I am not taking outside horses for the foreseeable future. I am going to focus on my homebred horses.
Training is always limited book. I do not take more than four horses at a time, if I take that many. This gives me more time to devote to each horse.
I specialize in re-training ex-racehorses and abused horses for new jobs. Though I do love a ‘clean slate’ to train on, I have found ‘clean slates’ are few and far between.
This includes all feed and hay. Any special supplements must be supply by the owner.
Green or Un-broke colts I insist on a 60 day minimum. I will not put only 30 days on a green colt. That is not enough time to teach them much or get them comfortable with the idea. This also does not mean that after 60 days they are seasoned riding horses.
2 Week Ground Work / Trailer Loading Course:
For horses that need ground manners / loading problems worked on, weanlings for halter breaking / ground manners, or a good entry ground work for colts that will be started under-saddle the following year. Depending on your needs the program will be tailored to fit.
I use a Positive Reinforcement training method: Correct responses are rewarded, incorrect ones are ignored until the skill is learned. This often includes the use of treats – the clearest way to communicate praise and associate praise with good things. Once they grasp the idea, treats are weaned down to a post-work reward. I have had great success with this as a motivator. Nothing changes a horse’s attitude quite like his stomach!
I do have a zero tolerance policy for rearing, striking, biting, kicking, crowding, running off and bucking. Those behaviors are always corrected as are outright disobedience.
I try to send horses home with experience in several types of bridle, though I usually ride in what is good for the horse. Every horse gets exposure to a loose ring french link, a soft Mylar curb bit (whichever fits best) and an S-hack. Generally they also get ridden in a side-pull or halter a few times too, but that usually depends on the horse.
I teach in-depth leg, weight and voice cues, minimizing bridle cues as soon as they grasp a skill. I also always work toward a goal of a no-bridle stop. Some pick it up quickly, some take a little longer, but it is a great skill, and should make clear exactly how light I want them to be on the bridle when they are finished. This does require the rider to ride light-handed, even in full contact.
I emphasis the importance of ground work. Often I am asked why I think this is so important, or why I am wasting time on the ground. The truth is that you are dealing with a flight animal that is bigger, stronger and faster than you – this makes ground work so important for two reasons:
1. With good ground work they are safe to handle, tie easily, bathe, are less of a hassle for the farrier, and will load into a trailer without drama. You cannot force a horse to do anything, he has to do it willingly and safely.
2. With good groundwork, they are less worried about a rider on their back and can concentrate on basic skills you are teaching them. Like stopping, turning, moving out, opening and closing gates, and listening to commands. With a basic skill set, when I get on them they are not trying to learn all that while dealing with a saddle, rider and cinch. Instead, you have only added weight. It eliminates a great deal of the panic reaction and fright while making the initial rides a good experience.
I have ridden lots of ‘cowboy broke’ horses, yes it works. If that is your style, that is fine. I just don’t have time to take the risk of getting hurt by bucking colts through the initial few rides, and I like the results I get with the ground work. We are talking about a training method that was used thousands of years before the cowboy way, to train war horses. It is not natural horsemanship, it is traditional horsemanship.
Even with horses that already have saddle experience I spend some time daily refreshing, or touching up, ground work. It reinforces what we are working on under-saddle, and gives me a chance to look for things that need to be worked on in movement and carriage that I cannot see from the saddle.