"Horse breaking," a term sometimes thought to be inappropriate for the process, involves developing a cooperative relationship with a horse in preparation for the animal to accept commands from a human rider. The first step begins when the horse is a foal and is made to feel comfortable around humans. This is followed by the young horse learning to understand commands, walk in a circle at varying speeds at the end of a rope and ultimately accepting and responding to a rider.
The age at which a horse can be ridden depends upon the breed, but it must first be halter-broken. This refers to the horse feeling comfortable with wearing a halter and being led by a human walking on the ground beside it or in front of it. There are a variety of ground-training techniques that prepare the horse for the next step, which is called "longeing."
Longeing involves training the young horse to move and change gait upon command in a circular pen, first loose and then at the end of a long rope. During this portion of the training process, desensitization may be introduced. Sometimes called "sacking out," this involves getting the horse to feel comfortable around the objects and sounds it will encounter when it interacts more fully with a human environment.
When the horse becomes accustomed to the equipment it must wear in order to accept a rider and demonstrates a willingness to be cooperative, the trainer begins the careful process of mounting the horse. Commands are given slowly at first, with special attention given to the "stand still" command so that the horse can be dismounted at the rider's discretion.