Cowboy, clinician and horseman Bryan Neubert shares his insight into starting ranch colts.
By Bryan Neubert with Jim Bret Campbell in The American Quarter Horse Journal
Once the horse has softened and accepted the lessons from Part 1, he’s ready for me to prepare him to carry a rider. Remember to stay soft and quiet as you get on. I’ll slowly introduce my weight in the stirrup and just let him get used to the feel before I proceed. (See the photo gallery.) I’m also ready to step back down, draw his head toward me and move his hindquarters away from me to prevent him from pulling away or kicking me. After he accepts my weight in one stirrup, I lean over and rub him on the shoulder and hip on the right side. I might also move the fender of the offside stirrup a little to get him used to the movement. When he’s handling this well, I step into the saddle, remembering to stay soft and quiet.
Once I’m there, I don’t worry about trying to guide him much. I’ll let him adjust to the extra weight. I have a Cheyenne roll on the back of my saddle, and I’ll hold on to that in case he bucks. They almost never do if they are prepared up to this point.
A Little Guidance
As the colt settles down, I begin to guide him a little bit with the lead rope. Introduce a little bit at a time, and don’t expect him to handle like a broke horse. I might have to use my legs or the end of my lead rope to encourage him to move forward. You can also begin using your lead rope, twirling it to get him ready to be roped on.
When he begins guiding pretty well with the halter and lead rope, then I’ll introduce a snaffle bit and headstall. I might have to give my horse a few minutes to accept the snaffle. That’s fine. He doesn’t have to guide perfectly today. Let him get used to it while working him in the round pen, and he’ll be better prepared to work tomorrow.
As he’s getting more comfortable with the snaffle, I remount and start through all of my suppling exercises using the reins. I’ll be waiting for him to yield instead of trying to make him do anything, and release with the earliest try I recognize.
Move Over, Feet
The colt I’m working with for this article has learned the steps relatively quickly. As mentioned earlier, depending on your horse, you could get to bridling and saddling in minutes or weeks. The important thing to remember is that the more solid he is at handling the little things, the easier he’ll accept bigger things in the future.
This colt, however, was ready for a few more lessons. I began to give him leg pressure, asking him to move his hindquarters. I already taught him this lesson on the ground, but now I’m asking in a different way. I just ask him to move as lightly as possible with my leg. If he even takes one step, I relieve the pressure. As he begins to understand, I’ll be able to move his hindquarters from one side to the other with very light pressure. That will come in handy for opening gates or sorting cows and in general getting control of his whole body.
Tomorrow, this colt would probably be OK to take out on a little ride around the yard. Your colt might learn faster or slower. Always remember to let the horse tell you when he’s ready to move on, and you’ll have a better riding horse for years.
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