What's your favorite colt starting experience? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 12:28 AM Thread Starter
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What's your favorite colt starting experience?

I have two. The first was when I was about 21. I had been working for one of my proffesors on his farm dealing primarily with pigs and cattle. The guy had bought a bunch of horses that were headed for slaughter and he figured that he could take the ones that could be turned into or already were good horses and sell them and send the rest on to slaughter. I was just about to start riding some of them when I read Monty Roberts book "the man who listens to horses". I think I only put that book down twice in the two days it tool me to read it. I had been sceptical of the whole horse whisperer thing up untill then. I went to work in a makeshift round pen with this cute blue roan mare. I think she must have read the book too because everything happened perfectly. She never even attempted to buck and she stayed hooked on to me the whole time I was riding her. That changed the way I handle horses and changed my life for the better.

The other one came last summer when I had the honor of hosting a clinic for one of the greatest horseman of all time Ray Hunt. As the host of the clinic I could ride in one class for free. I chose to ride in the colt starting class and then I paid to ride in the horsemanship class as well. In the colt starting class Ray had us do a little ground work then we saddled the 8 horses in the round pen and turned them loose. Wow. What a sight especially when you're in the middle of the pen full of bucking horses. To make a long story short over the course of three days we all got a pretty good foundation on our horses and on the last day we rode them outside and nobody had a runaway or wreck of any kind. The most impressive part about the whole time was when Ray would lecture about figuring things out from the horses perspective and getting him in the right place to do what you're asking him to do.

The first experience was like Horses 101 and the second was a masters program. If any of you would like to know how this whole "natural horsemanship" thing is supposed to be then I suggest you look at Ray Hunt. He could have been a world champion at any discipline he chose but instead he travelled across the country and world doing clinics. He said he wasn't doing them for people he was doing them for the horses.

Sorry for the long post. I can't wait to hear some other experiences.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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post #2 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 01:00 AM
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I can't even pick which one was my favorite, I think I have 2.

Denny: He was my first experience starting a horse all on my own. I was 15 and had all the fearlessness of youth. He had been abused and traumatized by his former owner's "cowboy" (in the stereotyped sense of the word) and was dangerous as they called him. If a man stepped into the pen with him, he would ricochet off of panels, barns, and people trying to get away. I still remember the exact moment I made up my mind. It was before school on a crisp November morning when i was feeding, I looked at him and said "You're pretty, I think I'll ride you." So that afternoon, I came home and got my saddle and snaffle and carried them to his pen. After about 20 minutes of just standing in the middle of the pen and letting him run circles around me, he stopped and looked at me. I took my time and got the bridle on him. I slowly calmed him with gentle scratches all over his neck and sides, then I grabbed the saddle pad. His eyes widened but I continued to talk to him and let him sniff of the pad, then gently laid it against his neck before moving it to his back. I took it off and put it back on several times doing it less gently every time until he was comfortable with me just tossing it up there. When I tossed my saddle on top of it, he just flinched but stood still. I cinched him up with no problems and then tied his head each way to teach him to give to the bit. After he had that down, I lunged him each way until he was relaxed and then got on. No rodeo like I expected, no running or throwing a fit. The only time he ever bucked with me was about 2 weeks into his training when I just threw the saddle on, climbed on and asked for the lope. Not that he could really buck anyway. I corrected him with a few tiny circles and he hasn't bucked since. To this day, I am the only one who can successfully ride him and control him well. I made a lot of mistakes but I wouldn't change a single one of them because he helped make me into the horseman I am today.

My second favorite is Dobe. A friend offers my Dad a 3 year old buckskin mustang stud for $125 (apparently they hadn't looked at him since he was a yearling and still a buckskin). He had never been handled. Dad gladly accepts and brings home a skinny, blown out, little fugly gray stud that is completely W.I.L.D. Left him in the trailer until we could get a halter on him then tied him to the side of the trailer. He didn't fight or pull back at all. I spent that first day just standing with him at the end of the rope and slowly feeding him alfalfa from my hand and bringing him water. Day 2 went to the round pen where after some initial rubbing and scratching, he is saddled with no fight. Only a couple of spooks away from the saddle. Tied his head around each way then lunged him until he relaxed a bit. Then got on. Has never offered to buck and by day 5, I was riding him through cattle. Now been riding him for 4 1/2 years and used him to drag calves all spring and am now using him to wean. Carried the flag in the parade for the last 2 years and he is one of my best friends.

There is no feeling quite like taking a horse that no one else has been able to handle and watching them mature and grow into a wonderful using horse. To see them learn and watch as they have a lightbulb moment is why I like to train horses.

