I have broken down horse training into four categories. These categories overlap one another, but generally progress in stages, gradually preceding the previous stage in importance and emphasis.
1. Exposure: introducing the colt to humans and human paraphernalia
2. Sensitization: establishing a communication system
3. Physical preparation: establishing patterns of movement for various disciplines or sports
4. Physical fitness: repetitive exercises for coordination, strength and endurance.
As the colt gets used to humans the dramatic exposure aspect of training gradually decreases and sensitization gradually becomes the major effort of the trainer. For me the first week of training is all about exposure, but even from the first day I begin working on sensitization. Pretty soon exposure is rarely an issue and establishing communication becomes the main effort.
The amount of time spent on each aspect of training depends on the skill or whim of the trainer and the nature and maturity of the horse. For instance, Dawn Treader, because of her hot-blooded nature still needs work in the “exposure” area of training while Johnny, because of his bold nature and I assume his previous “exposure” experiences, has passed Dawn Treader in the exposure aspects of training. My efforts with Johnny are almost totally about “sensitization” mixed with cautious efforts at “physical preparations”.
“Physical fitness” is always a part of training, but at the beginning stages, mostly by default. The experts I have read recommend waiting until the horse is five before heavy physical training begins.