A few years ago, I got one of those really fun to ride horses in to train. One that was already really broke. You should understand there are varying levels of broke, and even in within the horse industry, people will not agree on what a broke horse is; and just because a horse is gentle and will babysit any rider, doesn’t mean it’s broke. However, true horseman have a standard- they want the horse to be light, responsive, and carry the bit on their own. They don’t use tricks or gimmicks (martingales, tie downs, bigger bits for more leverage or even change bits frequently) because they want consistency. You accomplish that by using your hands correctly, making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard, and by consistently removing the pressure from your horse when he’s done what you asked. If you’ve ever gotten the chance to watch horses in a pasture, you’ll notice that they move away from pressure. You can see one horse flick her ear at another; that horse realizes she’s too close and she should move. And as soon as the horse recognizes its mistake and moves away, life goes back to normal.
Really good trainers excel at doing just this. They think like horse and provide clear, consistant signals; then they wait for the horse to try to respond- keeping the pressure on until the desired response is received. The pressure can even be increased to elicit the desired response, but you always start by asking with less. Less is what makes a lighter horse. Most horsemen can get along with any horse and they don’t personify the feelings or actions of the horse- in other words they’re unemotional about it- they don’t say, “this horse is mad, he’s stubborn, he’s holding a grudge”, or what have you- because let’s face it, horses only know how to be horses. They’re not people. That’s not to say that I don’t believe they have emotions- because on some levels they do- but they don’t think, reason or behave like humans.
I say all this for two reasons.
1. I am fortunate enough to be attending a Buck Brannaman clinic the last weekend of March. He is one of the most talented horsemen currently alive on this planet and I cannot wait to see what I’ll learn over the course of four days! He is also the author of Believe: A Horseman’s Journey (which is really about life as well- even if you’re not into horses you’d see the parallels) and The Faraway Horses: The Adventures and Wisdom of one of America’s Most Renowned Horsemen. I believe he one of the most positive people you could put in your life. Kinda like my cowboy! Rest assured that I’ll be blogging my way through that clinic. It’s going to be life changing, I’m sure. I can see him rubbing and reassuring and loving his horse though the reins in his confidence and way he handles himself. I get emotional just thinking about the fact that I’ll be on the same spot of ground as this man! Gump and I are going to have so much fun and the goal is to come back as a better person, horseman, and more confident rider!
Buck on working on cow:
2. I got a new horse this week. I know, I know, I needed another horse like I need a hole in my head, but this horse has held a special place in my heart. I trained him for a high school student about 4 years ago. He was exceptionally talented, he’s the one I was referring to when you started reading this blog. I cannot believe how fortunate I am to now own him. Good things come to those who are patient…
Just Plain Hotroddin (aka Sharpeye)
And since we need to laugh daily- I’ll share with you, that when he left the barrel at which this picture was taken, he left so hard he broke my bra.