Whew, and you thought your's was long, Kevin. LOL.
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post #3 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 01:27 AM Thread Starter
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I enjoy threads like this that are less likely to turn into arguments and snipping backand forth. Although I take part in my fair shore of those as well.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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post #4 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 01:44 AM
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*guilty face* I do too. I should learn not to get on here when I feel snippy. I should go for a ride to relax first. LOL.
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post #5 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 01:50 AM
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It's not really a colt breaking story as much as a re-training story but it's my favorite because it's Diesel's story.

I had just had to give back my OTTB because he failed the PPE, so when I went to look at some horses they were selling privately through the auction, I was thinking more with my heart than my head. I tried Diesel and a little dun mare. The mare was awesome...spun, flying lead changes, sliding stops, etc. But I am a sucker for a big dark horse, and Diesel was a quiet ride. He being sold as a western pleasure horse but since I recoginized some speed and cow horses on his papers, I thought I could make him into my barrel horse. When I had bought my OTTB, I had my trainer come with me...stupidly, I didnt bring her this time.
What I had thought were western pleasure gaits were actually because he was drugged.

I brought him home and got him over a cold, and got on expecting the smooth ride I had before. No such luck. The second you got on him, his eyes bugged out, he tensed up and jittered everywhere. If you any pressure on the reins, he reared straight up and nearly back over more than once. He had no idea how to back, shoved on the ground, and was hell to be around. I nearly took him back, but my mom told me to give him a week (I was probably 15 or 16 at the time?)

So we started going for walks down to the lake and back. For a few weeks we just did stuff on the ground. He stopped being chargy and lunging at you so I started him like he was a colt. Rode him around in a snaffle and just let him have fun with riding. I made that horse do everything with me and logged more hours and miles on him than I can count. I didn't really know anything about training a horse, and he had the basics on him, but I trained him that riding didn't have to be traumatizing and rearing was going to cause him a lot more harm than good.

Now he's my everything horse. When he's in shape, he's my 1D barrel horse. He team sorts, does endurance, drill, english, and we have competed in western pleasure and horsemanship (though...he doesnt quite know what to make of that).

I'm just really glad I didn't quit on him like I wanted to. It took some time and patience, but now he gives me his all every ride.
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post #6 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 01:22 PM
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This isn't starting but it involved breaking a guy. He was 6 1/2 before he was broke and for the first few months things went along fine. I worked a couple of evenings a week in the arena teaching him reining and the weekends running trail to teach him to be an endurance horse.
He side passed pretty solid but one time I asked him to sidepass over a rail set about 30 inch above the ground on stands. He started to side pass towards the rail and then just said no and started to pitch. He tried everything to get rid of me and at one point pinned my leg against the sleek sides of the arena and leaned hard into the wall. Wearing heavy leather chaps and a smooth wall I could laugh at him. He just plain wore himself out and then he went right over to the rail and did as nice a side pass as you can imagine. He remember why this fight took place.
The next evening I tried the same thing, he started to side pass, suddenly went to explode and before he really did anything he stopped, sidepassed over the rail.
He never fought me again or refused anything, never.
I rode him for the next 17 years and over 30,000 logged miles without a single problem.
I believe every well broke horse has to try you sometime, give it his best try and when he fails he respects you as his master. I don't beleive in partnerships with a horse.
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post #7 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 01:27 PM
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I have two (well, 1 1/2 because I'm currently working on the second).

The first was a filly of mine back in the 80's. I got her as range bred/born. She was a yr old, the ugliest, scrawniest, thing you ever saw. I can even remember thinking, please don't let her be the one. Please no!! But she was. We drove her home in the back of our pickup.

She didn't have any care for humans, and I would spend every day just sitting beside her, dreaming what it would be like to have a horse of my own to ride. I would also consume and read anything I could get my hands on regarding how to train her.

I learned I was suppose to work her in a round pen, and that's what I started doing. I learned round pen work, I learned sack out and the learning went on and on both for her and for me. Then one day she was 2 yrs old, and I took my first seat on her back. She never knew I wasn't suppose to be there.

We didn't have alot of money back then, and so for a long time I road her bareback with nothing but a halter and a lead rope. Our relationship grew stronger and over the next few years we both grew bigger and better. I was eventually able to show her in western pleasure classes and timed events. She was a wonderful teacher and student to me and the perfect girl's horse.

