Horse Breakers

Last updated 29 June 2020

Once yearlings have been purchased from studs they will go to a trainer. Breaking and training of thoroughbreds commences between 15 and 18 months of age. Breaking in a horse refers to the process by which a horse is taught to comply with human commands through uncomfortable/stressful processes. By the end of the ‘breaking-in’ process a horse is expected to accept the bit, saddle and rider21. Some trainers break their horses in on-site and others will send their horses to ‘horse-breakers’ that break horses in for a fee.

There are a number of steps horses are made to endure during the ‘breaking in’ process; each step in this process teaches horses to comply with commands through use of constricting equipment and technique. These include:

Tie up: The tie up process refers to horses being tied to a post by a head collar and lead for long periods of time. This is in order to teach horses ‘patience’ before the next stage of the breaking in process22, and leaves them exhausted and defeated.

Mouthing: ‘Mouthing’ is the process of making a horse’s mouth raw and therefore more responsive with the bit. Mouthing trains horses to drop their heads or ‘drop to the bit’ by restraining horses heads down23 24. Horses are placed in a bridle and a roller (a strap tied around their girth), and ropes are attached to either side of the bit and attached to the roller 25. The ropes are tightened to bring the horses head further and further down, in order to force them to ‘drop to the bit’26.

Mouthing equipment on a horse. Source: Horse Problems

Driving: Long reins are attached to the bit and the breaker controls the reins behind the horse27. Horses are taught to comply with the direction they are told to go in, stopping when the reins are pulled and reversing when they are pulled harder28.

The driving process. Source: Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock

Riding: Horses are fitted with a saddle and the breaker will ride the horse29. This is the last stage of forcing a horse to completely comply with human demands and their spirit is largely broken at this point.