Training Tip: Prepping a Colt on the Ground Before Riding Outside for the First Time

Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has developed a way to train horses, regardless of their past problems or traumas. It all begins with training the owners to gain their horse’s respect and understand how to properly control them. Join Clinton on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses and problem owners. This week, we watch as Clinton shows us how to prep a colt on the ground before riding outside for the first time.

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During this episode, Clinton is going to demonstrate his method on Zorro. While it’s the colt’s eighth ride, it will be his first ride outside of the arena. The first two and a half rides were in the roundpen. The third ride started in the roundpen, and then from the fourth ride on, they were in the outdoor arena. Getting Zorro out of the roundpen into a large arena was essential to getting his feet to move, walking on One Rein Stops, yielding to a stop, cruising, and just sort of establishing all of the Fundamentals. Clinton explains that before he gets on Zorro, he wants to make sure the gelding is using the thinking side of the brain, which is why all these exercises are important.

Although Zorro is relatively level-minded, because it’s his first time away from home, Clinton will still prepare him with groundwork. Clinton has him in a hackamore, which he recommends using for a horse’s first 10 to 14 rides. With a hackamore, the reins are long enough to do a little bit of Lunging for Respect and make sure that Zorro isn’t tight with the saddle or wanting to buck Clinton off.

Clinton reminds us that every time you change environments, you change horses—typically for the worst. Horses get spooky and more reactive in new locations, so you need to get them to use the thinking side of their brain before taking them outside. They need to be able to listen to you away from home as much as they do at home. You can’t just get on your colt and hope for the best, as it usually will end in the worst. Instead, stick to practicing some of the exercises in the Colt Starting Kit to get him warmed up and ready.

A lot of people get bucked off of colts when their stirrups and fenders flap against the colts’ sides and startle them. A way to prepare a colt for seeing and feeling the stirrups flap against their sides is with the exercise Stirrup Driving. Clinton demonstrates the exercise with Zorro. Stirrup driving is a very, very important exercise when starting colts. It can save you from getting bucked off completely because it helps desensitize your horse to the stirrup. Throughout the exercise, you’ll also want to slap the saddle, as this imitates your body moving up and down during a ride. Basically, try your hardest to spook your horse during the warm-up, because that will make the ride itself look like a breeze. Do a bunch of movements to see what spooks your horse, then keep repeating the ones that do until your horse doesn’t react. When your horse gets bored with it, you can gain some confidence that he’s switching over to the thinking side of his brain. However, always go back and double-check the things that spooked your horse to ensure that you’re safe before your ride.

Stirrup Driving not only desensitizes your horse to the saddle, the fender slapping up and down, the stirrup touching him, but it also gets the horse to follow his nose. This is the number-one exercise for preparing a colt on the ground before riding outside. It’ll keep you safe and stop you from getting bucked off. It’ll teach the colt how to circle left and right, and it’ll get him to disengage his hindquarters on the ground so that when you go to disengage it under saddle, he knows what you want him to do. Anytime you can teach your horse to do something on the ground, and then you do it under saddle, he picks up on it much quicker. Help him on the ground so he doesn’t struggle under the saddle.

Clinton Anderson has devoted the past 20 years to creating the best training tools and videos available to horsemen worldwide. To learn more about the Downunder Horsemanship training method or become a member of the No Worries Club, download the Downunder Horsemanship app today!

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