Jan 242020

By Patty Wilber

I have two young mares (both are four) that I am currently starting (Sombra, the nominal Spanish Boy, is waiting in the wings).  One is pretty laid back and has been handled regularly (Coco), and the other is LT’s half sister–same dad (Birdie).

As one might surmise by her relatives, Birdie is a bit of wild child.  She came in afraid of oh, practically everything, plus she is super “watchy” and notices when a blade of grass twitches.  And doesn’t like to stand still….  Oh boy!

On the plus side, she is very curious, likes people and catches on.

Weirdly, perhaps, she was easy to saddle right off the bat and is not particularly interested in full speed running or bucking.  That is very promising!

Bridling the first time…

I had her in the round pen and thought I’d just put a little snaffle bit on her so she could carry that around and get used to it.  Ha.  

Day 1. 

Me: I have a bit and bridle.  Here, let’s put it on!  Easy. 


Me to myself:  Well! Never seen THAT before.  Usually I can just get the bit in place and wait a minute for them to open up…

This time, I settle for taking the bridle apart and holding the bit in one hand while I pet her nose with the other.

Day 2. 

Me:  I have this nice piece of orange baling twine here!  Wanna look? 

Birdie:  OK, and you can touch my mouth today, too, if you want, but only if you are VERY CAREFUL. 

Me:  OK. She lets me slip the string in her mouth from one side and tie it to her halter.  She thinks this is fine.

Day 3. 

I put a bit on the baling twine.  She does not want it in her mouth, but she is ok carrying it around sitting on her nose and then under her chin.  Hey at least it is CLOSE to her mouth

Day 4.

I kind of sneak a bit into her mouth by tying it to the baling twine and to the halter on one side and then sort of angling it over.  It works!  Bit in and no drama!  I tie the string over her head like a bridle

Day 5,6,7

Bit on string easier and easier to get in, and she wears the twine bridle with no issues.

Day 8+

We graduated to putting on an actual bridle in the normal way!  I still have to be methodical and deliberate, but it’s getting to be routine.  Of course we have not used the bit for anything yet–she just wears it around.

Blue tarp.  And Lunge whip.  

Don’t laugh too hard, before you even get started reading, because I am not going to tell you how Birdie acted on Day 1 of that.  You can just come up with your own dramatic little vignette (as in THOSE ITEMS ARE MADE BY BRAIN SUCKING ALIENS) and you will likely be close, so for Day 2, I decided to employ Coco!

Horses are herd animals and Birdie likes other horses and she watches them, so, I finished my regular work with Coco for the day and I brought Birdie into the round pen with Coco.  I let Birdie go, and I started doing desensitization activities with Coco, who I knew was fine with both the whip and the tarp. Then I let Coco go free wearing the tarp and led Birdie around online just in case Coco moving around with the blue tarp was too much.  Birdie was just fine!  Amazingly calm.

Then I got the tarp off Coco and dragged it around while leading Birdie.

Coco earned a raise in pay by following the tarp at liberty and trying to eat it.  Birdie, not to be out done, got interesting in sniffing the tarp, too! HUGE difference compared to the previous day.

Birdie is the bay and she is temporarily distracted by something. Coco looks a little ho humish about the whole thing! She was a great mentor for Birdie!

Blurry pic! Birdie has her bridle on and a polo wrap for her first go at a back cinch. Despite what this picture looks like, Coco was not grumpy for this exercise!

Credit to Coco for being the buddy horse! 

It is going to be a just a little bit longer before I go for ride one on Birdie, but when she is confident enough to stand still while I get up (which she actually did do on Thursday, after fretting and pawing and being annoyed while tied to the trailer when I rode Coco!), she will be getting close to confident enough for me to swing a leg over with without inciting a melt down.

Maybe I should have someone else there already mounted up, just so Birdie can watch how it is done!


More ways to use a buddy.

Coco gets to go to Clovis today with me and Lucy, and will be Lucy’s turn to be the buddy horse.  Coco will get some saddle time (rides 13 and 14) at Hight Performance Horse’s arena and Lucy will be there to keep Coco company! (Lucy gets to work cows and I get to visit H, too!)

For trailering young horses, I try to haul with seasoned equines and load the newbies last.

For moving from the round pen to the arena, I might have some company tied in the arena or another rider there so the youngster is not going it alone, at first.

For ponying out, I like to use Penny or Cometa because they are pretty fearless on the trail and the young horses can take a breath and just follow along. 

Never a dull moment!

Happy Friday!



  6 Responses to “Training with a Buddy”

  1. One of the reasons I’ve dragged my mule to playdays and other events is so she can watch the proceedings. I swear she learns as much or more by being tied to the fence and seeing other equines. And it’s a whole lot stressful for both of us!

    • Right?! Some equines are better at absorbing via watching than others, too. The ones that can–awesome! I had a horse once that learned about the hot wire by watching another horse. Fascinating stuff!

  2. I hope that “learning from a buddy” will happen with Tigger, since he has backslid some (partly due to weather and partly due to “no work, just turnout” from the vet. My trainer and I are hoping to go see a “sweet, calm” black & white paint on Wednesday. I’m not a fan of horses with a lot of white (always involves a lot of elbow-grease to get the white white or even only faintly beige/gray/yellow (depending on your soil color) but on the other hand the search for a companion horse for Tig and a riding horse for me has been going on awhile now and I’m giving way on everything but disposition and nothing over 15.2. Really wanted shorter, but the ones we’ve located have had owners who *don’t call back*. ( Is the horse already sold? Couldn’t you at least leave a message? Trainer and I both have voicemail…!)

    So I’m hoping this black and white guy turns out to be gentle, friendly, sound, a decent basic ride, and both a companion for Tigger and a ride-around mount for me…and a good influence. He’s six, supposedly an all-around western-style gelding who shouldn’t find my “not yet down to desired weight” a problem, at his own 1300 pound weight. Also hope my anxious little hotblood guy isn’t bothered by a loud-colored bigger companion. But it may help to pony Tig off of (whatever-his-name is.) And maybe this horse has some pasture pudgy to work off (and big enough feet to carry that without a problem.)

    Or…something will turn up. But I lose riding feel and fitness with every week I don’t ride…

    • I hope this paint horse works out for you. I am such a big fan of solid, no drama personalities, which was one reason I bought Lucy! Penny and Cometa are both also very solid personalities. Not so much with LT but hey, she can still do a job. The easy going ones can be so much fun to ride! If the white parts are sort of pinkish or brownish or greenish, on your potential guy, it won’t affect the ride!

    • Ooh, I hope it goes well! I need to check your Facebook page…

  3. Didn’t get to see the black and white paint, thanks to torrential rain where he lives. Hoping to do so next week. Probably just as well, as Wednesday I was coming down with the “something” I have and though it may be past the worst, it knocked me pretty flat in the process of running over me.

    I’m in the mood for friendly, cooperative, non-spooky. Kinda wish it wasn’t a paint (all that white to keep clean, plus the white feet) but at this point, after many tries that didn’t work out…if it stands for mounting, walks off when I ask for it, stops quietly, stands quietly, trots when I ask for it, comes back to walk promptly but calmly, etc….and isn’t blind, has a healthy heart and lungs and no sign of founder on any of its feet and no weird lumps that could end up being expensive…it’ll come here and I’ll deal with whatever else.

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