The million dollar question…. Is a colt broke if it lets you ride it around on its back?
The million dollar answer…. Depends on who you’re asking.
In my book, it doesn’t matter how well they carry you around. If you have to pull them around, they’re not broke.
For me, getting one soft through the face and through the body is the critical step in breaking horses. You can’t move forward until you have those elements in place. For a lot of people however, it’s just the opposite – the critical step for them is getting the horse to stand still or move without bucking. Reining comes later.
What exactly is “soft” and why is it so important?
Through the years there have been many great horseman try to define what softness is in a horse. Quite frankly, if you’re a horseman that loves to learn, your definition of softness will evolve and grow deeper as you learn.
Giving just a basic definition of softness so that you get the idea, softness is being able to get the horse to do something or move something without a lot of effort.
For instance, you ask a horse to bring its head around by pulling on the lead rope or the rein. A soft horse, you don’t have to pull in order to get the head around – they require a lot less effort. You only have to pick up. There’s a big difference in effort between pulling and just picking up a rein and that’s basically the beginning idea of softness.
Why is softness so important when it comes to progressing with breaking colts? I’ve found that it can literally mean the difference between staying and hitting dirt.
By now you’re probably asking how in the world getting a horse soft can keep you from falling off. It’s quite simple, actually. It boils down to timing and effort.
It takes more time to pull a horse’s head around than it does to just pick up. If a young horse starts to buck or rear, in order to control the feet you need to get control of the head quickly. If you’re having to pull instead of pick up, your horse has a better chance of getting a jump in on you before you get control.
As mentioned earlier, it takes more effort to pull than just pick up. It also requires more balance because of the leverage needed in order to pull. If your horse is acting up, most likely your balance is already in danger. Add the fact that you’re having to struggle to get your horse’s head around and you’re setting yourself up to quickly become unbalanced.
Those are just two elementary examples of why getting a horse soft prior to getting on is so important when it comes to breaking colts, just riding horses in general. True softness goes much deeper than that but it’s the foundation of everything that goes into an upper level finished horse that’s easy to ride.
Does your horse require a lot of effort to ride? If so, what can you work on to make your horse easier to ride?