Innovative use of an automated horse walker when breaking in young horses

J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2008;11(3):228-31. doi: 10.1080/10888700802100991.


There is an inherent element of risk associated with "backing" and riding the previously unbroken horse. If training proceeds too quickly, conflict behaviors may result from the simultaneous application of too many cues. Automated horse walkers (AHW) facilitate the exercising of several horses concurrently at walk or trot for warm-up, cool-down, fitness programs, and rehabilitation purposes. The objective of this study was to investigate if backing the horse within the AHW was an appropriate training method. Ten horses (3-year-olds) took part in this study. They began training within the AHW with a simple bridle and protective boots. A handler subsequently long-reined the horses within the AHW when they wore rollers, side reins, and a saddle. When considered appropriate, the handler went from jumping beside the horse to lying over the saddle to sitting astride the horse within the AHW. The horses habituated to this innovative approach quickly without evidence of conflict behavior. The handler rode the horses from the AHW after approximately 4 riding episodes of this innovative training system.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Back / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Horses / physiology*
  • Horses / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / instrumentation
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / methods*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / psychology
  • Pressure
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*