Starting colts versus breaking horses, do you know the difference?

I have spoken to many people who claim to be very well educated when it comes to horses, but the moment they refer to “breaking horses” or “breaking colts” I am automatically turned off and have lost interest in whatever they say next. I am in no way a professional when it comes to training horses, this is just my opinion based on my personal experiences. 

Many people in this day and age could not tell you the difference between starting a colt and breaking a colt. Let me explain. Starting a colt basically means you and that colt are working together as a team to achieve a long-term goal. You are asking for that horse to work with you, not demanding. You are firm but not forceful. When he pulls back from being unsure, you give him his head, speak softly and try again. When he pauses going forward, under the saddle you encourage him to continue. They have feelings and a mind. They are not dumb nor are they are not a machine.

Horses are pleasing animals by nature and they seek your approval.

When I start a colt I am not forcing him to do anything. At the end of the day I want to know my young horse did what I asked because he wanted to do it, that is key. I look at starting a colt as a long-term relationship I am trying to cultivate.

Whether the horse is my own personal companion or one I am working with for someone else I want the horse to trust.

Trust is crucial.

If you do not trust the massive animal underneath you (or he doesn’t trust you), things could go terribly awry. Now, I interpret “breaking horses” to be an old cowboy term. Breaking a colt is completely different than starting one.

The word “breaking” in the horse word literally translates to, “breaking their spirit”. Does that sound pleasant? I didn’t think so either. You are forcing that animal under fear and intimidation into doing what you want. Under those terms, you are not creating the animal to trust you or anyone else.

Once a horse has lost all trust in a human, it is extremely hard to regain it.

When starting a young horse I want to have peace of mind knowing that if I end up handing the reins over to someone else, I have handed them a loving animal willing to please and learn.

Horses are my passion. I am absolutely intrigued with them. They are magnificent animals! The feeling I get when accomplishing a goal and working as a team is beyond rewarding.

I would love to hear from you on how you handle younger horses needing a little direction in life!


Emily Griffin
October 31, 2018