (Guest)
20-04-01, 09:45 AM
I hope I don't do Andrew any injustices here but my understanding of their breaking in process is:
Week 1 - first few days, on the ground, forward, stop, left and right first in a halter, then a bridle until responses are habitual. Then the get on bareback. Same thing for a couple of days. Then the saddle goes on and hopefully the horse has a saddle buck (this is the one thing you want them to 'react' to because they have to learn there is no escape). Then into the saddle and all the same - stop, go and turn (go from the whip, not the leg as whip was the aid from the ground as well).
Week 2 - start to introduce leg and walk, trot (and sometimes canter by the end)
Week 3 - walk, trot canter
Week 4 - all of the above (plus flexion/yielding etc.)
Week 5+6 - all the different stuff like rides out, over/through stuff etc.
By the end of it, I have a young horse that is balanced to do serpentines, circles, loops, lengthen stride, leg yeild etc. that I could take out on a ride, to a competition etc. and know that I'll pretty much get exactly the same horse out (with general young horse looking).
I turn them out straight after this and then bring them back a month or so later and it's like they never had a day off. That's the bit I like the best.

I was trained to break in via the lunge but this method, I have to say, for me, this method gives me a much quieter, easier young horse. I think the key is that the horse is never allowed to take one step that isn't asked for - not running/escape. Because they are fanatical about the stop, even if they shy or hump, if you pull on the reins, the horse stops dead, always! Then because you've trained forward, a tap with the whip and horse moves off forward.
I hope that explains it, and believe me, there is a lot more to it when you watch the whole process.
You can read Andrew's current articles on THM site. New one up at the moment.


Judith NZ (Guest)
20-04-01, 11:39 AM
Thanks Shahron.
This method sounds familiar to Neil Davies. Are you familiar with his work?
I have only seen his video but what you describe above sounds pretty much the same. I have in the past always got on bareback first too although the one I am breaking in at the moment I have put a saddle on but not backed yet. She was real quiet and I lay over her a bit but I just had a gut feeling about her and rather than get on I decided to put a saddle to see what she would do. (she had been lunged in a roller) Well she absolutely broncoed for ages. Phew I am kind of glad I did not get straight on. I'm going to lunge this sucker a few more days in the saddle me thinks :-) This is the first one that has got me a bit windy about getting on on my own. I am going to have to find someone to hold her for me while I get on and then lead me around for a bit. I must be getting old :-)
Nah shes just a very large ISH and has been quite willful in the past. Shes real quiet now but I have seen what she is capable of and so am being extra cautious. :-) I'll have a look at those articles. Cheers

21-04-01, 05:37 AM
My young warmblood is currently at Andrew McLean's place. In terms of cost they charge $2000 for their 6 week breaking in process (and I think if it takes longer then the cost doesn't change). I've only been to see my boy once so far but am going up tomorrow to have my first ride (I'm so excited :-) ). He had been backed and done a lot of ground work before he went so hopefully wont be there for the full 6 weeks (he's just finishing his fourth week).

Someone else mentioned making sure the person who's "name" is attached to the place breaks the horse in rather than the 16 yo stablehand ... in large places like the McLean's you couldn't expect Andrew to break in all the horses fully, but from what I've been told it sounds like he works with them at the start or with very difficult horses, then the horse is passed along to one of their riders but still closely monitored

In comparision to the way a friend's horse was broken in by a "natural horseman", McLean's is completly different. Two aspects stand out 1. My horse has been allowed to freely go forward and the only regulation of pace has been done through downwards transitions to let him establish his own rhythm and balance (the other horse never seemed to be given that chance) and 2. Each response is trained individually and so clearly, no confusion for the horse or the owner (I hope ... I'll find out tomorrow :-) )

re: lunging and breaking ... the work I did with my horse before he went to the McLean's included long reining and lunging with the two reins (off a halter). I found that lunging from a single line really did very little for him in terms of although he learnt voice commands, as an eventual dressage horse, that isn't particularly useful (interestingly enough in the McLean's paper work they explain why they DON'T use voice commands and only use operant conditioning to get a response). The long reining was much more useful in terms of training him ready for riding as I used it to go places and explore rather than running around in small circles which is hard on a young horse.

These are just my inexperienced opinions based on very limited exposure to young horses and breaking!

Jan Heine (Guest)
21-04-01, 08:39 AM
Micarter asked further up as to why Shahron doesn't start her own horses and should she be training them at higher levels and Shahron answered very well *grin* as she always does! - I would just like to add that there are many people who are wonderful at producing and working with youngsters but are not so great with the more advanced horse and then there is obviously the opposite - those who are wonderful with the "going" horse but not necessarily great with the youngsters - neither makes either person better or worse - we all have strengths in certain areas and to me it is a smart horseperson who identifies where their strength lies. I know for example that both Michael and John Whittaker employ excellent riders for their youngsters and then Michael and John will step on them every now and then to see how they are progressing but the majority of their training both in and out of the ring is done by others - and certainly not because they are not capable - rather that they are at a stage where they don't want to be working with greenies anymore. So there are many reasons why people send young horses "out" to be trained!
One thing to the original poster - have a chat to the person you are considering using and just try and get an idea of their philosophy which will help you to feel more comfortable. For example I know one breaker who told me that if a youngster does NOT buck during the breaking process he will flog it until it does - why you may ask - because every horse has a buck in it so I may as well flog it out of him!!! Made no sense to me - anyone else see any logic in this arguement????
The other thing to possibly consider - well I do - what do you want to do with the horse - then try and take the horse to a breaker who has an understanding of the discipline you want to do. In light of this I for example have sent my first two babies to Murray Sproull who is himself an excellent showjumper and is also a professional breaker of race horses - he knows how to break horses and knows what we need from our showjumpers - the job he has done is superb so if you are in Victoria and looking for a showjumping horse at the end of your breaking please feel free to contact me and I will pass you on to Murray if you don't know how to contact him. Now having said that you guys may well jump up and down and tell me that you don't need to be discipline specific with a breaker and I would agree - was just explaining my reasoning and my humble opinion regarding who and why to choose someone - if that makes any sense! *grin*

Lis (Guest)
22-04-01, 04:07 PM
Several years ago,as a working pupil for an EFA level 3 instructor, I was required to break in 4 horses in a 6 week period. Well that's as long as I lasted there anyway. But, there was NO supervision from the owner of the property, (too busy giving lessons off farm) and I was left to my own devices. Pretty scary for an 18 yr old who had only ever seen one horse being broken and she broke her leg first time out of the round yard!!!
The instructor had not seen me ride or handle a horse. He gave me the task and he knew that I had never done it before.
I was very lucky. I didn't get hurt and the horses turned out OK, but as I said, I was very lucky.