Tomorrow, I have a colt coming to be started. I'm excited about this chance to work with the colt and her owner. I'm going to try and document as much of this process as I can, from, round pen to the horse's first ride and beyond.
I have folks asking me for training dvd's and I hope with the footage I get from my GoPro and video camera I will have enough to get something out there that folks can use. I'm a one man show, so not sure how "slick" it will be, but it will be fun for sure.
I'm going to try and get footage of the moment the horse gets off the trailer when she gets here to the day she gets back on the trailer to go home.
If you've always wanted to start a horse, this could be a great chance for you to see, step by step, the process and program that I use to get it done.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank all of you that read my blog and support what I'm trying to do. Help people with horses, and horses with people.
This past week I had the chance to take one of my neighbors, Mary and her very good friend Denise, on a trail ride here on the ranch. I took them to one of my favorite places, Quartz Site Ridge. The view from there is breath taking and the ride a challenge.
We rode through some of the prettiest country on the ranch, with out having to be gone for very long. I wanted it to be a trip that both of these ladies would never forget.
If you have the itch to see some country, come ride with me here on the ranch. I'm just south of Hillsboro NM and can provide you and your horse with a place to stay if you so desire.
See ya soon.
I'm always looking for ways to improve my horsemanship. I would like to think that other folks out there are the same. So where can you find a good teacher? Good question.
Often you don't have to look very far from where you live. You may have a great horseman living in your area. You may have to look around a bit. But, what if you can't find anyone you feel, is a good horseman. Then you may have to look outside your area. But, if I may, let me make this point: Just because a guy, or gal, has a tv show does not, in it self, make them good horsemen. I have seen folks pay a ton of money to attend a clinic with someone cause they were on TV or have a movie out. Some folks can afford that and I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but chances are, unless you can spend, days, with them, you're not going to retain that much. A great experience it may be, and you may pick up on somethings you can use, but my experience has been you won't get very much out of the deal.
Having said that, I have worked with some of the finest horseman in this country. I have spent a ton of money on my education. I don't have a student loan to pay back tho. And, I have learned a ton from them. But, their is nothing like working with the horse day after day, week after week, year after year, to teach me to be a horseman. See, I don't think it matters much what others say about me, or about other trainer/horseman. It's what the horse says that matters to me. The horse will tell you if you are a true horseman or not. What do I mean by that? Another good question.
What matters to the horse is how you communicate with him. How quickly can I get my horse to do, say come to me? I don't mean a horse you've had sense he was a colt. How well can I communicate with a wild horse or a horse that has never been touched? Your ability to understand the horse and treat him in a way that he will responds to is what will make you a horseman and, only the horse can tell you that. Having someone tell you that you are great, is good for your ego but, the horse has no ego, and cares very little that you have one. He will teach you how you need to "be" if we will just listen.
Now, that don't mean that a guy don't need a little help from time to time. That's the reason I put on clinics and give private lessons. I want to help folks see what they need to work on to get along with their horses and to enjoy them, and be safe with them. We all need a little help from time to time. I hear people say well my horse has already been to one of your clinics so I don't think we need to come. They don't understand that clinics are not for the horse. They are for you, the owner/trainer. You will get some things done with your horses at my clinics, but unless you get it, it will have been a waist of time. I want to give folks something that will help them put together a program that will benefit, not only the horse, but themselves. That's what will make you a better horseman.
I use a round pen because I have one. Not everyone has a round pen and you don't need to run out and buy one if you don't. You can still get it done in a square pen or small paddock. I use to know a guy in Texas that has started a few colts and he prefers a square pen to a round pen. So, it don't matter what you have, you can still get the job done.
The round pen makes it easier on me and on my student when they are learning to be a leader. In the picture above one of my students, Kai, is teaching this horse that she is the leader, even if she is a lot smaller then the horse. She is using the flag to keep the horse moving in the direction "She" chooses.
In this picture, Kai has got this big black horse to understand that if he stays with her he won't have to work. He can find comfort with her. See, a horse wants two things in life. Food, and comfort. A horse will forgo eating in order to be comfortable. Yes, comfort is a real motivator for a horse. Once you know that, you can teach the horse that, if he will work with you and figure out what you want, you will let him rest with you. Comfort!
