Starting Colts vs Breaking Colts

When it comes to working with young horses, trainers typically employ two distinct approaches: starting colts and breaking colts. While these terms may sound similar, they refer to two processes with unique objectives. This article will delve into equine training and explore the differences between starting and breaking colts.

The Objective: Starting Colts

Starting colts is a process aimed at introducing young horses to basic handling and riding in a safe and controlled manner. The primary goal of beginning colts is to establish a solid foundation for future training and ensure that the horse develops into a well-rounded and confident individual.

Starting a colt involves teaching them essential skills such as leading, tying, grooming, and standing quietly for veterinary care. The trainer carefully introduces tack, including saddles and bridles, and gradually familiarizes the horse with its feel and weight. Slowly, they progress to groundwork and basic riding exercises, ensuring that the young horse understands and responds to cues from the rider.

During the starting process, trainers focus on developing a positive relationship with the colt and providing a structured environment that instills trust and confidence. It is essential to progress at a pace that suits the individual horse, considering their personality, previous handling experiences, and physical development.

Starting colts typically takes several weeks, and trainers aim to achieve a solid foundation that sets the stage for specialized training in disciplines such as dressage, jumping, or western riding.

The Objective: Breaking Colts

On the other hand, breaking colts refers to training a young horse specifically for under saddle work. “breaking” can sound harsh, but it relates to breaking the horse’s resistance or initial fear of having a rider on its back.

When breaking a colt, the focus is primarily on overcoming the horse’s instinct to resist the weight and movements of a rider. The trainer introduces the horse to wearing tack and gradually introduces the concept of having a rider mount and dismount. They work on desensitizing the horse to various stimuli, including the rider’s aids.

Breaking colts often involves more intense and focused sessions than starting colts, as the objective is to establish a solid foundation for specific equestrian disciplines, such as racing or reining. In these specialized areas, horses must learn more complex maneuvers and refine their responses to the rider’s cues.

Trainers who specialize in breaking colts also prioritize exposing the young horse to real-world scenarios they may encounter in their future roles. This includes working in different environments, such as arenas, trails, and even crowded events, to ensure they remain calm and responsive.

The Importance of a Neutral Approach

Trainers must maintain a neutral and fair approach, whether starting or breaking colts. The objective is to guide the young horse patiently and consistently, avoiding using force or intimidation.

Neutral training methods help create a positive learning experience for the horse, allowing them to develop trust and confidence in their trainer and ultimately become willing partners. By using positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewards and praise, trainers can encourage the young horses to engage in the learning process willingly.

The Role of Experienced Trainers

Both starting and breaking colts require the expertise and experience of skilled trainers. These professionals possess a deep knowledge of equine behavior, training techniques and the ability to adapt their methods to suit the individual needs of each horse.

An experienced trainer understands the importance of clear communication, consistency, and patience when working with young horses. They can assess the horse’s progress and adapt their approach accordingly, always prioritizing the horse’s welfare and well-being.

Trainers who specialize in starting and breaking colts often work closely with owners to develop an individualized training plan that considers the horse’s future goals and the owner’s expectations. They can guide and advise owners, ensuring a smooth transition from the starting or breaking phase to advanced training and competition, if desired.


Starting and breaking colts are distinct processes within equine training, each designed to achieve specific objectives. Starting Colts focuses on establishing a solid foundation and developing a confident and well-rounded horse., At the same time, breaking colts concentrates on introducing the young horse to under saddle work and preparing them for specialized disciplines.

Regardless of the approach, trainers should always prioritize the welfare and well-being of the horse, employing positive reinforcement techniques and maintaining a neutral training tone. By entrusting young horses to experienced trainers who understand their unique needs, owners can ensure their colts have the best possible start to their equestrian journey.

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