Winter weather, ugh. The rain, snow, and ice have definitely slowed down work with my horses, including the soon-to-be-3-year-old filly I accidentally bought last fall. So, cozied up with a cup of coffee, I recently started making a list of the things Atty has learned since I got her and what’s on our agenda for this spring and beyond. I call them "Atty's Activities."

Being an Oldenburg/Anglo-cross, Atty is mature of mind but young bodied. Her feet are huge and her joints still awkwardly large, but her body is small and her butt is high. With her having a 16.3-hand sire, I hope that my currently 14.3-hand filly will top out around 15.3. She has plenty of time to grow, right? With all that in mind, I’m putting off starting her (lightly) under saddle until next winter, or maybe spring ’15.

That leaves us with a year to learn lots of big-girl lessons that don’t involve riding.

I see these early lessons as a crucial time for all horses. The skills my filly gains now will carry with her for the rest of her 25-plus years on this planet, and I feel a responsibility to instill these early lessons thoroughly and with patience. Who knows, maybe learning to give to pressure on her legs will save her someday if she gets stuck in a fence; her experience ponying on trails will make her valuable after she retires from the dressage ring; or her quiet and confident response to scary new things will ensure her a long career as a priceless youth horse.

Here’s my lessons list for Miss Atty, including what she’s mastered, what she’s just starting to learn, and what’s in her future:


  • Politely stand for catching and haltering
  • Lead, including trotting in hand and backing up
  • Stand tied at hitching rail and trailer for grooming
  • Longe respectively and responsively at the walk, trot, canter, and halt when asked (I keep her circles extra-large and longeing sessions short in an effort to minimize stress on her joints. At this point, I’m focused on training her mind, not her body. Plus, I have little lenience for fooling around on the longe.)
  • Accept a surcingle, a light English saddle, and side reins
  • Accept having legs wrapped/wearing boots on all four legs

Works in Progress

  • Stand quietly in crossties (Does teaching this lesson to youngsters make anyone else nervous? It does me.)
  • Load and unload from trailer, haul quietly
  • Stand quietly for farrier
  • Wear snaffle bridle, including politely having it put on and taken off (On is easy; off is harder.)
  • Walk, trot, and canter over a single ground pole while longeing
  • Accept pressure of soft cotton ropes on legs
  • Accept foreign objects
  • Ground drive and long-line at walk, trot, and halt
  • Stand quietly next to mounting block while I climb up it (and feed her lots of carrots)
  • Wear a western saddle
  • Accept foreign objects with curiosity, not spooking (She’s great about everything except the cat, who’s as scared of the filly as she is of him.)
  • Accept dogs she knows
  • Accept miscellaneous critters (She finds the neighbors’ goats a mere curiosity, but we’ll soon see what she thinks of this year’s pigs.)

Still Not Yet Introduced

  • Stand quietly in a stall (My pasture born-and-raised girl has never seen inside the four walls of barn.)
  • Work quietly in an indoor arena
  • Stand for clipping her bridle path and legs
  • Accept strange dogs
  • Acceptance of children
  • Bathing
  • Stand quietly for vet
  • Pony off mature horse in arena
  • Pony off mature horse on trails
  • Travel to new facilities, including show/training barns and campgrounds (But not until after she’s well-vaccinated and boosted!)
  • Stand for mane braiding
  • Longe in arena while other horses work
  • Free jump over small cross-rails (I don’t plan to jump her in my future, but I do think it’s beneficial for sport-horse types to become familiar with very basic jumps.)

I haven’t had a baby horse in almost 10 years, so I’ve had fun remembering all the things young horses need to learn. Is there anything I've missed that you'd include on the lessons list?