I start horses a lot slower than I used to, and the funny thing is they advance quicker because of it.
I used to do all my first rides the same – walk, trot, and canter loose in the round pen. What I’ve found though is that every horse needs something a little different to help them gain confidence for their riding lives. Some that are energetic or maybe a little nervous might feel better being able to move through all three gaits and have me go with them. Some that aren’t so go-y might get quite anxious about being asked to go forward in a place like the round pen, and then what do they learn? Go forward out of balance with tension? No thanks.
Some I start in smaller steps. Some would be bored if I moved too slowly. They are all different, and the important thing is to ignore the comments from the peanut gallery with their comments of what you should do, and focus on what the horse needs. Some people maybe get a little pride out of cowboying around their first ride. I plan to start horses into my twilight years so I truly couldn’t care less if my first ride is a glorified pony ride, as long as the horse is learning all the right things.
This little Arab wasn’t too afraid of having me up there because he was well prepared. But the lead line helped him connect movements we’d already established on the ground and I was just a friendly backpack. This helped his first experience give him the most confidence while learning to carry a rider.