August 22, 2013
Chex, one of our AQHA quarter horse geldings in the two-year training program, is really coming along well. We have taken Chex for granted just a little and probably haven’t said enough about him. Chex is super quiet and relaxed. Although he has the “giddy up” if you want or need it, he takes everything in stride. He keeps his feet under him well in the rocks as well as in the mud. He has a good mind and willing attitude. At the mid-point in the training program, Chex is being ridden by several different people. He is a real pleasure to trail ride. You can just set the auto-pilot and watch the scenery or enjoy some good conversation while Chex does the driving. If you want to steer, he neck reins and backs really well. Chex is a lot of fun right now and will be a spectacular trail horse upon his completion of his education.
Some folks may ask, if he is doing so well, why not just graduate him now. We believe the second half of the training program at the ranch is the refining and testing that can only come over an extended period of time and a lot of hours in the saddle. Our customers are generally looking for horses that can do (and will do) nearly anything. The second year is devoted to reinforcing all the lessons with as giving as many experiences as we can create, imagine, or dream up. For instance, the we rode past a couple of trucks hauling hay along a dirt road with those hay trailers that hold 8 or 9 round bales. The old road was rough and full of holes. The trailers were empty so they banged and clanged loudly. A great experience for a trail horse just to ride about five feet from the trailer going down the road for a few minutes.
These are the kinds of situations we use throughout the training. But, the second year is where you see the horse really began to use the confidence inspired in the first year and build up on it to the point that virtually nothing causes panic. The second year is also the time the horse is ridden much more extensively by multiple riders teaching him to accept cues that may not exactly replicate the initial training he received. A huge benefit for riders who haven’t spent the last 30 years in the saddle. Chex is headed for graduation in August, 2014, and receiving high marks so far.
August 15, 2013
We were pleased the other evening when one of those unexpected tests came. A couple of guests came to ride that didn’t have a lot of riding experience, beginner level riders. The horses were saddled, and of course we put the guests on two of our graduate horses to accommodate the experience level. Three of us were mounted on horses about 30 feet from the front of their truck waiting for the others. The truck alarm was accidentally set off when the remote control in the jeans pocket of one of our visitors was bumped. His truck has lights that flash, horns that honk, several different sirens that blare, and all of it very loud. It was one of those situations where we have seen wrecks happen with green broke horses and untrained riders. You may have seen some of those little rodeos where one of the horses goes to bucking that makes another suddenly jump sideways, while the next one takes off in a dead run. Riders go to falling off and everyone gets just a little excited.
We were pleased that nothing like it happened and not a single horse so much as lifted his head. They stood quietly and turned as to say, “Is this another one of those silly tests you do all the time”? Aside from all the horses successfully passing, the best part was we never expected it. The perfect test for your horse is one neither of you know is coming. It was really nice to see the hard work and effort that has been put into the training of these animals pay off. It’s the way a good trail horse should react.
September 10, 2012
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!
August 4, 2012
When teaching a horse, keep the lesson short. Think back to when you started learning something new. Who is smarter you or the horse? Did you learn by spending hours at a time? Probably not. Chances are you learned just a little day by day. For those younger folks remember when you first started to drive. For us older ones, think about that new computer program at work.
Back to the first question, who is smarter? You? Then why expect the horse to learn faster than you. Do children learn to walk in an hour? Not most, they try with little or no discernible success at times. As they try and fail, they learn. Your horse is not any different and not as smart. So don’t expect more from the horse than you can do, a really common mistake.
Maybe you have jumped on your horse and spent the next 2 hours training. You likely quit frustrated and the horse agitated. Dont’ do it! Keep your lessons to 10 minutes, ride for another 20 minutes, then do a 5 minute review. Stop training for the day, try to end on a positive effort. But stop!
It doesn’t mean the riding has to end. Just let the horse do what can be accomplished with confidence. Think back to driving in the snow the first time. You could probably drive for hours on dry, pretty day. The snow was tiring and entirely different. Keep lessons short and have FUN! Your horse will appreciate and learn a whole lot faster!
July 18, 2012
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!
June 28, 2012
According to Mike Kevil, who has more than 30 years experience training horses and starting colts, there are five common mistakes most folks make when training a horse. Not demanding respect from the horse is one of the mistakes. Kivel says, ” Gaining respect from their horse can be really hard for some people. It’s really not that difficult, but some people have a hard time making themselves do what’s required to get the necessary level of respect. ”
First time horse buyers or inexperienced riders commonly have this problem. It is hard for them to understand that horses must respect you or they will walk all over you. As Kivel points out, if you don’t have respect of the ground, you aren’t going to acquire it riding and your training is going to fail.
We see the danger in the horse lacking of respect for you just like Kivel, “A lot of problems happen because a horse is allowed to do something wrong that the owner doesn’t perceive as a potential problem. Then the owner will say something like, “’All of a sudden, one day he bit me.’ It didn’t happen ‘all of a sudden.’ Over a period of time, the horse went from friendly, to pushy, to bold, and then to biting. When you don’t see it coming, it just seems like it happens all of a sudden.”
If you want to avoid accidents and problems, make sure you learn how to get the horse to respect you. We believe new riders learn this lesson best in working with a well- trained horse who will likely give a certain amount of respect right from the start. An experienced horse allows a beginner to see how a horse should properly behave. If you’ve never experienced a respectful horse, it is really difficult to know what you should expect. We agree every horse needs to understand the rider deserves to be treated right!
June 26, 2012
Trail Horses of Missouri, a custom horse trainer says, “We believe that training on the trail is beneficial no matter what discipline you are interested in. A lot of horses are trained solely in the arena, but the first time you get them out on the trail and see a butterfly it may as well be the end of the world! That is why we believe actual trail experience is essential. It teaches your horse self-confidence that will carry him throughout his life . ” We couldn’t agree more.
Although they seem to be set up for training a horse you already own, their basic philosophy appears really similar to ours. We don’t train outside horses. Instead we focus on horses ready for the trail for those who haven’t actually made the purchase. If you already own the horse you want and need help, then finding the right trainer is crucial. You need someone who is confident, kind, firm, and willing to put in the time.
There is no substitute for time on the trails or doing ranch work. We liked Trail Horses of Missouri’s policy of only taking a few horses at a time to make sure the horses actually receive the time on the trails. That’s the way it should be done!
June 16, 2012
Tuffy is a young cow dog in training. We use him to train horses while Tuff is being trained. The pup learns to stay near the rider until needed to move livestock out of the brush. As he runs back and forth under the horse, Tuff learns to watch out for hooves and the young horse learns not to get excited about small white streaks running under him.
Tuff helps in other ways train the horses. Sometimes he wanders farther than he should and comes flying from out of the brush. Surprise! The horses learn small white explosions are just part of the routine. The important part is you can never predict when it is going to happen so you can’t plan for it.
Tuff is still learning and sometimes pushes the livestock towards the horse. Smaller stock will run right under the horse with Tuff right behind. It’s good training for the horses and one more way we work our horses.
The simultaneous training that takes place is invaluable!
May 11, 2012
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!