Article Archives

Starting your own colt
Colt Starting Quiz
Problem Horses, part 1
Fear Problems, part 2
Bad Actors, part 3
The Cold Backed Horse
Want to Compete?
Bit Basics
Going Places
Common Sense, Horse Sense
Horsemen's Christmas
Rainy Day Training
Try Something Different!
Green Broke
Resolution Time
Going in Circles
Hot Enough for Ya?
Pleasure or Equitation?
Return to Work Carefully
Saving your "Good Stuff"
Holding Western Reins
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Cold Weather Warm Up
Expect the Unexpected, 1
Expect the Unexpected, 2
Bad Attitude
Horse of a Better Color?
Power of Exercise
Importance of the Herd
Bath Time
Even Up
Choosing a Martingale
A Good Night's Sleep
Alternative Therapies, Part One
Alternative Therapies, Part Two
Get the Most out of a Clinic
Blanket or No Blanket?
Does Practice Make Perfect?
A Change of Pace
The Power of Observation
On Line Horse Trading
The Right Horse at the Right Time
Putting On A Show
Weather Or Not
A Lifetime of Stall Cleaning
Water Obstacles
Who's Your Trainer?
Make a Long Day Easier

A Good Place to Start

For many of us, the challenge and joy of training our own horse offers a great deal of satisfaction. While some dream of doing the whole process, perhaps even breeding our mare, raising the foal and then training it, others take on a somewhat abbreviated version by buying a prospect and then training or retraining for the job we wish the horse to do. Either way, starting with the right prospect can greatly improve our chances for success.

Raising a foal to adulthood and training is full of risks. One can spend a considerable amount of money and time just getting the foal born, and there are years of opportunity for problems before we ever start riding the youngster. Then there is choosing the right combination of mare and stallion, and hoping that the result you are hoping for is the one you get. A friend once told me that breeding a 14 hand tall horse to a 16 hand tall horse would not necessarily result in a 15 hand tall horse, and while that is a humorous simplification, I do understand what he meant. Taking time to research and consider the bloodlines, personality and temperament of both the mare and the stallion can improve your odds of getting a foal with the traits you desire, but even then there is an element of chance. Even when everything else works out right – I got the temperament, size, ability, conformation, even the color, that I was hoping for -- it was a colt when I wanted a filly.

If you are quite certain that you want specific traits, then purchasing a prospect is a safer bet. Still, starting with the right prospect will make your training job easier. When I am advising people who are looking for the right horse, I encourage them to make a detailed list of what they MUST have … and another list of what they would LIKE to have. For example, if the horse is for a beginner or child, the MUST list might include being safe and well trained, where as the LIKE list might include a long mane and tail. Or if you are an experienced Eventer, and your desire is to compete, that MUST list had better include traits such as soundness, braveness and jumping ability, where as the LIKE list might have breed or previous experience. The list is different for everyone, but sitting down and identifying what you really want in a horse will make your search easier for all. And, don’t forget on your list to include the price you are willing or able to pay for the horse.

Armed with your lists, you can now begin searching for the ideal prospect, but don’t forget a very important element that is really on a list of its own – the emotional reaction we have for horses. I always warn about overusing our emotional reaction – we see a beautiful horse, or a needy horse, or some aspect that sets our emotions into play – and that’s what we buy even if the rest of the list is forgotten! It’s dangerous to completely abandon the list, yet it’s also important not to discount the emotional reaction because many times that “gut reaction” is guiding us to the right horse.

The best horses I have ever found, for myself and for others, elicited an emotional response. I was looking at horses who had the qualities within my lists, but when I saw the right horse there was also an intuitive reaction; this is the horse. This might take time, and looking at a lot of horses – even nice ones – but if a prospect meets the demands of my MUST list, and maybe some of my LIKE list, and elicits that emotional response, I follow up.

There is one more list; the horse’s list, and if I get the emotional response, perhaps that the horse is looking for me, too.


Doris Eraldi of Eraldi Training in Potter Valley, specializes in training for all around horsemanship. She can be contacted at 707-743-1337, or by e-mail

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