My second is currently happening now, Lillie won't be two until next year, but I'm having a wonderful time teaching her ground work, round pen work, and seeing how doing clicker training can work with a horse. She takes a saddle, will walk over tarps, stand under tarps, drive her in a saddle all over the farm. She's been a dream. I look forward to learning more and more with her and being able to enjoy that first ride.

When Lyric is a year old I hope to enjoy doing the same things with her.

"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
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post #8 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 01:43 PM
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Oh, it'd definitely be when I started breaking Bandit to harness! XD I held him, and I had a friend come up with the harness, and I'm sitting there getting all worked up, thinking "He's going to freak out and hurt himself! I shouldn't be breaking a horse; I should've just hired Terry to do it!"
Bandit's response to the harness? He barely batted an eye at it. So I had my friend hold him, and I sort of shook the harness at him, jangling all the straps and stuff. Nothing. I finally got up the nerve to plop it on his back. Didn't strap it up or anything, just lay it there. He picked his head up and turned around to look at it and snorted. And then he just bites down on the harness, drags it off his back and onto the ground, and goes back to eating grass. It was the stupidest thing, like he was saying "No. I don't want that thing."
I picked it up and popped it on him again, a bit braver, and start to do up some of the straps; he snorts again and tries to pull it off, finds out he can't, and then shakes his head at it. Then he just ignores it. I got it on him and started walking him, and then started to lunge him, and he acted like it wasn't even on him!
When I did get to hitching him to the cart, I went through the same thing -- all worried that he'll freak out with the cart, so I took my time making every noise I could, and he just didn't care. Hooked it up to him, lead him around... other than getting a little annoyed when the shafts poked him in the shoulder, he acted as if he'd been pulling carts for years... and he wasn't even three yet, and had never in his life seen a horse or pony cart!
I'm still shocked by it.
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post #9 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 07:19 PM
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Good thread Kevin,

Like some of the others, I am reminded of two horses I started. The first one is of the first colt I started by myself.

There were plenty of horses to ride on my dad and grandfather's ranch when I was a kid, but when I was 13 I wanted a horse of my own. My dad thought it was a good idea, as long as I earned the money to buy the horse.

There was a small house on the ranch that my dad rented each summer to a family of hispanic migrant farmworkers. The father/grandfather of this family was named Roberto Matta (sp?). Bob Matta was fairly old and his "job" was to find work for his family. When the family had enough work, Bob worked for my dad in order to pay off the rent. He worked with the cattle some, but mostly he worked with the horses. He was a hand with a horse.

Although there was plenty of work for a 13 year old boy on the ranch, my dad "let" me work with Bob's crew weeding sugarbeets a few days a week in order to earn enough money to buy the horse. It was hard work and they worked long hours. And- for a kid who thought he was a real cowboy- doing common fieldwork was way beneath me. But my dad (and Bob) knew what they were doing. Not only did I get the horse but I acquired an appreciation for other people and cultures. Besides Bob had a 16 year old granddaughter on the crew that was a real beauty. Did I mention I was a teenage boy?

I bought some school clothes and a yearling sorrel filly from the neighbors for $45 with the money I earned that summer. I named the filly April (she was born on April Fools Day) and put her in a small pen near the house. My sisters and I made a pet out of her.

Bob didn't think much of the way my family trained horses. My grandfather would run in geldings when they were 4 to 6 years old, rope them, choke them down, tie up a leg, throw a saddle on, one of my older cousins would climb up, grandpa would jerk the rope off the leg and the rodeo would begin. They started the colts in a curb bit, the reason being that the horse might as well get used to the equipment they would be expected to work in for the rest of their lives.

When Bob left for Mexico that fall he gave me a bosal he braided from an unraveled grass lariat. My headstall was on it and my curb bit's mouthpiece was broken in half. When I asked him what happened to my bit he just raised his hands and shrugged his shoulders. Even at my age I realized he was making a statement. With his granddaughter interpreting, he told me to saddle up April next spring ("she is gentle enough and strong enough"), take her out to a plowed field (it was soft and deep), and to ride her in the bosal.

My mom said Bob was looking out for me- she said Bob thought I'd kill myself trying to start April the way grandpa started horses. Now, 44 years later I know Bob was looking out for the horse!

I got a white knuckled grip on the saddlehorn and gave her a kick. April walked right off. Never did buck- which was unheard of with the way we started horses. I had her going pretty well by the time Bob and his family came back later that spring. I was happy, Bob was happy, and April was happy.

April became one of the better horses on the ranch. Bob would regularly give me tips on training her during the next several summers. He never told me what I was doing was wrong, he just would say "do this" and then show me.

