At horse training challenges, the professionals make colt starting look easy. In just a couple hours they have the horse saddled and backed, loping circles around the round pen. The reality is that this type of training looks good in front of an audience, but leaves a lot of holes in horse’s training, which can lead to explosive behavior later. If you find yourself with one of these horses, these are the steps to take to turn your powder keg into a willing partner.
Catch Any Horse With Targeting
My 19-year-old AQHA mare Okie is notoriously hard to catch. She was hard to catch when I bought her as a three-year-old. For the first three years I owned her, it was not an issue because I kept her stalled and the only turnout available was a round pen (no, not an ideal situation, but it was what I had access to where I boarded). I forgot she was hard to catch until I moved to a barn with pasture boarding and turned her out. It was then that I learned the technique I shared in Catch Any Horse with This One Secret Trick. Yes, that technique works, but it can be extremely time consuming for the first few days, and I know some equestrians just do not have that availability.
I recently started liberty training with Okie, and one of the first things I taught her was targeting. She picked up on it right away, and it made me wonder: Could I use targeting to make her easier to catch?
Targeting made her much easier to catch and I no longer have to walk her down. This is the technique I use to introduce targeting to my hard-to-catch horses.
What to Do When Your Ride Goes Wrong
Every time I saddle my horse, I start each ride with a clear goal in mind. I visualize my ride going well. I plan patterns and activities that keep my horse’s mind active. However, sometimes despite my best intentions, my ride goes wrong. How you respond sets the tone for future rides and teaches your horse what to expect from you.
When I moved to Tucson to open my horse boarding facility last spring, I found all my riding journals from college. Reading through these reminded me how far I journeyed during my four years at Rocky Mountain College and how much my riding improved. I grew from a girl who could ride any rank ranch horse but had never been in the show ring to a woman who could clear a four-foot hunter course with class and style. I documented Okie’s journey from an unstarted colt to a mostly-finished hunter, and I am thankful I still have these records.
After college, I fell out of the habit of keeping a riding journal. I trained a few horses and gave a few lessons, but never really did anything formal. Now, I am in the horse business professionally, and I have started a riding journal for each of my horses and will add another when I find the right project horse. Regardless of whether you are a beginner rider or a professional trainer, a riding journal helps you set specific goals, which keeps your training sessions on-track and improves your equitation. These are the steps I take to keep a thorough riding journal.
Now that I have ample space for more equines at my Tucson horse boarding facility, I am starting my search for my next horse. My two current horses are both well-broke, so I have the extra time to take on a project this winter. As a stable owner, I am always looking for more ways to make money, and a project horse gives me the opportunity to improve my riding skills, get in shape, and connect with other horse people in my local community.
Choosing a project horse requires more than picking one out of a pasture, especially if you want to make a profit with your project. I trained my first project horse in 2005 and turned a $125 horse into a $5,000 horse in only 60 days. I have taken on a few others over the years, and some have been great money makers, while others have been money pits. To make a profit, these are the steps to take when choosing your next project horse.
My riding career has been filled with horses across the energy spectrum, ranging from high-energy Arabians who can go all day and into the night, to quiet draft horses who just want to poke down the trail. High-energy horses have their challenges, but I find riding lazy horses the most difficult. Unfortunately for me, my two current horses fall firmly in the “lazy” category.
I watched an episode of Dr. Phil once where a woman wanted to lose weight so she bought a horse. Dr. Phil said that owning a horse was great exercise for the horse, but what was it going to do for her?
Why should you lunge your horse before you ride? Lunging takes time and requires extra equipment that you must haul down to the arena and put away later. For those on a time crunch, lunging may seem unnecessary, but this is an important first step for a successful training session.
Welcome! I've been a freelance writer since 2002 and have numerous horse-related articles published in print and online publications. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Rocky Mountain College with a major in Equestrian Studies and a minor in Business Management. My current business ventures include High Plains Arena and real estate investing.