starting an older horse????


New Member
Aug 31, 2006
Hi, id like some advice and oppinions on starting a 10 year old mare.
She is a very placid big mare(18hh) and is very used to contact, leading, rugging up and is very responsive to everything. i bought her from a friend who was going to start her but due to work commitments couldnt.
id like to know if i should follow the same methods as starting a youngster or do i need to do things a bit differently?
i have started a good few youngsters before but this will be my first time with an adult mare.
any advice greatly appreciated x


New Member
Sep 14, 2005
Ontario, Canada
Hmmm not familiar with sites on the web (I don't surf that much, too busy being lured on here:D ).

Well, a good start would be lungeing & long reining. The fact that she already accepts contact is one step ahead for you. As well as the fact that because she's older, you don't need to be as paranoid about her legs as you would with a youngster.

And having said that, you could go over some trot/ground poles.

Has she had some weight on her back yet? If not, continue with tacking her up & doing ground work, lungeing & long reining work with her until she is very comfortable with it all.

When I was training my mare, I would include touching her everywhere, then climbing on top of a surface & doing the same, then lean across & pet her everywhere, then leave her alone.

Anytime this was pushing the boundaries of comfort for her, I'd stop (not back away though) & scratch her in her favorite spot. She started associating both & that's what helped us progress in her training.

Once she was ok with me sitting on her back with or without a saddle, I started using my son as my helper. That took a while for her to get used to. And unfortunatly that's where I stopped with her 6 yrs ago (I think).

I actually got to ride her for 10min at a walk.

Do you have someone that can help you when you need an extra pair of hands?
Do short sessions but often & vary it so she won't anticipate what is about to happen. She'll actually look foreward to it & wonder what's on the agenda.


New Member
May 8, 2006
I agree with LMS - same steps as with a youngster.
You may find that (given she'll probably have more life experience than a youngster) she picks some things up ridiculously quickly, and other (really simple) things she struggles with.
But the same can apply to any youngster (as I'm sure you're aware), so be aware of her history - but don't obsess over it :) .

also i fear i may be a little rusty, is there any good websites around with some steps on it

In that case I suggest you either send her away for some proffessional breaking (to start you off ;) ), or ask someone less rusty to give you a hand.
I'm sure you're more than capable, but it's often nice to have a back up there.
Depends on how rusty you are really - if you've done it all before and feel happy to give it a go, then this board will (I'm sure) be very helpful :) .


Well-Known Member
Apr 16, 2000
I have started some older, less handled mares, and given it up as a bad job.

They were so set in their ways that to let them go to an unknown home wouldn't have been fiar on anyone.

BUT the mare you have has been handled and not just left as a brood mare, so I don't anticipate any major problems.

My old stallion wasn't started in harness or under saddle until he was 12, he tooke to it all like a duck to water. We have another 10 year old brood mare, who has taken a saddle as if she has been ridden all her life. I anticipate no problems with her, yet a 4yo mare we have started took great exception to the saddle.

Play it by ear, and take it at the speed the horse dictates.


Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2003
i started my mare at a later age, shes 13. I pretty much did things as i would do with a youngster. i started off doing in hand leading work getting her stopping and backing and yielding to light pressure, then introduced tack and did some in hand work with tack on, i did this for a good while, maybe a month or 2. then sat on her, and did more groundwork and small walks up and down the road ridden and walks out around the lanes in hand while waiting for an appropriate saddle to start more work in. got her used to traffic by driving cars down the road next to her and got used to other horses riding next to her and dogs running while she was ridden. then started hacking her out at walk when i had perfected the stop on the private road. introduced small trots, and then longer trots, and today introduced canter for a few strides.


Apr 29, 2002
Echo Wally some are so 'unpeopled' that they would never become a safe proposition others can work well. Plan to do what you would with a youngster up to backing but then include a lot more working with other horses than you would with a youngster horse as it seems to settle them to realise that what they are doing is 'normal'

We have just restarted an 11 year old who had had the basics done but came with dire warnings about various problems including not cantering or being catcheable ..oh and you need to throw the rider on and let her walk off immediately.

Six weeks later she is working in the riding school with competent teenagers mounting from a block and yesterday joined in with walk to canter transitions and canter leg yield exercises. The big break through came when she started copying the others and going into canter.


New Member
May 17, 2005
Paitcence, as she is older she may be a little more set in her ways, but you've just got to keep repeating repeating repeating! Once you have got on her, even at just a walk you must ride her when ever you can! I have backed an older horse, but I had less problems then a younger one, despite him never being handled before. :) :confused:


New Member
Jan 26, 2004
You can mostly follow the same standards you would follow if you were starting a youngster, but without all the worry of joints and over loading their brains. However, an older horse may take longer to train because they'll be more set in their ways. If she's basically been handled but unridden (and thus hasn't learned any bad habits), that shouldn't be a problem, though. As long as she makes steady progress, don't worry about it. If it's slow but stady progress, it should stay with her. :)
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New Member
Aug 31, 2006
Thanks for all the help here guys,
I've done a lot of groundwork with her and also whenever my daughter goes out riding i lead her alongside.
When i say rusty its just that its been a year or so since i did this but i have a couple of very able helpers and im looking forward to it, im in no rush and will happily take this at the mares speed.
once again thanks, its lovely having horsey people to chat to lol.
im sure ill be around for a while with questions and ill even try to get some pics of her next time im at the yard (shes beautiful) 18hh tb x warmblood but very solid.


Oct 21, 2005
i started my 13 y.o ex brood mare about 20 months back

here she is on a september fun ride, this sept just gone


my brother was riding her

what a proud mummy moment that was, i can tell you.

go for it i say :D

eta i started her in exactly the same way i would start a youngster.
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New Member
Aug 25, 2006
I'd say the main difference is they can be a bit set in their ways, and also have matured a certain shape due to their natural riderless way of going ,so will possibly take a bit longer for the muscles to 'work' in the correct way.
I started one of my horses at 7 and felt he had a bit of an attitude "I don't want to do this i just live in a field and do my own thing..thanks!" I didn't want to get into arguments with him, and always felt he got argumentative when I asked for a bit more/ something new etc, so I would back off, do something he could do well, and ask again when he became more co-operative. That worked for my boy, he is really good at learning new stuff now, and I almost feel he tells me that doesnt need to practice stuff over and over again! (but he is an arab x)

Good luck, It may be a bit more difficult but hopefully not impossible with patience.


New Member
Jul 4, 2006
Ahhh your in Australia which means you will be able to get hold of a book ( I actually found it at the local library) by Tom Roberts called Horse control training of the young horse (forget about the young word in the title) It is excellent as it goes through in the correct order what you have to do to train them. I would highly recommend it. Good luck with your project:)
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