In this picture Kai is working with another horse here at the ranch and, to prove a point, she is able to get this horse to move in the direction she wants. Notice that Kai is not running after the horse. She is taking her time, and letting the horse do the work. The result?
Here, Kai, has earned the respect of the yellow horse and he has figured out that being with her is a good thing. She rewards him by letting him follow her around the round pen. At this point she is asking the horse for nothing. Just come be with me and I'll be your leader.
Now I know what you're thinking. "These horse are trained to act this way". And, you would be right. But if Kai did not at like a leader, if she did not act the way I've taught her to act, these horse would not want anything to do with her.
You may be think you don't want your horse to follow just anyone. And, that's completely up to you. I on the other hand, can't and won't, have a horse around that does not respect every human they come into contact with. I want them to respect all humans, enough, that they will not think about hurting them, on purpose.
That's my job as a trainer and owner.
Kai has a twin brother, Cody. Both of these kids are great students and, as you can see, it don't take two life times to figure the horse out. It just takes time and, having a good teacher helps.
Kathy and I spent the passed weekend in Ruidoso New Mexico at the Cowboy Symposium. It is a great 4 day event with cowboys from all over the state of New Mexico and Texas.
Craig Cameron, of RFDTV fame is usually the one doing the horsemanship demonstration here. This year however, for reasons beyond his control, he was not able to make it. So, the folks there asked if I would be willing to fill in for him. I was sure happy to do it but did not have a horse, trailer or anything else with me. So, what to do?
Well, a good buddy of mine, Mitch, and his wife Shannon helped me out. Mitch was born and raised in Ruidoso and has worked a volunteer at this event for years. His wife too for that matter. Anyway, the two of them set out to find me a horse that I could use for the demo. Some ladies who were doing a trick riding demo after me on Saturday, were willing to let me use their horse for my round pen demo.
That demo when great, with about 100 people in attendance, but I still needed another horse for my demo at 3 pm. Well, while sitting there, a sweet young woman overheard our need for a horse. As we talked a little bit I found out that she knew several of the folks around my neck of the woods. Folks I had day worked for in the passed. She was as sweet as she could be and then said, "I have a horse you can use." Turns out, she lived just up the road. She called her husband Jonny and he deliver a young horse for my 3 pm show.
There were folks from all over the place there to see the demo of me loading this young horse in the trailer. The great thing about both demos, that I highlighted to the folks there was, I never once touched the horses with my hands or stick/flag. They were amazed at how much I could get done without ever touching them.
I'm hoping to get the chance to work with some of the folks their down the road. There was a lot of interest shown and I hope that some of it comes to pass.
I'll get back to the colt starting series in the next couple of days.
So, how do I earn the respect of a horse. As I talked about yesterday, the key is doing what horses do, the best we can. In the round pend I get the horse to move his feet, the same way he would if there was a sub horse at the feed bunk and the dominant horse wanted to eat. He would make him move his feet out of the way.
In the picture above, my grandson Matt, is doing just that. He is getting that horse to pay attention to him. How do horses show their respect?
They do this by keeping their attention on the human and, when the human backs up, the horse will follow his movement and will often stop and turn to look at the human. As the human moves around the round pen,the horse will keep looking at him and move his hind end away from the human. This is when you know that your horse respect you as the leader in this herd of two.
Before long the horse will learn that being with you is a good thing and will start to follow you around in the round pen so he can find comfort and safety. Just like you see in the picture above, Matt has earned the respect of this horse and the horse is following him around in the round pen without a lead or halter.
This takes time and practice. The better you get at it the quicker the horse will respond. If you do it wrong, the horse will tell you that too.
It is much easier to show you how this works then to tell you, but I hope you get the idea.
More on starting a colt next week.
Where do I start, when I start a colt? On the ground.
The first place that I start in is the round pen. Now, you don't need a round pen if you don't have one. You can get by, just using your arena or a small paddock. The important thing is to have a place that is safe for you and your horse. The reason I like a round pen is, there is no place for the horse to go to stick his nose in and hide. He just goes around and around. The other reason is, it's easy for me, and on me.
I use a 60ft round pen. Others may use a 50 ft. pen. But I would not use anything smaller than that. Why? Because you can't get out of the horses way if it's smaller. The reason I like a 60 footer is I can get far enough away from the horse that he can relax. It's small enough that I'm not having to run to catch up to him.
