The Time it Takes...
Training season might be winding down but for this little girl, things are just beginning to get interesting! Ginger arrived in Aug (a month late because she wouldn’t be caught to catch the bus to school). She was extremely people shy and wouldn’t be touched behind the head and neck. She wouldn’t lift her feet and had had minimal handling over the past few years.
Originally she and another youngster was picked out of a feedlot as a yearlings. Her caregivers gave her and her buddy a safe place to grow up and to be a horse but at 5, they decided it was time for her to develop some life skills that will ensure that she has a bright future. These pictures are nothing special to look at but they are of her first ride with Pinto and they show a pivotal moment in her life. She has LOTS more learning to do but at least she has had this experience now and it was good. She’s coming along pretty nicely and despite her minimal handling before she arrived, she’s right on track. We always recommend 3 months training when providing a horse with a solid foundation/start because that’s typically how much time it takes to provide a solid foundation. Those three months are broken up into learning goals, each paving the way for the next, like bricks being laid down to provide a solid base on which to build. Those steps are as follows:
Month 1: Groundwork, basic boundaries and understanding how to take direction. Development of body and mind to support the coming physical and emotional expectations. Introduction to wearing gear like a saddle and saddle pad as well as being touched all over and learning to lead by a foot…
Month 2: Review of lessons learned in the first month but while wearing a saddle, continuation of physical and mental development. First rides and translation of signals as given from the saddle rather than from the ground and early development of balance and muscle needed to carry a rider. Month 3: Continuation of physical and mental development needed to become a reliable saddle horse, progression of gates: walk, trot, lope… First rides outside the round pen and "real world" exposure. Habit and confidence building, repetition and progressive practice that helps to create lasting “default settings” that will provide the young horse with something to come back to for the rest of their riding careers. This is, of course, hugely simplified and the timelines vary from horse to horse. Some progressing more quickly than others and some needing to repeat steps more often than others in order to develop the confidence they need for their future but this is a pretty reliable timeline of “expectations”.
No one month is more important than another and none can be skipped in order to have a reliable foundation. Although we often recommend that the horse come back the following spring for a one month "refresher" before their next season begins, these three months are sometimes the only professional training a horse will have to fall back on when they get home and are expected to “perform” like a broke horse, when in fact this is only a foundation. We do our best to make it a good one!
This little girl has learned to be approached, touched, groomed, moved around on the ground, lift her feet for cleaning and hoof care and carry gear like a saddle pad and saddle. She's learned to stand quietly for saddling and how to take direction from her handler around which way to move and how fast. She's learned to be sat on and directed from the saddle and even had her first jog under saddle! She's got a long way to go before she's an old pro but this foundation will serve as a good experience to find comfort and confidence in as she goes home and her working expectations evolve. We might be wrapping up our 2022 training season but we have already begun taking deposits on the 2023 season so if you have a young horse you’re hoping to get booked in for next year, don’t wait to contact us!