I’ve got to ride quite a few colts this past Summer. In my string I have two 3 year olds, and a 4 year old. The four year old mare has the most rides on her, and recently, as I was astride, I realized something — she isn’t comfortable in the West end of our barn. She needed help to get comfortable.
I thought to myself, “why is this?” Well, self, I said, “It’s because you saddle and unsaddle her in the East end all the time”. What an easy fix, right? So that day, I unsaddled her on the opposite end of the barn. I mean the horse is mobile, right? I don’t need to come in and do the same thing every time. At the end of a ride, I hang that saddle on the fence 50% of the time and leave it on the ground the other, so why not unsaddle somewhere different everyday, and take the horse to the saddle? Bazinga!
The next ride, I brought her in and groomed her in the middle of the arena. Then I proceeded to hang out with her there for about 20 minutes. I’ve spoken at length about just being with your horse, so this seems apt for me: no agenda, just hanging with my best girl (actually the only mare I’m currently riding, but I digress). She cocked a back leg, let me lean on her while I scrolled through Instagram. Sometimes, just being in a place together is the best way to get where you want to go.
Our ride that day was pretty spectacular. She rode on the West end of the barn like a champ, despite the fact that our crazy barn cat likes to camp back there and stalk the horses, which is probably part of why the colts may find that space to be scary- but there’s going to be lots of scary stuff in their world: dead cows in the pasture, signs at rodeos and equine events, ropes flying and more. They’ve got to learn to look to us to help them realize there’s nothing to be afraid of and by changing the routine, we can do just that: Help them get comfortable in any situation. Give them time to think, give them time to check back with you — are you freaking out? If so, your horse may have good cause to freak out too. So if we’re good, they can be good.
Hopefully my moment of introspection will help you with your horses in some way, shape or form. Enjoy the journey and enjoy the ride.
Have you ever known someone with a horse that would consistently frustrate them with something they were asking, but someone more experienced might come along and get there with almost no extra effort? For me, it had to do with getting horses to be still, be with me. One time it was the horse that wouldn’t stand still when I had a calf roped.
You can hear a little more about that story on the Let Freedom Rein podcast. If you’ve already listened, you know it was Ol’ Nub Long that helped me through that. Same type of lesson, in totally different circumstances, I learned from his son, Dave “Daviento” Long when I was struggling to get better at saddling a colt. Dave is as good as I’ve seen at saddling a colt. Such a matter of fact presentation.
When I asked him about how he was able to get it done so smooth, he just chuckled (the same chuckle he still does when he repeatedly out ropes us) and said something like “There’s nothing to worry about. Either I’ve done enough to get him ready, or not, and he’ll let me know. If it goes well, we move on, if it doesn’t we start again.” Incidentally, I’ve never seen Dave make it look like anything other than saddling old reliable.
What Dave helped me realize 20 years ago, is that it was a lack of confidence on my part that it’d be alright either way. I had some confidence around horses but not a lot of experience in saddling a horse that wasn’t tied up. It was just a lack of confidence that it’d be alright. Once I understood that the worst thing that happened was that I go back and revisit a few things that would make my entire relationship with the horse better, I brought a lot less uncertainty to the encounter.
So how do we get that confidence? Odds are not everyone gets to be around as many horses as we get do; and that’s the surest way. This lesson helped us realize that by breaking a situation down to its component parts we can make things more achievable. If we can build confidence in performing those smaller, component parts, that confidence we build in ourselves can project through uncertainty.
In this video Jenn’s working on bridling a colt, and she shows some of the component parts for bridling. You’ll notice there’s no bridle in sight. Jenn is able to comfortably handle the equipment, the horse, and the situation.
Now, think about your situation that frustrated you. What could you do, short of handling a few hundred more horses, to get some more experience that you can gain confidence in? Have real world example you’d like some feedback on? Get in touch with us here, or better yet come on out to our inaugural horsemanship workshop at the ranch in May.