When I was 16 a bull got on the fight and walked through a fence. Dad told me to saddle up April and rope the bull and hold it until he got there with a trailer. I longtrotted out and held the bull. When the trailer got there April and I drug the bull in. What is significant about this to me is that I was good enough and April was good enough to go out alone and do a man's job. My grandfather stopped calling me Roddy and started calling me Rod.

When I was 19 I left home for two years to serve a mission for my church. I got back home just after Bob and his family returned to Mexico for the year. Bob had been riding April for the past two summers. I never really realized how great a horseman Bob was until I rode April after he had ridden her. Before I left April was a good horse and I was proud of the job I'd done. But after I got back April was a great horse- willing, responsive- worked a cow and a rope much better than before.

I never saw Bob again. He and his family stopped coming to Idaho to work during the summer. There have been times since then when I was stumped with a horse and have thought Bob Matta would know what to do. I was just a stupid kid. Sometimes I resented the advice the old mexican gave me. I did not take advantage of a great opportunity to really learn about training horses. How I would love to be able to ride a pasture again with Bob. Or just sit down and talk horses for a while. I guarantee I'd be a better student.

I guess this story is more about a good man that unselfishly helped me start a colt than about the colt itself. I can't help but think about this good man whenever I hear that Ian Tyson song-

Big long tapederos hangin' both sides of an old Visalia tree.
Hey, Mr. vaquero, put a handle on my pony for me,
Teach me the mystery.

I did say there were two horses- I've wasted too much time on this one. I still have a horse to ride tonight. I'll get to the other one in few days.

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post #10 of 21 Old 10-21-2009, 09:11 PM
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Definately starting Zierra. I'm not much sure if I believe in God, but if there is one, he sure granted me one huge favour in life by dropping that sweet tempered filly down to teach me a thing or two.

I was only 14 when Zierra was born and she was supposed to be my sisters horse (I already had two). My sister has never much liked horses and it took awhile for her to get that across to my parents, but eventually Zierra was mine. I'd never trained a horse before, and my grandpa stuck around long enough to give me a few tips when she was just a baby. I was so fascinated by this little critter who knew no fear, I just tried everything I could think of with her. She was halter broke within a couple days, and by six months old I was doing everything with her from setting a kid's English saddle on her, to rubbing her with bags, handling her feet and even getting her used to clippers. She just took it all in like a good flavoured grain.

As Zierra got older, so did my grandpa and I ultimately lost the only mentor I had. I'd ask him questions when I went inside, but he'd never come out and help me. To this day I don't know if he couldn't be bothered or if he thought he was teaching me something.

I didn't have round pens or training tools or even a wavering knowledge on how to start a colt. I just crossed my fingers and hoped common sense would get me through! At a year old, I'd simply throw the light English saddle on her and then turn her loose in the back 40 to chase me and Zena around (her dam). She had a few playful bucking fits, but within weeks it was old hand to her. By the time she was 2 years old, I had her accepting all tack easily and lunging perfectly. She just learned everything the first time I asked and never gave me room to have to step back and fester over what I was doing wrong. I'd still be trying to teach her and she'd be standing there yawning going "Ok mom, got it like four days ago, let's move on!"

The first time I backed her she was 3 years old and I threw my timid sister on her. I figured I would be a lot more capable of handling her from the ground then my sister. She didn't bat an eyelash. Couldn't care less that human was above her.

When she was a late 3 year old, I decided it was time to ride her. I had no idea what to expect. I didn't own a helmet and I don't think I owned much fear either. I just did what I always did - stepped on and asked her to go! That filly didn't skip a bit, she just went about doing every little thing I asked her exactly how I wanted.

As a 4 year old, she'd drop old cowboys jaws when we went on rides because she was the only horse I owned that I trusted my utterly non-horsey boyfriend on. Ten miles from home, I'd be clipping along the front on her spitfire dam and she'd be moseying along on a loose rein at the back. They came pretty close to out and out calling me a liar, trying to claim this old nag was a 4 year old greenbroke Arabian babysitting a rank novice.

I'd like to take all the credit, but simple fact is I know we got through it with understanding. I don't know if she was born broke, or if somewhere along the way she just decided humans were the coolest thing since crushed oats, but I know I made plenty of mistakes that she never thought twice about forgiving and moving on. But I think she figured out pretty quick that it was a two way street and she wasn't going to get punished for any mistakes she made.

I still own the spoiled little princess and I couldn't imagine life without her. Our partnership continues strong and fierce, and we haven't much changed a bit and still continue to forgive each other and laugh about it!

So thank you, whoever decided to give a dumb solo 14 year old the filly who was born broke!

I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.

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