What Is A Green Horse? Definition And More

What Does “Green Horse” Mean?

You may come across jargon in the equine community that you have not heard before. There is a wealth of terms in the horse world used to describe everything from the horse, the rider, and everything in between. Having an understanding of this terminology can help you when it comes to looking for a new horse.

What is a green horse? “Green” can be used to describe the level of experience a horse has. A green horse is a horse that has had little training. If you come across a green horse for sale, you will need to anticipate spending a lot of time training before you will have a well-broke horse. There is a whole spectrum of green – with some green horses never having a rider on their back, and some having already been started under saddle.

Read on for more information on these inexperienced horses and what you can anticipate when it comes to working with them.

Other Terminology Associated With Green Horses 

Some horses may be halter-broke, and some may be started under saddle. There is a whole range of green, and it would be helpful to understand these terms if you are looking into buying a horse.


One of the first steps to training a horse is teaching the horse to accept a halter and walk on a lead. This can be done with foals before they are old enough to be started under saddle and is also the first step to training inexperienced or feral older horses. Halter-broke typically means that the horse can be caught, haltered, and led. This is an important first step and is the beginning of the horse-rider relationship. This is also integral to the care of a horse – if a horse is not halter-broke it will be difficult to groom them, shoe them, or allow a vet to check them. 


A green-broke horse has just started under saddle and may know very little of what is expected of them. The horse has been mounted and ridden and might be familiar with steering and leg aids. This horse is not close to being finished however and will need a patient trainer to continue to work with them. 

While buying a green-broke horse may work for an experienced rider or trainer, this is not a suitable horse for a beginner or a child. It takes many dedicated hours for a horse to be properly trained, and a few months under saddle does not result in a safe horse. Other terms for “green-broke” include “dumb broke” or “started under saddle”. 


A well-broke horse is also referred to as “beginner-friendly,” or “bombproof.” This is a good horse for a beginner. A well-broke horse will be reliable and safe for most riders and will be sensitive to the reins, seat, and leg aids. This horse will have a solid walk, trot, and canter, and will be able to transition smoothly. 

Well-broke horses do not usually spook easily and are often calm and forgiving. This of course has a lot to do with personality, however, and some well-broke horses may be spirited, while some green horses will be calm. Sellers can also have their own interpretation of what “well-broke means”. Some may say a horse is broke when they have only been in training for a matter of weeks. If you are in the market for a new horse, always ask as many questions as you can of the seller and visit the horse as many times as you can to determine whether the horse is suitable for you.

Green + Green

Just as a green horse refers to a horse with little experience under the saddle, a green rider refers to a rider with little experience in the saddle. You may have heard the saying “green plus green equals black and blue”. If you are a new rider with limited experience and you purchase a green horse, you may have a rough road ahead of you. A green horse is better suited for someone with years of experience training and working with horses. If you are a green rider, I recommended you look for a seasoned horse who can help you grow and learn.

Are you looking for your first horse and don’t know where to start? Check out my article Tips For Choosing Your First Horse: Beginner’s Guide.

Are Green Horses Young?

It is recommended that horses not be started under saddle until they are at least 3 years of age. Horses do not finish physically developing until they are around 6 years of age. If a horse bears weight before its joints are finished developing it can cause permanent injury to the horse’s joints. For this reason, horses should never be started before they are physically ready.

Not only young horses are green, however. A former pasture pet or BLM Mustang can also be a green horse. A horse of any age can be inexperienced, and a horse of any age can also be trained (so long as they are of adequate physical health).

What Is The Opposite Of a Green Horse?

The opposite of green will be a well-broke horse. “Broke” is the term used for a horse that is “finished” and is trained to be ridden. This term originates from years ago when training horses was a rough process, done forcibly in the interest of time. An experienced rider would often jump onto the back of an untrained horse and force him into learning what was expected of him; if he got bucked off he would keep hopping back on until the horse tired and became receptive to instruction. This was called “breaking in” the horse.

Not all modern trainers like the term “breaking a horse” because they equate this term to breaking the spirit of the horse. This does not have to be the case, however, as more gentle and time-consuming training methods are typically used today. Today, most horses are started with groundwork, and a relationship is developed between horse and trainer before the horse is even saddled. 

What Are The Benefits Of Getting A Green Horse?

If you are a seasoned rider and you are up for a project, a green horse can offer some benefits over a well-broke horse.

Green Horses Are Usually Cheaper Than Well-Broke Horses

You can easily find yourself spending five figures for a well-broke horse. If you have experience with horses, a green horse may be a good fit for your budget as they are usually much less expensive. Most buyers do not want to put the work into training a horse and will pass on a horse that has not been started. But many of these green horses have excellent dispositions and will make wonderful mounts once they have received training. And you may find yourself a green horse that is eager to please and learn and will be easy to train. 

Green Horses Have Few Bad Habits To Break

Horses can develop bad habits, and those habits can be hard to break. If you buy a horse that has been ridden for years but has picked up bad habits along the way, it can be just as difficult (if not more so) to re-train them as it would be to train a horse from scratch. Think about the Off-the-Track Thoroughbred who is used to bolting when someone jumps into the saddle or an unmotivated horse who learns that he can get out of a work-out if he bucks. Just because a horse is experienced, does not mean he is suitable to be ridden. Green horses are usually blank slates.

Green Horses Are Often Young

While a horse of any age can be green, most of them are young. This means that you might end up with a horse that has twenty (or more) years of riding left in him if he stays healthy. This may be a benefit if you are looking for a long-term riding buddy and don’t mind putting in the work to train him.

Green Horses Have No Choice But To Trust 

Though this can be dangerously romanticized through movies and other media, training a green horse can be very rewarding and aid in developing a meaningful relationship between horse and rider. A lot of time goes into training a horse from scratch, a lot of time that is spent building trust between the two of you, a lot of time and opportunity for both of you to learn some new things. 

What Is The Best Way To Train A Green Horse?

Most trainers now recommend starting a green horse with groundwork. Groundwork enables you to build trust with the horse and teach them what is expected of them while staying safely on the ground. Groundwork also enables you to get to know your horse face-to-face, which is where trust is developed. Only when you can see your horse understands what is expected and trusts you should you try putting on a saddle.

When I got my current horse, he was young, green, and anxiety-ridden. We spent two months on groundwork and learning to trust each other before I even attempted to get on him. I believe that’s the reason he ended up being so easy to train. 

If you’re new to groundwork, check out my online course that walks you step-by-step through helpful groundwork exercises you can do with your horse. Click here!

Are You Ready For A Green Horse?

While the idea of purchasing a green horse might seem intimidating, there are several benefits to going this route as well. Give yourself an honest assessment about whether you would be able to put in the time to train a green horse. If you have the experience and the patience, you will likely be able to find a great horse.


Are you looking to purchase a horse? It’s a good idea to catch up on some sales terminology so you can find the right horse for you! Visit my article Horse Terminology 101 | Words Every Equestrian Should Know.

P.S. Save this article to your “Horse” board!

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Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

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