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What Can I Do With My Young Horse?

There are definite advantages in working with young horses before they are of riding age, unfortunately most of the time we limit what we do because we aren’t thinking of the big picture and connecting with the future or perhaps we can’t think of all the things we can do before we begin riding them!

LuluBelle and her first saddling.Many of the horses I get in for starting usually require a lot more remedial work because we have to go back to establishing or improving ground fundamentals instead of focusing on riding. A horse with a good foundation breezes through saddling, mounting and riding and be on their first trail ride in less than an hour (my shortest was 8 minutes and the horse was riding on the trails and over to the highway and along the road).

Once again, I find my barn full of mustangs, 4 this time! The 4 year old mares are: Miss Kitty and LuluBelle. The 2 year olds are Shrimp and Xerox (pronounced Ex-er-ox… guess who named her and why!). In the beginning, all the training starts out the same since they come without halters or a lead rope! They’re not familiar with human contact so unless you have the best dumb luck on the planet, you can’t just walk up and put a halter on. These Mustangs are wild. They are bred to survive which means feeling from danger, using their hooves and teeth to defend if necessary so it is important to be very safety minded and cautious when in their presence. Once you can touch them the first time, it’s important to figure out how much is just enough and not too much. Each horse is different and like people have had a life with experiences before they were loaded in a trailer and unloaded at your barn! That first touch is so telling, but it is also a building block of trust. Each and every time we touch, groom and handle them in anyway, we are building that foundation of trust. Some eat it up, others you earn every ounce!

For me the competition isn’t the most important part, but a safe horse to be around and ride or eventually ride is. I find on the mustangs the steps we take are often the ones I referred to in the beginning that are missed and we have to go back to do in the domestic horses that come in to be started under saddle. So from here we will focus on some of those steps!


Paramount is that my horse has to allow me to walk up to put their halter on but my goal doesn’t stop there, I actually aim for them to at the very least start walking toward me too! When I have to hunt and trap a horse to put a halter on in a small paddock I see a red flag that the horse is not ready to turn out into a large pasture! It is also a sign that I need to start or improve in this area, because I want him to WANT to be with me, not be forced to be with me. Ever find yourself in public, recognizing someone you know and avoiding eye contact or conversation with them? Next time this happens ask why? However beware, if you find people avoiding you, this might be your problem. If you find yourself avoiding someone it might be them! Hmm? Think about who YOU are through your horse’s eyes.

Kim grooms Xerox in her paddock.HALTERING

Approaching isn’t the end. I want my horse to be comfortable with haltering and eventually bridling. As I halter, i like my horses to softly drop and yield their head. I start encouraging this AFTER I get the halter on and once they are onboard with understanding the proper answer to my request, I reinforce each and every time I halter and bridle. It is also the first step in teaching the horse to give to pressure.


Leads into trailer loading among other things! Before I rush to the trailer I first need my horse to follow the slack coming out of the lead as well as understanding driving from behind. This is also the horse’s first exposure to me asking him to give to pressure by following the lead as well as yielding his hips and shoulders to the lead rope. This is done very thoughtfully , if you start swinging a stick and rope at them you might find them bolting in a direction with you flying behind like the tail on a kite! To avoid this from happening, you will want to make sure how much pressure you are using and perhaps a first start would be using the tool to sack your horse out. This will allow you to help your horse understand the difference between being uncomfortable with a moving object and an object that is being used to request a specific body part to move.


Shrimp trailer loading lesson follows up pedestal training.I hesitate to call this Advanced Leading, because that might limit your expectation on how far you can go in leading! Rather at this point my horse is following either behind me or alongside me which is a good start, but not good enough to end there! I would like my horse to understand and become comfortable not only following me, but sending as well. I start this with the stall or gate opening and then start with the easiest objects in the obstacle course. By using objects, it gives you and your horse a clearer path where you are asking him to go. The stall also sets up my future trailer loading lesson as well as pedestal training. By the time I get to the trailer, it is just a formality of putting all the same cues in place and taking a picture or a video to share on Facebook. Remember easy successful trailer loading is nothing other than great ground work! If you are having a problem with the trailer either you or your horse need to brush up on groundwork!


Caz ponies Xerox outside through some of the obstacles.Here is where I introduce objects that my horse has to not just negotiate around, but over and through as well. We start at the walk, but as the horse progresses incorporate at the trot and canter as well as jumping. There is also another part which is sacking out. Beware: A lot of people can mess up here by not having laid a good foundation. This is where the horse learns to stand and tolerate objects moving through the air and on the ground as well as them touching him and dragging them. I start with the lunge whip and increase from there. For instance I start with a small rag and eventually it becomes a large tarp. I try to move my obstacles to different areas too, inside as well as outside and change how they are set up. Yes, there is an art to the timing and getting the most out of the training and YOU can do it! If you would like help getting started on obstacle training or sacking out, we offer clinics, lessons and training in these areas.

You can also give your youngster a bath, pony him from an older steady Freddy, teach him to carry a saddle pad, wear a surcingle and or saddle. You can “ride” from the ground by teaching him to yield his hips and shoulders to the halter as well as to the bridle. There is no reason why he can’t perform from both sides soft and supple leg yielding, turns on the forehand, haunches and sidepassing! You can even teach him to line drive and pull a toboggan! The possibilities are endless and you have plenty of time!!

If YOU would like to become the NEW OWNER of one of our newest mustangs give me a call, we’ll be happy to help you anyway we can!

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Hello! I've been helping horses and horse riders to have a better relationship around the country and at my farm through training, lessons and clinics. I get help from my wonderful horses Caz, Holy Socks, Mouse and Sir Thomas. Recently we have added Caz's cousin Jinx to our little team! The articles on my website are free to read and I encourage you to learn more by calling to set up a riding lesson or to attend one of my clinics.

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