Saddle Breaking The Miniature Horse --

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Boss Mare

Well-Known Member
Aug 17, 2003
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Mechanicsville, MD
A friend of mine for my Birthday bought me the cutest Miniature Horse western saddle and bridle set. I have a few Miniature Horses that are of good size and age to lead small child around occasionally, but how do I go about saddle breaking a Miniature Horse? I have experience breaking the full sizes, but I am stumped on how to actually get them used to a rider, since obviously I can't do it myself.

Hi Mish, you do it just the way you would do any horse. I've saddle trained lots of ponies to do anything a big horse can. For some reason I trained Holly to saddle. No leading about it either, she'll ride a kid and doesn't have to be led. She's got a turn on her and brakes like you can't believe and I put a little slow western pleasure jog and lope on her too. It's awesome. I just bit her up in a little egg butt snaffle and ground drove her a while to put turns and stops etc. on her. She has a natural head set and was right on the bit so I didn't mess with her face at all. Got her used to a saddle pad and saddle. Spent some time in the round pen after that and she's good to go. Now if she was just a few feet taller........... Too bad I don't have anyone to ride her though.....
Boss Mare said:
I have experience breaking the full sizes, but I am stumped on how to actually get them used to a rider, since obviously I can't do it myself.
I had the same dilemma, only I don't have an actual saddle. So lacking other ideas, I've spent a lot of time carefully throwing my leg over Kody when he is eating (making sure I've got one hand braced on a wall so if he moves and makes me lose my balance I don't come down on top of him). I also bend over him like a sack of potatos (again keeping my weight off him) and bump my arms along his sides like a small child would do with their legs. At first he objected mildly to this but now he ignores me entirely. At that point I figured he was as safe as he was going to get and allowed my friend to put her young son on his back during a walk with her holding firmly onto the kid and me with a good grip on the horse. We did it like the handicapped riding facility I used to volunteer at- one leader, one sidewalker for the child. Kody's head and neck got very tight and his ears went crazy flicking back and forth but the worst he did was try to walk out from under the boy. After just a couple moments he got used to that living weight and relaxed.

So, um, I guess my advice would be break them to the equipment like you would a big horse, do what Marty said about getting them broke to the signals, and then use your own arms and such to get them used to something live moving on their backs. Light potato sacks maybe too? I think as long as someone who knows horses is holding the child securely most minis do fine with just putting the kid on their back and leading them around. Having a saddle dulls all that scary sensation anyway, so if they are used to trotting around with the stirrups bouncing they're probably good to go.

The one thing I do that might add to Marty's post is put tiny tots on their backs when I can...if they are safe. My two yearlings and stallion all accept weight to lead from the pen to their grazing...twice a day. I have a saddle, but no kids brave enough to try riding my driving gelding! Once they turn three, I let my daughter sit on them, if I think they will allow it...(my bigger ones that is).
Something I did for horses I was not sure about in the past. Will down size it.

Working with a western saddle with those leather strings on the 4 areas you see them on western saddles. Take a 10lb to 20lb feed bag, preferably those cloth type ones. Securely tie short rope loops on each corner of the bag. Place the bag carefully on the mini making sure the weight is even in the saddle, feed the strings that are on the saddle through the loops in a slip knot. Make sure all is snug.

That way they get used to the weight of a rider, without putting a young rider at risk.

Let them stand for a bit to get used to the weight, Then go for a hand walk.
I always wondered about this...great topic...I figured you would need to put some weight on them before actually putting a child up there. Let us know how it works out...anyone ever have them buck during this training process????
My horse was used to a child on his back, but the saddle was different! I put it on him, and took him for a walk. He tried to lay down and roll a couple of times--get this thing off me! After a few walks, he resigned himself. I have trouble finding fearless children the right weight to use for training...

Heck yea, Holly was a real bad bucker for the first few days in the round pen under saddle. It's just a matter of getting used to stuff on her back and hanging stuff all over here. I stuffed a pillow case with a wide assortment of junk and tied it on and let it move about! And plenty of stuff that would cling and clang and shift around a lot in the pillow case on her back. The more junk you can find to load up on there that moves around in the sack, the better it is. That simulates a child who won't sit still and gets them used to weight leaning back and forth and from side to side. I tied more junk to those leather straps behind the saddle seat too. Figure that lots of tiny kids will "knee" the horse and crawl around on top the saddle before they actually sit down, so I prepare the horse for that such stuff in training.

Now if you really want to add some serious reining stuff on a mini like I put on Holly so a kid can ride by "themselves"and my other ponies, this is what I did for that:

Bear with me, this is hard to explain, but first of course this is done after you have done your ground driving and your horse reponds to direct reining etc. This is how you get a jam up finished pony: How to teach them to rein and yield to leg pressure like a kid would ride if taught right:

Ok you put the horse between your legs like you are riding. And you assume the position of a rider, but of course you don't sit down on the horse. And you pick up the reins right there and work them like that. Now, you are moving your legs and feet around, in baby steps keeping contact with your horse's sides and bumping her sides with your knees, calves, and turning and turning and manipulating them from side to side, which ever direction you want to be turning. It's hard doing this on a larger pony without loosing your balance and accidently plopping down in the saddle every now and then, but so simple with a little mini, but you have to keep one leg off and one leg on them to push them over just like you would do if you were mounted. About where a small child would be kicking them in the sides etc. You just keep pushing them around, one side and then teach the other side. Man, you can get one heck of a 360 on a pony like that too. Like I said, my ponies could do anything my big horses could do.It's really a lot of fun.

Now if you think about it: you are "towering" over these little horses and ponies, where are they going to go, and what are they going to do, and they know it, and they are not about to want to rear either because they know you got them and can clunk them real quickly if they do, but I think that's why I never had a pony rear on a kid and got a lot of them broke to death for kids like that and off they go on their merry way. Still wish I had a small enough kid though!

I got some pictures here somewhere I'll post as soon as I find them of Holly being trained like I am describing
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Michelle, Dona at Kickapoo has broken some of hers to ride so I'm sure she'd be happy to give you some suggestions.
I have trained five to ride in the last six years--two that I used for little kids with a therapeautic riding program. I started them using a saddle and then adding my God-daughter (who was 2 when we started the first one) with a parent whose arm stayed around her waist. The mini could already walk, trot and whoa on voice command, btw. Then we just started taking short walks. I started ground-driving the horse also. By the time they are ground driving really well they are great little leadline ponies. lol When I first started letting a student (who was 5 and about 40 lbs) ride I used a thin lead off of each side of the halter and let the boy steer (again, practiced from the ground by me first) with me holding the very end of a 6' lead. Then we progressed to the end of a lungeline. That little guy had the first mini we trained like that doing QH style trail work! Oh yes...that little guy also has cerebral palsey and they now own my Arab mare that he rides--6 years later. :D We used friends and family members kids to train the rest of the minis the same way. It is REALLY funny to watch a 5 year old on a 35" mini do barell racing! lol

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I train my minis the same way Marty does. I've trained several and had them all come out really well. The one I have now rides really well and we can go in sync with eachother. I "ride" him quite a bit because I don't have any kids small enough around here. I actually have him broke well enough to rope a small play dummy like a steer on him. Lope down the arena, and when the other person on foot turns it off he will turn in and then stop and back when I rope, just like my big horses. People really get a kick out of seeing it. Good luck with yours, but it really isn't that hard.

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