Speck is the perfect example of the quiet nature we like to see in one of our trail horses for sale. He doesn’t get excited about much of anything. The disposition comes from three things. Genetics surely plays a large part. The American Quarter Horse with the foundation blood lines produce nice horses. The training Speck was given used his good genetics and taught him to accept circumstances that would frighten a lot of horses. He has been required to drag tarps, ride with tarps covering him, walk across tarps, bridges, drag logs, pony colts, exposed to tractors, semi-trucks, motorcycles and everything we could throw at him. He has been exposed to sirens, barking dogs, and deer jumping up nearly underneath him. Third,we have been pulling wet blankets off his back for approaching 17 months. While Speck has a little more to complete before graduating the two-year program, he is well on his way. Not long ago he passed umbrella training where he stands still while an umbrella is opened and closed repeatedly and noisily with a rider on him. Speck is going to make someone a really special horse with many, many years of fun and good times!
We have owned or ridden nearly every breed of horse out there. So why did we select the American Quarter Horse for the trail horse of choice? Several reasons come to mind, but admittedly we live in Oklahoma. It’s quarter horse country! More importantly, the Quarter Horse has the mind, attitude, personality, willingness, and athletic ability to do the job.
Trail riding requires more self-control from a horse than almost any other activity or event. Surprise you! Well think about it for a minute. Trail horses are required to maintain self-control in all sorts of situations. They are ridden in rough terrain with natural predator wildlife such as cougars, wolves, etc. and expected to safely take their rider where he wants to go. These horses are ridden in rescue work, parades, and around countless other events.
There are great mounts in every breed, but the Quarter Horse combines the best from our view. They work hard and enjoy the task at hand. Willing to attempt nearly anything, they still retain a good sense of their surroundings and the situation. They learn fast and remember what you taught. Although there are benefits to every breed, the American Quarter Horse is our preferred choice.
Dragging logs is part of the training every horse in the program receives. It benefits young horses in a number of ways. Physically the horse develops because he is using muscles differently than just riding. But the increase in muscle size and strength is not the primary reason we drag logs.
The horses learn to work and start to appreciate having a job. A smart horse can see you doing something. He won’t understand what you are doing, but can sense you are engaged in a task that has a meaning. Clearing trails is a function regularly done by a lot of trail riding groups and horses are used for the heavy work.
We start the young horses with light logs to develop confidence and get used to the log sticking and catching on rocks, dirt, and other obstacles. It also get the horses used to a rope around their legs, tail, and even neck when backing. The constantly changing positions of the logs require the horses to balance and maintain their feet under their body. They also learn not to fear ” creatures ” running up from behind.
There are numerous reasons to pull logs, fence posts, and other things for developing good trail horses. We want all of our trail horses for sale to know how to work. Log dragging is good for the mind and the body. Besides it sure beats us moving stuff around the ranch by hand!
Although Pete is only halfway finished with our two-year program, he neck reins better than a lot of horses. Pete will go any direction including reverse with two inches of movement. Much like a kid with a joy stick, you can rest your wrist on the saddle horn and ride along. You never have to move your hand off the horn to change directions. You just move your wrist a little and turn. Although we expect all our horses at graduation to handle in a similar fashion, Pete is head of his class for now.
Training in neck reining starts the first week at this ranch by making small little lessons that fit with the other training that builds to the point that most of our horses understand the concept of neck reining in the first 60 to 90 days. By not cramming these important lessons into a fixed or rigid schedule, it allows them to complete the neck reining part of the program slowly and at a their own pace. This slow, steady repetition produces a horse that wants to respond to small movements voluntarily and gives you a flexible, soft neck that makes the horse easy to ride.
No doubt some horses, just like Pete, take to it faster than others. Pete has the cutting horse and reining horse blood that makes him a natural. He likes to work the livestock and enjoys the task of moving and herding them. For me personally, I just like to ride along with my hand resting on the saddle horn like a kid with a joy stick and look at the beautiful scenery as we go by. Ahhhhhhhhh the lazy way to trail ride!
Your horse needs to fit you. Size is important, but temperament, experience, training, and personality are probably more important. You know how some people just annoy you. As hard as you try to like them, it’s not a good fit. Yet, you meet others that hit it off with you immediately and strike up a great friendship. Horses are no different, some fit you better than others. We like to see people come ride our horses several times before purchasing and find out if it is a good fit. If you are going to spend a lot of time in the saddle, why not do it with a horse you like. This is Suzie that we introduced in an earlier blog. Suzie is a wonderful mare, sweet, kind, and easy to be around. She doesn’t like to run or lope. It doesn’t mean she won’t when asked, but given her choice a steady walk is just fine. A dandy trail horse for a lot of riders, but not necessarily the best horse for a cowboy who is going to be chasing cows or loping a couple of miles to the next pasture.
We can not over emphasize getting to know the horse before you buy, not after. Most folks don’t get married on the first date and you don’t have to buy a horse on the first ride. One of our goals are horses that fit the rider so there is a long, pleasant, and happy relationship giving both horse and rider years of fun and adventure.
We hear it everyday, someone got hurt riding a horse. It happens usually for two reasons, both that could be avoided. At the same time, we know folks who have ridden all their life and never really been hurt, other than a few scrapes here and there.
Generally speaking if you get hurt riding horses, you exceeded your own limitations or those of the horse. Funny how a lot of people think riding is different from everything else in life. For instance, how many people take two hours of flying lessons and ask to take the pilot’s seat on a 747. But spend two hours on a quiet, gentle horse and suddenly they’re ready to ride the wildest bronc in the pasture. Go figure.
If you don’t know your own limitations or that of the horse, you are a wreck just waiting to happen. How many parents send their newly licensed 16 year old to the grocery store in the middle of the first ice storm of the year? You get the point, horses aren’t any more dangerous than the people riding them. Keep reading our blog and we will help show you some ways to have a great time and avoid all kinds of needless accidents and injuries while still having a great time!
A good trail horse is worth its weight in gold according to Carol at Central Oregon Horse. We completely agree. Good trail horses are hard to find. Many trainers won’t spend the time and effort it takes to develop one. We like Carol’s criteria of a good trail horse.” They will quietly and safely negotiate stream crossings, wooden bridges, or rocky and steep trails at a brisk walk without prancing or throwing their heads. They don’t spook often and willingly try to do everything we ask of them. At the end of the dusty, sweaty, strenuous day they hobble or highline, relax (and not jump around nor try to paw a hole to China), will drink out of a bucket or creek, and are ready to go out again the next morning without a “cold back” or needing to be longed for 15 minutes. “
Many of us grew up wishing we could be cowboys. Most of us never made it. The cowboy way of life is a hard one, full of challenges and obstacles. You gotta be tough to be a cowboy. While we completely and fully respect cowboys and adopt many of their ways and methods with livestock and horses, we don’t claim to be cowboys. As you read our blog, always keep in mind we don’t claim to be real cowboys. We don’t deserve to be cowboys and don’t pretend to take credit where it is not due.
My grandfather was a cowboy. He served in World War I and took a bullet in the leg near the knee. The army doctor told him it would have to be amputed when gangrene developed. As they were about to put him under to remove the leg, he grabbed the doctor by the shirt collar and let him know he’d kill him if he woke up without that leg. When he arrived back in the U.S., the leg never bent again, but he still had it. Back to work as a cowboy, he couldn’t ride so he drove the chuckwagon.
Real cowboys are tough inside and out. We respect and honor the American cowboy!