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Alpha Natural Horsemanship

‘Ask with lightness, encourage without forcing, correct with softness’
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Buying/Training/Retraining Older Horses


Retraining - 17 year old Appaloosa mare Good horse that developed bad habits – July 2017!


I am well aware of the prejudice against training older horses that have; never been ridden, those still considered "green" and Good Horses that have developed bad habits.  However, over 37 years I have had the opportunity to work with such horses, and I can assure you that there's no particular age at which it's too late to start or retrain a horse. They're all individuals; some young horses can be quite a handful, while some older ones settle right into their new jobs.  In fact, I've found that older horses are more than capable of learning new skills or unlearning bad habits.  However, this does mean that before you commit to working with an older or any horse for that matter that you need to conduct a careful evaluate [if you do not have the experience find someone that does]:

    ·          What the horse knows?  ·          Who the horse is?  ·          What the horse needs?


Older horses can offer some important advantages that younger horses do not:

·         Unless they were abused or totally neglected, older horses even the untrained ones often have a "been there, done that" attitude that enables them to stay calm in new situations. They've seen more of the world than younger horses have, and this, in many cases, allows your training to progress much more quickly.

·         The Natural Survival Instincts they were born with and the personality traits of an older horse are already defined, so you know what you have to work with. However, this means that you need to carefully evaluate the personality of an older horse before committing to him, because it's not likely to change.

·         Ground Work may help suppress the “Flight/Fear/Fight” survival instinct but it may never eliminate it. 

·         The older horse that is lethargic, more reactive and hotter than others will probably stay that way.

·         Older horses have reached their full height, and any conformation problems will have shown up already. You won't be left guessing what they'll look like when they're done maturing.

·         The mental maturity of an older horse gives him a longer attention span. He'll retain more from longer, more in-depth training sessions than a younger horse would.

·         Improved nutrition and veterinary care allow some horses in their late teens or 20s these days be in great physical shape. Riders who don't mind putting in a little effort can often get a nice horse that they can enjoy for many years, for very little money.

Considering all of this, I would encourage anyone to take a chance on a slightly older horse, even if that horse has no or very limited experience under saddle. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind.  First, make sure that the older horse will be; safe and physically capable of participating in your chosen discipline. Then, consider whether you have the time, patience and experience you'll need for the type of older horse you're considering.

In most parts of the country you can probably acquire a good older horse; untrained or a trained one that has developed bad habits for free or nearly nothing. Once you've invested your time in training, you may end up with a much nicer horse than you could normally afford!


There's a huge difference between an older horse who has never been handled, one who has been handled badly, and one who has been handled well. Although I believe that most horses can be trained, some will take longer than others.