Green on Green…A lecture masked as a discussion


I think some people have this type of image in their heads when purchasing a horse…


Everyone knows the adage “green on green equals black and blue.”  But can a green horse and a green rider ever make it? Decisions like these are usually made out of lack of education, not really knowing what they are getting into, or emotion.  “He’s so pretty! I just knew we had a bond..” type of thing.

So is it always destined to fail?

Well, no.  A green rider can make it with a green horse. Stranger things have happened. I’ve helped green riders make it with green horses, and no one died or was hurt or even all that scared along the process. But it took AGES.  I’m not talking months. Each rider and each horse is very different, but depending on your individual disposition and skill set, age, fitness level, and expendable income, it could take years.


This is probably a little more realistic picture, however…

I try very hard to discourage anyone new to horses to purchase anything young or inexperienced with novice riders.  To be honest, it’s much cheaper to spend the money on a nice, gentle horse used to packing novice riders around, then to buy a green horse and fork over the money for the training needed to prepare it for it’s life with its new handlers, and for you to take lessons to learn how to handle it.  Or even worse still, purchase a green horse, give it no training, and not spend any time educating yourself.  It doesn’t get much worse than that as far as risk to your and your horse’s safety, frustration, and just an all around bad time.  If you like horses so much….don’t you want to enjoy your time around them?

Don’t you want to learn in a relaxed setting while you gain confidence and get the skills you need to handle a horse?  One who already has an idea of what to do an can fill in for you can do wonders.

I think sometimes people would stick with this much more if they were having a good time, and having a good time sometimes can mean being paired with the right horse for you.

That being said, many are out there right now with green horses and not enough ability to make it with them.

So what can you do?

A few options:

  1. Sell it.  Find a good home with an experienced horse person, and know that this may be the best life for your horse.  No matter how pretty it is or how much you love it, sitting around in your pasture because you can’t ride it without getting bucked off is not the best life for any horse. Every horse deserves the dignity of being useful and having a job to do in some capacity, and I don’t believe for most horses just being allowed to “live,” ie, eating, drinking, and milling around, is enough to fulfill their needs. Maybe for an older horse who is retired, one who is not sound, but every horse can have some purpose. Even if it’s just walking down the trail.
  2. Get committed to making it work with this horse.  Put in the time, money, and work it takes to learn what you need to know and teach your horse what he needs to know.  If you’re committed to keeping your green horse, you owe it to him to provide what he needs.  Even if you choose not to ride, he needs to be handled at some point in a way that doesnt’ scare or offend him. Vet appointments, trims, and dental work are all stressful events for a horse, and if those are the only time your green horse is handled, don’t expect a perfect picture of relaxation and cooperation.  You get out what you put in.

This may all sound stern and lecture-y, so I’ll try to balance it out with a nice success story.

One of my young students and her family bought a 6-ish year old rescue horse, an Arab who was gelded the day he was seized.  Here was a horse who had no concept of how to be ridden and how to comport himself in public (hahaha), and a very nice family who wasn’t quite sure how to handle this spirited and opinionated horse who had just crossed into the world of being a gelding (although he hadn’t quite realized it).  After about a year of riding him while teaching his little girl weekly, the two have both settled into their roles quite nicely.  This young gal has learned to prepare, plan ahead, resort to plan B, sit nicely, release in appropriate moments, and to be creative when things aren’t going as planned.  She has more tools in her toolbox than most children her age learning to ride on nice, broke horses, because nothing came to her easily.

She had to learn patience as some lessons were eaten up entirely by trying to mount him.  She had to learn resolve as some lessons were spent trying to get him to turn one way or another.  She had to learn not to take any of it personally, and to conjure up her own will without being dominating or confining.  She learned to be thoughtful without letting the moment pass her by.  And her little horse learned that having a little girl ride him was actually pretty easy, and fun.

I am incredibly proud of this young lady, and proud to say that she can catch him, tack him up, and walk, trot, and canter on her own in an open field.

So yes, she took longer to get there because her horse never “gave” her anything.  She earned it.  And because of this, maybe some day down the road she could help other people struggling to get along with their horses.

rider-hugging-horseIt’s not a way to learn to ride if you don’t have the resolve, the time, or the guts. I’m not here to totally discourage any of you out there from your green horses…I’m just saying, be prepared for the journey, and be ready to accept some flubs along the way with grace.

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