Ideas about starting young horses (Western).
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, June 2, 2008 09:30 AM
My friend and neighbor is an experienced horsewoman. She does Western. Her specialty is starting young horses. Before her children were born she was doing 6 colts at a time. Now she is going back to working horses on a regular basis. She has three horses she is starting right now. And I offered her my assistance for the chance to see her work and learn more about starting young horses. I have started some young horses a long time ago. I wanted to get new tips from a Western horseperson.
Besides regular round pen work there were many other interesting ideas such as:
  • She does not tie her horses for grooming and saddling until they stay absolutely still for such procedures in the round pen.
  • She saddles a horse up, putting a bridle without reins and leaving him in the paddock for 30-40 minutes. He may try to buck, or nip at the saddle but mostly he is just by himself and gets used to the saddle without human intervention.
  • She puts tires on the saddle, ties them up on the left and right sides of the saddle. They are quite secure but still has some movement. Which gets a horse to be accustomed to riders legs and to extra weight and volume in the saddle.
  • Tying up to the saddle a lunge whip with the grain sack at the end. Lunge whip is in vertical position. The purpose to have something high enough like rider's head or arms.
  • She does not try to get on a horse until they are completely comfortable with the saddle and things in walk, trot and canter.
  • She does not really lunge her horses in the English style sense. However, she drives them in long lines. She teaches them to turn, stop, go, back up a few steps.
  • Before she even starts getting on a horse she jumps up and down holding on the horn of a Western saddle, bumps into the side of the saddle, touches the horse with the knee at the stirrup bar, imitating a touch from the front of the boot when rider is mounting. She does it on both sides. Assistant is holding the horse at that moment.
  • Next procedures are very similar to standard work: getting on and off, walking the rider in hand, lunging, letting the rider to ride inside round pen and then in the arena.
All work is done with patience and positive attitude. Most of the time a horse tells if he is ready to move on or not. Sometimes they tell very loudly. For example, one of the mares has spooked and bucked quite strongly. I had to bail out from the saddle :) That was definitely a wakeup call not to push this horse. She was doing so well we have started thinking of taking her on a trail ride :) Not yet!!! Now we are back to tires on the saddle, lunging and driving.
Patience is very important with young horses. You must be willing to step back if something is wrong. Let your youngster tell you if he is ready to move on. Work steadily toward your goal, do not let emotions overpower you, especially when young horses act silly, "stupid" or ignorant.
Happy riding...
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