Dean Briggs

Developing  Well-Broke Horses

If you ever own one, you won’t be satisfied with anything less

I talk a lot about Well-Broke horses because I don’t see very many.  If we had more of them,  I think both rider and horse would be happier.  They just would do better in whatever activity they pursue.

We sometimes get fooled by thinking a well-trained horse and well-broke horse are the same thing.  You can have a trained cutting horse that scores well in the arena, but falls apart when asked to go outside and round up cattle.  You can have a rope horse that flies to the cow, but fights going into the roping box.  Those horses are trained, but they aren’t well broke.

The Well-Broke Horse, in most cases, won’t have those shortcomings, and if he does, the problems will be easy to fix.

I start down the road to a Well-Broke Horse with a good minded, willing colt.  The first 30 to 60 days builds the foundation.  I really don’t think in terms of days.  I take the time it takes.  I start with desensitizing the colt, helping him to overcome his natural fears and to get used to being handled.  Think of it in human terms.  If you are afraid  the teacher is going to hurt you, can learn?  Not likely.  You’ll be thinking about escape, not learning.

I move forward gradually developing control of all the body parts.  I can’t teach advanced maneuvers if I can’t position the horse’s feet and body so that it is possible for him to make the move I am teaching.

With body control, refinement will follow: neck reining, stopping, turning around, working cattle, crossing bridges, going through water, accepting noise and unexpected movements.  It takes many miles to accomplish those things.  But with patience, it happens.  And when the horse consistently does what I ask, I feel he is Well-Broke.  He’s prepared to go on to specialized training like roping, and he is unlikely to hesitate walking into the roping box.

Here Is What a Well-Broke Horse Can Do

We named the horse in the photo at right Princess because she was a pleasure to train.    She has a very  good  mind,  and she has a ton of athletic ability.

We went throught the early stages of training without a lot of fuss; and  because she is athletic, she was quick to learn body control and the fundamental moves of a Well-Broke Horse.   With that foundation, she has become the kind of horse you see here.

View from my for better horsemanship from Dean



People often tell me they think it’s more challenging and interesting to start a colt than it is to ride a Well-Broke Horse. That has baffled me for about 40 years now.  Starting a colt is, of course, important.  How does that saying go?  “A good start is half the battle. ” Seeing a young horse move from fear and resistance to a willing responsive animal that works with you is wonderful.  But what comes next?

The next step is starting on the road to a Well-Broke, which is to me what horsemanship is all about.  I think this is the point where real satisfaction begins.  This is the point where the horse has lost much of his fear and can begin listening to me.  Now he starts learning to do the things I want him to do, and I start learning just how good a horseman I am.

Sometimes I learn I am not as good as I thought.  Horses will do that for you, which is great.  That’s how I get better.

A Well-Broke Horse is calm, cool, and collected in almost all situations.  And when he loses his cool—they all do—his rider can bring him back to a calm, cool, collected state of mind.   And when you have that you have a horse that can be used for anything you want.

We teach horses at our barn to do lots of things—cutting, roping, barrel racing.  But it is a mistake to think that a horse that does a specific activity or sport is a Well-Broke Horse.  He might be. Often he isn’t.  I have seen some good cutting horses fall apart when asked to go outside of the arena and work cows.  Many good roping horses only know their left lead and flop around when asked to turn to the right.  I’m not kidding.

So I suggest that if your horse isn’t measuring up to what you think he should be doing, ask yourself, is he really a Well-Broke Horse?   A Well-Broke Horse can work cows in the arena or out in open country.  A Well-Broke Horse can change leads in the blink of an eye.

Hope this give you a perspective on where your horse is and where you might want to go with him.  Take my word for it. When you pursue the development of a Well-Broke Horse, you’re starting a journey that can last a life-time.  I am enjoying the journey and hope you are, too.


See you next time.