Preparation for Showing

To me, breaking colts is relatively easily most of the time. If you do your ground work right, most of the time you won’t have a problem. It’s after the breaking process when you take them out into the real world that the real work begins. That’s when you find out who your horse truly is and whether or not you’ve done all you can do. I can assure you, the real world will quickly help you find the holes in your training that you didn’t know existed.

While hauling out to a show will certainly test how well you’ve trained your horse, there are a few things that can help you and your horse prepare for those first trips out.

The first thing is to of course make sure you’ve got a good foundation on your horse. Are they soft in the face so that if you had to stop or change directions quickly you could? Can you control their feet and their body easily? These are probably the two most critical questions you could ask. Make sure you have control of your horse at home first.

One of the things that I do in the training process to help prepare for hauling and seasoning is lunging out in the pasture. There’s something about working out in a big wide open space that brings out the energy in a green horse. That’s when you’ll see another side of your horse.  It’s better to discover that other side at home where you can deal with it, plus lunging out in the pasture teaches them they have to work no matter where they are and what their energy level is.

Another thing that I do in preparation for hauling out to shows is tying them out for long periods of time on a regular basis. At most local events there are no stalls available for your horses which means they’ll have to stand tied to the trailer. It’s not uncommon to arrive at 9am and the show not end until after 9pm which means they’ll have to stand tied for several hours. Unless you can hold your horse the whole entire day, it’s going to be critical that your horse tie safely to the trailer. Tying your horse out frequently will help prepare for that.

Ponying and using a green horse to pony off of is another preparation step I use for hauling preparation. This is a good tool for getting a horse use to trafficking in the warm up pen or show arena. Ponying gets them used to having another horse close, and teaches them that even though another horse is close they still have to work and have a job to do.

If at all possible, set it up where you can ride with several horses either at home or at a friend’s. Small gatherings with plenty of room are the best places to get your feet wet when starting the seasoning process. You want to set your green horse up for success. The last thing you want to do is haul to a crowded arena with too much activity going on and over-stimulate your horse and set them up for failure.

What are some of the things you have done to prepare your young or green horse for their first outing away from home? Did you feel that you had done enough or did you find things you needed to work on?

Standing tied at an open show….

Ponying as part of the breaking process…

TOADIE SHOWpony toad n mo

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Train Your Horses Well

“Train your horses well because it means their future.”

When I’ve been asked about breaking horses or working through a problem, I’ve always said those words and I’ve always believed them. This last week or so in going through an unexpected family crisis and having to thin my small herd drastically on short notice, those words have hit home harder than I ever imagined.

In working with my horses through the years, I’ve been competition focused. I’ve trained for good manners but have primarily focused on things like taking leads well, consistent movement and speed, softness, body control, etc. While those things may make for a great show prospect, the majority of good homes out there are not looking for a show prospect. The majority of good homes out there are looking for a horse their five year old can ride – that requires a whole different set of skills.

Although I’ve spent a lot of hours in bringing each of my horses along, when it came time to finding them good homes, it’s evident that some of them could use even more time and work. Suddenly things that you just deal with without thinking about become a bigger issue of whether or not the horse will find a good home – not everyone can handle what you just deal with.

For instance, one of my horses has been shown quite a bit in Ranch Trail, Ranch Riding, has sorted cows, and even has some ARHA and EXCA points on him. He’s pretty solid on a lot of things. You can throw a rope unexpectedly around his back feet all day long yet this same horse will cow kick if something hard like a rake suddenly touches his back legs. Although he’s been hauled a lot, if he gets excited he can be pretty explosive.

I’ve had this horse since he was a yearling and although I’ve put a lot of time into him, the things that I need to put more time into suddenly become big issues when trying to place him into a therapy or lesson program. It’s clear he’s not a horse you can place just anywhere so where does that leave his future?

Having to make the decision to get rid of horses I’ve had for ten years has been a heart breaking process but it’s also been a learning process that I think in the end will improve me as a trainer. While I’m sure I’ll still focus on skills needed for showing, the primary goal will be to produce a horse that could be used for therapy or for children so that emergency placement into a good home would be much easier.

Could your horse be a therapy or child’s horse? If not, why? What changes can you make in your training to change that?

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