Young Horse Tips?

So I recently got a new horse.He is an OTTB out of Frost Giant and only had one start. He’s barely 3 and has a big personality (typical chestnut).
We’re giving him some let down time to finish maturing. For the time being, groundwork is going to be the focus.
If anyone has any tips or tricks to help him become a well rounded horse, please share!

Here he is👆


For you - focus on what you want him to do. Correct his misbehaviour by telling him to do this thing. He’s got hundreds of options if you’re telling him don’t do that. He’s unlikely to choose the one you want. :wink:


Let him settle into his new home before you start teaching.

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For sure! I’m planning to give him some time off to play around and be a horse before we start training.

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I’m stealing the term off of Tamarack Hill Farm’s Facebook page, but it describes perfectly what I did when I got my 3 year old OTTB (he’s 11 now, how did that happen!!?)and what I’ll do with my next young horse (if there is a next!)

We puttered in the ring, installing the basics over time. We puttered over tiny jumps. We puttered with friends out on the trail. We even “puttered” foxhunting (first hound exercise right around the time he turned 4). In a way, expectations were low because these were meant to be low-pressure asks. But as @RedHorses said, I did the best I could to get him to do what I wanted him to do, not what he wanted to do (or thought he should/could do).

We did everything I hoped to eventually do, but in a low-key way. I think what I like so much about the term “putter” is the association in my mind of someone puttering in a woodshop or something like that. No deadlines, nothing to manufacture and sell, not much of a pre-defined product, just playing and working to improve skills and see what you can create.


Lots of think breaks.
Don’t t flood or overstimulate with aids while he’s processing.


Boy does your guy look like a Frost Giant mare I knew.

She was… something. I hope your guy is… something else.

Like others have said, don’t have a time frame. Show him lots of new things in low pressure environments, so he learns to look to you when he’s unsure. Tons of hacking - at his age, I wouldn’t be focused on much in the ring other than installing steering and brakes (slowly, “puttering”). He’s growing yet, and isn’t nearly fully matured. Keep sessions short and sweet, quit on “good enough” and remember at his age you can’t possibly get him tired without risking him physically.

At that age, I do make sure they know that under no circumstances will I tolerate being run over or drug around - not if he’s scared, not if he’s excited, not never. Some this comes easy, others… takes some time.



Mine was a young 4 when I got him and we took 2 months and just learned to be. Literally, just hang out and walk quietly when craziness was around us, loose reins at w/t/c under saddle, meander around the property, walk over stuff, go through water, etc.

I did go through a bunch of Warwick Schiller ground work and found it super helpful as well. Helped build lots of trust and communication tools between us.

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I got mine at just three the other year. It is such a fun experience bringing the young ones along!

Routine is good–get him into your barn’s routine of feeding, turnout, etc. I like making “work” part of that, but it doesn’t have to be undersaddle stuff. Things like learning to deal with clippers, handwalking out on some trails, etc is work to. I did a good bit of in-hand stuff because I showed mine in Hunter Breeding a little, which I think was fantastic for her–it got her off the property, learning about being braided and trailering and being on a showgrounds in a nice low-impact way.

We kept rides short and sweet, usually 20 minutes or less but we did a couple of slightly longer walking trail rides. Introduced simple things like walking over poles, moving off the leg, going through a creek, etc. I had no real timeline at all on what we were doing under tack that first year though, and did a lot of just walking around out on our barn’s XC course. Lots of praise, lots of time to let them figure it out and come to the right answer.


My biggest advice for you and what someone has mentioned already is time to let the brain make the connections.

Explain something, get the try or a semblance of what your asking and release all pressure. If your on board this means walk breaks, relax contact, stay quiet for a couple minutes or let him quit if he was having a hard time and finally got it. I had a day where my youngster was spooking with the other horses in the arena and snow sliding off the roof. I went back to basics and as soon as he relaxed for a half lap which I was asking him to do, I halted and jumped off, let the girth out. That’s a huge reward. Less is more, honestly.

An old trainer once explained the neurological side of how horses learn at differing ages. It seriously is true. I can’t remember the exact times but it was similar to this, give or take.

A 2y/o will take 2 days (roughly) to generate a new brain connection and commit the task you were teaching to memory. Essentially the ‘ah-hah’ moment. 3 y/o roughly 36 hours, 4 y/o 24hours and gradually decrease .

So, give a younger horse more time to think/time off after teaching something.

Good luck! OTTBs are so rewarding

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