We have reached another milestone in our horse life: we rode Cletus, our four year old buckskin gelding! If you remember, we bought him as a baby alongside his mother, Penny, in the fall of 2011. Last November, we sent him to the Rosebud Indian Reservation for a crash course in behaving under saddle….the trainer raved about him and said he was the best horse he’s ever trained. So then we brought him home and (due to me being pregnant and my husband being very busy) he stood around in our corral for almost another year. The good news is that we have been riding him this summer!
As mentioned in a previous post, we recently took our two untrained horses out to South Dakota for training. Due to me being pregnant with our fourth child, the training was going to be postponed for another nine months at least, and we really wanted to see these two colts started as soon as possible. So in October they made the trip out to Mission, SD, to spend at least a month with a horse training family.
The riding part of the Kip Fladland Training Clinic that I went to a few weeks ago seemed to go so much faster than the groundwork part. Maybe it was because I’m not used to that much walking, I don’t know, but I was sure tired out! The morning’s work was good for us, as I think it gave us a really good focus for the riding part to follow.
Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending a Groundwork/Horsemanship training clinic with Kip Fladland, of LaRiata Ranch near Griswold, Iowa. It was the first horse training clinic I have ever been to. I’ve been around natural horsemanship training my whole life, having grown up next door to Kevin Wescott (a Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt style of trainer), who helped me get started training horses when I was a kid. But that was twenty years ago, and I’m needing to expand my groundwork techniques, and am always eager to learn more things I should be doing with my horses.
Fall is my favorite time of year to go horseback riding. I am partial to summer, since I was born in August (my mother has a theory that the season you were born in is the one you like best; for instance, I like being hot, and don’t mind sweating; I hate the cold, and winter is my least favorite season), but summer is often so busy with gardening, vacations, kids’ activities, and things that can only be done in summer. I just never have time to ride in the summer, and so when fall arrives it is such a relief.
Summertime is busy. I love summer, but there is just so much going on, so much garden work to do, so many kids’ activities, so many vacations….nope, I am not complaining! But here it is nearing the end of July, and I finally got my saddle out and dusted it off and discovered that my stirrups were still set long from the last time I rode it…which was back at the first of April when Penny bucked me off! We rode at the end of May in Idaho, but here a month and a half later, my own horses have not been ridden all summer. I am just now finally get back to it!
It’s not often I get to ride three different horses in one day—much less, ride new colts and just-started horses, which is one of my favorite things. I’m in Idaho, visiting my parents and sister, and besides enjoying family time over the Memorial Day weekend and following week, our goal was to put some rides on their colts. They have twenty head in their horse and mule herd, and they are so busy with irrigating their alfalfa fields, putting up hay, and caring for their cattle that training horses gets put off. So I am always anxious to get some horses started or do more riding when we visit
That old Kenny Rogers song came to mind today, as I was thinking over the happenings of my weekend. In terms of horses, you should never be too sure of a horse. Riding horses is always a gamble. There are no sure bets, and you can win or lose with a stroke of luck, good or bad. I always say, “That’s the way the cookie crumbled.” And there’s no predicting it, how events are going to go or what exactly is going to take place. I think the cards were stacked against me in the hand I was dealt on Saturday!
I got a phone call last weekend out of the blue. The guy had been searching online for horse trainers in the area and found an ad I had placed probably eight years ago (before I had kids) when I was looking to take in outside horses to train. He wondered if I could help him with two horses he was wanting trained, and me being the horse enthusiast I am, I said “Sure.” I had to follow that up with a lengthy explanation of how I am a mom of three, work full time, and almost never have the time to ride anymore–but I assured him that I could help him put some rides on these horses of his.
If you’ve trained a lot of horses, you probably already know that when you’re starting a colt, it’s not always a bad thing to let them buck. But I’ve talked to a few trainers who wholeheartedly disagree with me on the subject, and I’ve heard stories about people who have the mindset that letting a colt buck will ruin them and make them predisposed to bucking. My goal for this post is to weigh the pros and cons, explore the nature of the horse, and hopefully educate the reader.
Not every horse story is a happy one. I talked to someone yesterday who told me about a filly that was causing trouble, fighting with other horses, and when tied up would pull back hard and break halters every time. So they tied her with a log chain around her neck, trying to break her of pulling back….and so she broke her neck. That story left me stunned, with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I can’t get away from. I saw this filly not long ago, a beautiful bay roan with a big white star on her face. And just like that, she’s gone.
In June we traveled out to Idaho to visit my folks. It’s been almost a year since we’ve seen them, as we didn’t make it out there for Christmas. So we were really looking forward to the making the trip, getting some fresh mountain air, spending time with family, and going on some adventures.
Walking through water can be one of the hardest things for a horse to accept, and his fear is often based on his past experiences. If he’s never seen it before, or if he’s been forced into it or struggled with by a rider over crossing water, then it’s going to be a big obstacle for him to overcome. No matter how much horse experience you have, when you’re working to overcome something like this you have to have a lot of patience and be willing to spend the time it takes to help the horse get past his fear of crossing water.
I attended a training clinic several years ago, put on by a good friend of mine, Kevin Wescott, a horse trainer from west-central Nebraska. It was a general horsemanship clinic, where local people brought their own horses and asked Kevin to help them through issues they were having, or give advice on their riding, and so on. I was there with my mare Daisy, whose behavior at this clinic you might remember from my previous blog post. But aside from that, I observed something at this clinic that has stuck in my mind ever since.
I had our weanling colt on the lead line the other day, working on halter training a little bit more, and I thought it would be a good time to introduce him to the horse trailer. I wasn’t there when my husband went to pick him up, when we first purchased him, but I heard that he was hard to load, and wouldn’t follow his mother into the trailer. They had to use portable corral panels to box him into a small space behind the trailer and then adjust them smaller until he was forced to jump in. So I knew that trailer loading was an area we needed to work on with him.
When you have a foal, everything is sweetness and light. But only for so long. Then the life lessons begin and they have to learn to wear a halter, to follow a leader, to stand tied, and face their biggest fear of all—being separated from their mommy. It is a difficult change for both mare and foal, to give up that comfort and connection. But weaning a foal helps develop the disposition a horse needs to have—a working horse has to be able to go out and do a job without throwing a fuss when it is separated from other horses. Weaning is a very important step in the life of a foal.
As you know, we have been working on halter breaking the new stud colt we purchased a month ago. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a horse this young to work with, so I’m trying to remember any tricks on how to train a foal to lead, and am looking back through some old horse training articles I’ve written to see what advice I’ve given to others on this topic. Every horse is different, and with this particular colt, we’ve been able to slide right past some trouble spots that might affect others.