Ask an Expert

Halter Starting a Yearling

April 16, 2012

Building a great foundation for your young horse begins with proper halter starting.


I am buying a yearling who was born last May. Any suggestions as to how to gentle him and halter break him, without him hurting himself or me? He hasn’t been touched, and he’s just been hanging out with other yearlings.


Congratulations on your new horse. My best advice to you is to hire somebody who has a lot of experience in halter starting. Watch as that person works with your yearling.

This part of the horse’s education will shape everything else from this point forward. You may have heard the saying “so they’re started, so they go.” This part of the process is something I view to be almost sacred. It shapes the way he views himself, and the way he views having humans in his life. You are building the foundation upon which all his learning hinges. If the foundation is solid, everything seems to fall in place.

Halter starting a horse is not something that should be done by somebody who simply reads and article and goes through the steps. Things can happen very fast, and it’s so easy to hurt these little guys. Also, don’t underestimate how hard these little guys can kick, strike or bite.

Halter breaking a foal will be his first experience learning to respect you, to give to pressure and to handle new experiences – the AQHA Halter Breaking Your Foal free report will guide you through the process.

One of the courses I teach is a halter starting class. We use yearlings that have never been touched. I coach students through the halter starting process. We work on trailer loading, picking up the feet, saddle preparation, and many other things. It’s hard to believe how far along the horses, and people, come in that six-day course. However, doing the class one time does not make a person an expert at halter starting. The first time you catch and halter the horse is NOT easy (I do that part in class). And that first catch has a huge impact on the horse’s perception from that point forward.

— AQHA Professional Horseman Brent Graef of Canyon, Texas

Building a great foundation for your young horse begins with proper halter starting.