Hi everyone -- sorry I did not catch these earlier.
For the real nervous horse, ride forward faster.
Ride with a purpose. Treat it like it is a job.
Don't look at the spooky things. Look past things and ride to that distant point.
If you can, ride past a scary place, double the horse back (toward the place or object) and ride back and forth for as long as it takes for the horse to give up the fear. I have done this for more than an hour when Dobbin has convinced himself that he should be afraid of something.
If a horse is afraid of tractors, I get husband to take our big tractor and drag a harrow or ?? and I follow him all over the pasture. I just trot and keep the horse as close as I can to the tractor.
Pretty soon, I can go along-side of the tractor and finally the tractor can follow him without him getting stupid.
We live on a busy US Highway. It's parallel to I-35, it gets over-size loads and the rock trucks from the crushers in the mountains just south of us (where we ride). The rock trucks going north pass feet away from our arena. So, we just tie horses out next to the highway. We have a 5' tall pipe arena and 150' round pen making up the highway fence. We tie horses out there until they go to sleep and ignore the big trucks. We let people bring horses here and tie them by the road. I'm sure other people would let horsemen in their area do the same.
We will take horses to a practice roping and to playdays. They stand tied out of the way until they tune out the noise and activity. I did this with all of my show horses before I started hauling them.
I am not much on fighting with a horse. If they are herd-bound, I tie them out until they get quiet. If a horse is seriously freaking out at something, I might haul him 50 miles to 'set him up' where he had to get used to that something. If I have learned one thing in the last 50 years, it is that it is futile to fight a horse. They learn nothing when they are 'reactive' or 'on the fight'. They just get practice using resistance and are not receptive, are not thinking and sure are not learning anything good. I think that if you let horses get used to fighting with a rider every day, they just start out looking for that fight. They make a habit of fighting just like they learn any other habit -- good or bad.
I am also not much for taking horses out together. I think it is harder to break them of needing a friend along than it is to break them to go out bravely on their own in the first place. I have done it both ways and I find teaching them to go out on their own is FAR better and easier.
Some of you may know that I have severe arthritis. My joint and spinal degeneration has progressed to the point where I cannot ride much at all and ride mostly at a walk when I do try to ride. I can jog or post a little, but a lope is about impossible now with my back.
I finally gave in and have brought in an apprentice from Virginia. She is all of 5'3" and about 120 pounds. So far she has put the first rides on about 10 or 12 young mares and geldings one big, stout 8 year old gelding that was barely halter broke. She has had ONE give one half-hearted jump and not a single buck, run-off or wreck so far. Since I have been getting in such bad shape the last few years, the untrained herd had gotten up to about 25 head that should have been started way before now. The young horse market crashed about the same time I did, so they just stayed in the pasture -- un-broke. I would not take them to the sale (three miles down the road) but they sure did not get any younger while they stayed there.
I tried several young ranch-raised 'cowboys' from around here. They could ride the hide off of anything, but they would not listen and always wanted to 'cowboy' the horses. 'Cowboyed' horses require a cowboy from now on (or at least a good while). Cowboys don't have any money and they only buy 'cheap' horses. The people that don't know how to ride have all of the money and little skill and they don't want 'cowboy horses'. Those people have always been my market. The horses have to be gentle, well-mannered and have to stay broke. Turn them out for 6 months and they have to come right back and ride just like they did. I always trained horses that don't need a round pen or a longe line -- even after a lay-off or vacation. You can saddle them up, get on and go ride. If you want them trained that way, you have to teach them and not 'cowboy' them. You have to teach their minds and not just pull 'wet saddle blankets' from them. Miles help a 'tough' horse, but you won't get much real training done if you count on just miles.
This young girl has started at least 10 or 12 head on the rough trails south of the ranch. I will ride a broke horse (or at least have one at the trailer) and she will ride on ahead on a green one. She rides 5 or 6 miles while I ride 1 or 2 at a walk if I ride at all. She can get me on the cell phone if she has a problem. I have had to ride to her and 'coach' her some a couple of times (not lately), but all of these green, green, GREEN colts have gone everywhere she has pointed their heads. They go out in the canyons, up and down steep rocky banks, across water -- anywhere.
They get hauled to the mountains after 3 to 5 rides here at the ranch. They usually only stay in the round-pen for 2 rides. Then they get a 5 minute warm-up in the round pen and are ridden all over the ranch (where there are not loose horses) for the next ride or two and then it is out to the canyons. They learn to 'guide' and to stay between the rider's reins and legs (she did not know what that meant until she got here). They learn to lope circles in clearings, to 'leg yield' while riding in the brush and open places. We never ride them together and they quickly learn to go everywhere you point their heads -- by themselves.
None of these green horses has tried to throw her or even thrown a big tantrum. She is not experienced. She has never done this before. She had not ridden outside of a ring much, had never started any un-broke horses, never ground driven one and never stepped up on one for its first ride. She had mostly warmed horses up for a trainer at a boarding stable before I brought her here. She turned 19 last Friday and came last fall, right out of High School. So ladies -- don't despair. You can do it if your horse is not totally spoiled and has a trainable mind!
I am telling you this so that you can understand that you don't need to be big and tough. You don't need to be an expert or real experienced. [This girl has a very good seat and very good balance but started out with little knowledge, not great hands and no experience with a tough or green horse.] You need to learn to be smarter and you need to learn how and why horses do things. You need to know when to go tie one up and let him get his mind 'right' so he can learn. You need to know when to push one and when to accept what you are getting. You need to learn how to take steps that are logical to a horse. You need to figure out what is missing. If a horse is properly prepared for each new thing, then the next step goes off without a hitch or a hesitation. You don't have to look like a line-backer. [Actually, I think great size and strength are a handicap.] You can weigh 120 pounds and get a 1200# horse to do anything they are ready and able to do and do it without a fight.
I'll address the other two questions a little later. I am already seeing double. Cherie