Is it true when people say "you will ruin your first horse?"

“Stacy, is it true when people say “you will ruin your first horse?”-Lindsay H.

My first equine was a very well trained pony.

My first equine was a very well trained pony.

I guess it depends on how you look at it. I know from experience that you will make more mistakes with your first horse because you are learning…but that is also true with your first dog and your first child. Does that mean that the horse will be ruined? Not necessarily. Safety should be the primary goal for both horse and owner in all situations. When I think of a horse being ‘ruined’ I think of a dangerous horse. A horse can learn to be dangerous either on the ground or when being ridden and it is easier for a new horse owner to miss the warning signs. Horses that learn they can bully humans usually don’t have a great future. The question might be: Is it hard for a new horse owner to avoid creating a dangerous horse?

Let’s go back to the first dog or the first child idea. How do those people handle the ‘first time’ part? People with similar interests tend to hang out together and they learn from each other. They read books, watch YouTube videos and join clubs. Many people take lessons before becoming first time horse owners and then they continue taking lessons after purchasing their horse. Barns that offer this type of lesson program often build an entire culture that supports the new horse owner. Getting involved with a professional is a great way to prevent major mistakes from going unnoticed.

It is also true that if your first horse is an old pro then it is less likely that you will ‘untrain’ with your mistakes as quickly as you would with a more impressionable young horse. Older horses with experience may seem more expensive in the beginning but if well trained they should contain valuable information that makes them more solid and often less expensive in the long run.

I know that when I look back at the first ten or so horses I trained, I have no doubt that if I had them again now I could do a much better job. Does that mean they were ruined? No. Did they reach their maximum potential? No. Were they dangerous? No. Can I live with that? Yes.




  1. Ruth Hall on November 30, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    This is a very old post, but I want to throw in my two cents worth. At 55, I bought my first horse. No vet check, no experienced friend. I had read lots and thought I knew what I was doing. I knew I didn’t want one too young, she was 8. I had no desire to compete, only interested in trail riding. She was a very experienced trail horse. I knew I didn’t want a speed demon, she is very laid back, in fact, as I learned to ride, I figured out she is really S.L.O.W! We have ridden everywhere. On the beach, in the mountains, forests, parades, and she is my certified mounted search & rescue horse. I had ridden rented ponies when I was a child, never had a lesson. Got the horse home, only tack I had was the halter and lead rope the seller gave me. I was so extremely lucky to get a good horse. I’m not sure if it was her training, her experience, her being foundation quarter horse bred, her concern for keeping the wobbly beginner safe, her intense laziness, or the grace of God that made us such grand partners. We have ridden thousands of miles in the last 10 years. I’m still not a “proper” rider, but I have fair rein management, a good deep seat, fair leg clues, and a horse that puts up with me. We have been winning first place ribbons in trail challenges. And she is great looking for lost people. I can just watch her ears and find the lost. She is amazing. At the time, I felt I paid too much for her. Now she is priceless to me. And she is a beautiful buckskin.

  2. Jennifer Clements on February 5, 2015 at 9:11 am

    My first horse was a very green Chincoteague pony which could have been a recipe for disaster but really turned out excellently not only for me but for the whole neighborhood of kids who ended up learning to ride and handle horses on that amazing pony named Sniffles. I was not on my own at 9 years old, my mom had ridden for years, we had many experienced trainers nearby and a couple older girls from 4H who didn’t have a pony of their own to show who all helped make her awesome! when me and my sisters plain out grew her we gave her to a family with 6 little kids 🙂 my next horse was the old hand and he taught me different things. neither got “ruined” and I think it was because of continuing education on all fronts

  3. Rosie on February 5, 2015 at 5:19 am

    The trick is to have a savvy experienced horse for your first horse, then you will learn from him. Next, find lots of friends to help you with the next one.

  4. Debbie on February 5, 2015 at 12:07 am

    As Stacy writes, I agree it’s possible if you allow your horse to become a bully. Horses are intuitive; they read people within the first 30 seconds of watching us (two-leggeds). So what’s our approach, our motivation? If it’s from an honest place, wanting the best for our horse, our horse will realize this–no matter how many mistakes we make. We all have to start somewhere. My approach w/my first horse, at the age of 53, was that this magnificent creature was my teacher. And he was the most patient and best teacher! Choose your first (first-grade) teacher wisely. And the more we allow ourselves to learn (about our equines and ourselves), the more they share with us. No graduation. But a beautiful partnership.

  5. Helen Johnson on February 4, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Our first horse was 3 when we bought him and quite green. He is 20 this year. He is the best horse we own. He goes western and english, He went from the seller directly to a trainer for a couple of months. We took him home and rode him for a while, we were taking lessons at the time also. When we encountered problems, Danny went off to another trainer to further his education, as we knew we weren’t sufficiently knowledgable to train him. When she though he was ready the trainer coached us too. When he came home we rode for a while and then my daughter who was taking lessons in the hunter jumper discipline at the time, boarded him at the barn she was training at and Dan was taught by her coach to jump and then they went showing for a while. We joined a club and did lessons and parades with him. Later daughter went off to college and Dan went to a local stable where he became a school horse and taught little kids how to canter and how the hunter ring works. After 3 years it was time for him to come home again. Hubby rides him as a trail horse now, occasionally. Our grandaughter did pony club with him last year. He had just taken his young rider to become year end Champion in their division. He had nothing more to prove. He is calm and steady as a rock. He will go when asked but never runs away, rarely spooks, He is gentle and kind. So no, you don’t ruin your first horse if you get help when you need it and help when he needs it. Dan has given us a lot in the past 16 years. I hope he continues to do so for a few more years.