Why do I use the round pen first? Another good question. It is in the round pen that I teach the horse to respect me. How? The way horses earn respect from other horses in the herd is by making them move their feet. If you put a little hay on the ground, where there are more then one horse, if the subordinate horse is eating first, when the dominant horse gets to the pile of hay, if the sub horse has not move away from the pile the dominant horse will pen his ears, and make the horse move away from the hay. If that don't work he will try to bite him and if that don't work he will turn and kick the.... well you know what out of him.
But the end result of the whole thing is, he makes the sub horse move his feet. I do the same thing in the round pen. I can make the horse move his feet. I can control the horse's direction and speed. Once the horse realizes what is happening, I have won his respect. How do I know that? I'll tell you tomorrow.
The first colt I started was 7 years old. You say, he can't be a colt if he was 7. And you may, or may not be right. See to me no matter how old they are in years, if they have never been worked, or ridden, they are a colt in my book.
There is a wild animal living in every domesticated horse. People forget that. Then, when things are more then the horse can take, pressure, that wild animal can, and will, come out. So, don't make the mistake of thinking that just because your horse will eat from your hand, or let you scratch him behind the ears, that he is broke or gentle. All it means is he will let you do, WHAT HE WANTS YOU TO DO. Nothing more.
Because horses come from a herd, they have a herd mentality. What does that mean? Good question. It means that their way of communicating and getting along, is way different then the way that you and I, or any predator for that matter, communicate. In order to start a colt you have to understand that. It's not rocket science. Just about anyone can do it. Trouble is most folks don't or won't.
I remember reading a book by one of the original men that started, in our day and age, what we have come to know as horsemanship clinics. He said that it takes 2 lifetimes to really understand the horse. That is a lot of horse..... Well you can fill in the blank. If that were true, none of us would stand a chance. What I do think is, it takes is a real "Want", to understand the horse and how that understanding can be turned in to a program for starting horses, in a safe and understanding way. Again, most folks aren't willing to take the time or expend the energy.
Well, let me get back to the first horse I started. He was 7 and a stallion. I knew only a fraction of what I know now about horses. But, even then, I knew that I needed to take my time. See things from his point of view. Through that process of working with this horse, he taught me so much about how I would go about things, to this day.
The Magic Pill. Do you remember what it is? I have it. The horse is more then willing to swallow that pill. Most horse owners/trainers aren't.
If you know what the Magic Pill is, tell me!
Let me start by saying, I have not started hundreds or thousands of colts in my life time, as others can boast. My experience with starting colts has come from carefully and slowly, watching others and learning from their experience and, their mistakes.
A wonderful trainer from Los Lunas New Mexico, who has retired, taught me so much on starting a colt. The biggest tip he ever gave me was: "If you want a better horse, you're going to have to be a better horseman".
I have taken that to heart in every aspect of starting a colt and working with older horses. The biggest mistake I see other folks making is getting in to big a hurry. Not understanding what the horse needs in order to be ready for his first ride and, for rides to follow. The colt needs a foundation. That foundation begins with a ground work program. Not just trying a few things and if the horse gets passed that, then put on a saddle and seeing what happens. A good, well thought out program, is much like the check that a pilot does every time he gets in a plane. Even though he's done it a million times before, he does it again, cause he knows it could save his life.
So, even with horses that come to me with problems, that I'm going to have to ride, I treat them like they were colts. I make sure they have a foundation, even though the owner may have told me they are not a problem to ride. I have to make sure, for my safety. Why?
I had a horse come to me from Northern New Mexico once. The owner told me the horse was good to ride. I did some ground work with him and he seemed fine, so I thought I would saddle him up and see where we could go from there. Well, I did, and when I turned him loose in the round pen, without me being in the saddle, he came unglued and bucked like crazy. There is no way I could have ridden that buck. I would have gotten hurt. I contacted the owners to ask them about the horse's behavior and they told me, that, the last time they saddled him up they had him tied to a swing set. The horse pulled back and pulled the swing set down and carried it with him around the neighborhood until they could catch him.
We don't know what has happened to a horse in his past, and if he is a colt, you can bet he know nothing. It's our job to teach him what he needs to know, and if we don't do that, he's got nothing to go on.
Starting colts is not for everyone. If you choose to start your own, have a program or get someone to help you that has a program. Best advice I could give you? Take your time.
Will try and keep you updated with info on what the heck I'm doing with horses and music.