Prepping a Colt on the Ground Before Riding Outside for the First Time
For the past 20 years, Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has devoted his life to creating the best training tools and videos available to help bring his method to you. Join him on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and problem owners. This week, Clinton gives us a few training tips for prepping a colt on the ground before riding outside for the first time.
Clinton begins the episode by introducing us to Zorro. This will be Zorro’s third ride, but his first ride outside of the arena. The previous rides were done in the roundpen, following the steps in the steps in the Colt Starting Series. Properly preparing a horse is crucial to ensuring that both you and your horse are safe on a ride. You need to make sure that your horse is relaxed, trusts you and is using the thinking side of his brain. The last thing you want to do is take a horse outside too soon and get bucked off.
Clinton prefers using a hackamore to ride his horses for the first 10 to 14 rides. It’s not a necessity, he says, but there are some benefits in doing so. One advantage of using a hackamore is that the reins are long enough that you can do some groundwork, such as Lunging for Respect, before getting in the saddle to warm the horse up and encourage him to use the thinking side of his brain. Clinton reminds us that every time you change environments, you change horses, meaning that just because your horse was calm and relaxed in the arena, don’t expect him to act the same when you first take him outside. Horses tend to get spookier, jumpier and more reactive when you change locations. Practicing groundwork and getting them to move their feet forwards, backwards, left and right gets them to tune in to you and relax.
Never get on a colt and hope for the best. Prepare them on the ground and remain vigilant. Clinton recommends doing a little Stirrup Driving, which is an exercise outlined in his Colt Starting Kit. Stirrup Driving is a very important exercise when starting colts and can save you from getting bucked off. During the exercise, Clinton explains how he slaps the saddle with his hand to desensitize the horse. You want to get rid of any spookiness or jumpiness your horse may have before getting in the saddle and heading down the trail.
A lot of people will avoid doing things that spook their horse because they think it’ll help the horse relax, but the opposite is actually true. If you notice your horse gets worried about something, keep doing it until they relax and ignore you. This further desensitizes them and reduces the likelihood of you getting thrown off the saddle later.
When the horse is circling around him in a relaxed manner, Clinton demonstrates how to change sides by using the stirrup to yield the horse’s hindquarters. Practicing yielding the horse’s hindquarters on the ground sets them up for responding correctly when ask them to yield under saddle.
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