  6. Val on February 4, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Only ever had 1 horse, loved him for 1r years until he died, yes, we learnt together, but, no, only way he may have been ruined was well looked after.

  7. Guy Ramsey on February 4, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Nope, our first horse lives with us. Her third owner has her boarding with us. Both are wonderful members of our extended family.

  8. Krissy on February 4, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    As someone with their first horse, I don’t agree with the statement. I adopted my gelding from a rescue in WI in 2010. They were very honest with me and said he needed work in some areas. I had ridden a lot of horses, but at 21 I still had a lot of learning to do. I have made my share of mistakes with him, as anyone does with ANY horse, but after 5 years, he is even better than ever before. I’m better than before because of the things we worked through. He’s the horse I can take anywhere (Midwest Horse Fair, parades, trail rides, camping), but not one anyone can ride. 😉

  9. Sissa on February 4, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Always love to see that photo! Regarding the caption, thanks 😉 She was a fun, special little girl who was lucky to have you and your mom as her forever people 🙂

  10. Meredith Bullock on February 4, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    My first horse was a 3 yr. old OTTB. Many years later a man came up to me at a major competition and told me I should sell him the horse before I ruined her. I just thought, “But I trained her well enough to win here and have you want her.” No one else had ridden her in those intervening years but I had great instruction. What I learned through the training of many horses was that as long as I trained with respect and patience that if I made a mistake in training I could always retrain just as though someone else had made the mistake. As I am still learning fifty some years later, I know I would do a lot of things different than I did then or even ten years ago but I don’t believe that horses suffer because they don’t reach their potential. They don’t have those goals, people do.

  11. Karlien Etsebeth on February 4, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    agree with making mistakes. But, you might have also improved a horses life? This is from my own experience. I received a supposedly “super safe well trained” horse for my 16th birthday… Great right? For me it was, but my horse was the total opposite of what was said. I live in Portugal, here you get many horses that belong to gypsies. My horse was one of them. He would spook and run and spin and well the list goes on. That was in 2011. Now, he is much better he stands when I get on, he responds well to commands, he no longer spooks for every little thing and he is more calm. Not perfect though, I did make mistakes but hey he is a whole different horse, and I still have more time! My first horse is the one who tuaght me to trust and to have confidence and in return that’s what he learnt aswell. So I don’t think you ruin your first horse, just make mistakes which you could fix once you realize.

  12. Nina on February 4, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    I don’t think so, could you have done better, brought the horse farther? Sure,I could say that about the last horse also, never quit learning and every horse is an individual .

  13. Leanne on February 4, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    We raised the first horse I ever trained as a teenager. Would she win in the cutting or reining pen? Ha! But she was the perfect horse for me at the time. Great on trails. Great in western shows and conformation classes. Great at gymkhana. So, in my view, I didn’t ruin her as she was perfect for what I needed at the time. However, 35 years later, I am quite worried about ruining my highly trained cutting mare. I didn’t train her, so I often cue her differently than she is used to. Hopefully we will bond and I will learn and we will be awesome together. But I doubt she will ever perform as well for me as her trainer. Time will tell….

  14. sheilamorlass on February 4, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    In my case no. After 13 years of crying and begging for a horse my parents finally relented. I had read every horse story as a child, but my favorite one was King of the Wind… I just had to have an Arabian stallion..My parents had NO experience with horses…my experience was watching horsey tv shows, and a couple horses next door..We went to a local horse trader in Chatsworth, CA with the description of what we wanted..A couple weeks later he came up with a bay 10 month old half Arabian colt..we went to see him and I bought him with my piggy bank money for $75.00. He was gentle at first, but soon became very” studdy”.. Even our farrier said “he’s a killer” and stopped trimming his feet. He was about 1 1/2 yr at the time. We promptly got another trimmer..He knew how to handle colts and told us about a nearby trainer and said you need to get him gelded. So we did. To make a very long story short, I joined 4H, read a lot, took him to a trainer and my dad and I walked him there for 1 mile 3 times a week…. He turned out to be THE BEST horse one could ever wish for. He was so gentle with all my little cousins when they would ride him, and he was my best friend for 33 years. I miss Micky so much.

    • jenniferspark on February 5, 2015 at 3:38 am

      That is the most beautiful story Sheila. Would love to see a photo of your Micky.

      • sheilamorlass on February 11, 2015 at 2:16 am

        Thank you Jennifer. But I don’t know how I would post a picture.

  15. Lesia Lowe on February 4, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    LoL…. can you look any more Mis-chie-vous???? ….cute photo!!

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