“Stacy, is it true when people say “you will ruin your first horse?”-Lindsay H.

My first equine was a very well trained pony.

My first equine was a very well trained pony.

I guess it depends on how you look at it. I know from experience that you will make more mistakes with your first horse because you are learning…but that is also true with your first dog and your first child. Does that mean that the horse will be ruined? Not necessarily. Safety should be the primary goal for both horse and owner in all situations. When I think of a horse being ‘ruined’ I think of a dangerous horse. A horse can learn to be dangerous either on the ground or when being ridden and it is easier for a new horse owner to miss the warning signs. Horses that learn they can bully humans usually don’t have a great future. The question might be: Is it hard for a new horse owner to avoid creating a dangerous horse?

Let’s go back to the first dog or the first child idea. How do those people handle the ‘first time’ part? People with similar interests tend to hang out together and they learn from each other. They read books, watch YouTube videos and join clubs. Many people take lessons before becoming first time horse owners and then they continue taking lessons after purchasing their horse. Barns that offer this type of lesson program often build an entire culture that supports the new horse owner. Getting involved with a professional is a great way to prevent major mistakes from going unnoticed.

It is also true that if your first horse is an old pro then it is less likely that you will ‘untrain’ with your mistakes as quickly as you would with a more impressionable young horse. Older horses with experience may seem more expensive in the beginning but if well trained they should contain valuable information that makes them more solid and often less expensive in the long run.

I know that when I look back at the first ten or so horses I trained, I have no doubt that if I had them again now I could do a much better job. Does that mean they were ruined? No. Did they reach their maximum potential? No. Were they dangerous? No. Can I live with that? Yes.