Thirty Days

By Patty Wilber

I like to start young horses.

Sort of.

I’d actually like to start at about ride five, after the initial drama (if any) is over.

It usually takes some ground work (five to 10 days) to get to know a horse when it first arrives.  This depends, of course on myriad factors including the horse’s temperment and previous knowledge base.

I like them to lead from both sides, stop and back when I do, move hip and shoulder, lunge (go around me in circles), go sideways, wear a saddle then wear a saddle with stuff tied on.

Buckshot was kind of skittish at this point in his training, but he had no problems with this tarp or butt rope!

Sometimes the trainees get help from the jealous.

May says: "i love this tarp!"

“…but now i need to disrobe!”

Penny (the jealous) says," i'll take that!"

I don’t really like the first time up in the saddle.  Too much potential energy!

To decrease that risk, I do take time to make sure flapping stirrups, weight in the  stirrups, objects above the horse (like me) don’t cause stress and the horse can stand still for all of that.  It took Penny three days to decide she could stand still–not so much because she was nervous–more because she had Her Own Ideas.

Then: ease into the saddle from one side and ease off the other. Then ease on and sit there.

Tabooli, who was four and still a stallion, felt as though he was going to splinter into pieces when my butt graced the saddle.  I got off fast.  I think that scared him more than me being on top.  (Learned later he’d bucked off someone already….ahem…would have liked that info up front!)

Penny, who was two, couldn’t have cared less.

Querido, who was three, stood still as a statue.  Given that he is, shall we say, very “dynamic”, I was thrilled.

The next step is to ask them to bend their heads left or right, and then move a hind foot.  Simple for most–they’ve already learned this in their ground work.

For T,  since he’d gotten so tense when I’d first stepped up, I had a handler on the ground holding his lead rope to both reassure the horse and help control him in case of implosion (i.e. help reassure the rider).  He was at ease in two rides.

Penny: couldn’t have cared less.

Queri stood stock still for mounting so I was confident he’d handle this.  Turns out he wasn’t still.  He was frozen.  When the ice cracked, he melted.  We careened ’round the round pen, he being oblivious to my attempts to talk him down.

Time seemed to get slow, and  I wondered, as the world blurred by, how I would ever get off THIS merry go round.  He wasn’t bucking but he wasn’t “there” either.  He’d gone bye bye.

But lo, within less than two circuits (see I told you time slowed down–seemed like I had forever to think up there), he faced the fence and re-froze.

So, should I swing off?  Or will he shatter?  Can’t sit all day, so I got off.  He held still.

We talked.

I remounted, BUT I did not ask him to move  so much as a hair!  For the next 10+ rides, his mom, Carolyn, reassured him on the ground while I started off playing passenger (Just sitting up here!  Don’t mind me!).

Gradually, I directed more and she did less, until he was on his own!

At 23 rides he could do this: (click link or cut and paste?)

At 34: (click link 0r cut and paste?)

After the initial start up adrenaline (mostly mine), horses progress so fast!  And their attitudes change.  Many will come up, asking to go out instead of turning away when I show up with a halter. By 10 to 15 rides, most can walk, trot, back a bit, go sideways, move hip, move shoulder, go out on a (quiet but technical) trail, open and shut a gate, go over a bridge and negotiate logs at a walk and trot. Some take a little longer (um Queri, yes we are talking about you.)

So: Five to ten days of ground work, three or so days getting on, 10 rides, and the horse of course has to have some days off in there too.  That is 30 to 45 days “of training”.

To produce a “finished” horse requires 300 to 500 hours; 3-5 years OR MORE.

A lot of  those Olympic 3-day eventing horses are in their teens.  They jump in the show arena, do dressage, and run cross country, leaping over the biggest and most incredible jumps (boats in water for example!) that would scare the hair off the ordinary horse (and rider!)

High level dressage horses are not youngsters and neither are most world class rope horses.

Thirty days?  Snort.  That ain’t even kindergarten.

 P.S. Tabooli has a new home!  It seems like it will be just perfect for him.  I only cried a little. Congrats T’s NewMom!

About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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2 Responses to Thirty Days

  1. Doranna says:

    Good-bye, Tabooli! *sniff*

    I guess the problem with starting at Ride Five is that maybe on Ride One someone got bucked off, and no one tells you… Heh.

    LOVE the video. What progress! *snortsnortsnort* Querido is a lovely boy, too.

  2. Patty says:

    LOL! Yep nice to know ALL the history!
    T has a GREAT new home!
    Querido is quite the cutie!

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