Friday, June 21, 2024

Saddled Up

The time we've all been waiting for has arrived! Red is saddled and ready to ride. We definitely took our time, but it has all payed off. A guy's main objective is always to get in the saddle. But there is so much work to be done before you get to that point. If you do your ground work well, swinging in the saddle is a walk in the park. 

Giddy up. 

For the first saddling it is good to choose light and simple rigging. I like this saddle because it has a Cheyenne Roll on the back of the cantle that you can grab on to if things get western. 

Like everything, we first introduced the blanket to him. 

Once he saw that it wasn't a bobcat, we rubbed all over him. 

Even walked him over it to show that it doesn't have to be scary. 

This was the first object we put on his back. Walking him around with it was important, but it's best not to just line out. Breaking him in the hind quarters gets his mind on something other than what's on his back. 

Then you can line out and let him get a feel of it moving around. Doing it this way is taking the chance that it could fall off. Not that we want it to, but if it does it becomes a teaching experience that it's not something to be afraid of. 

Next is the saddle. Again, let him sniff and taste it. 

We like to put ourselves between the scary object and the horse. Builds trust. 

Eventually you just have to bite the bullet and set it on him. Make sure he is standing still and is pretty indifferent to the saddle or anything on his back. Red was great. Other horses may take more time and effort. 

Petting him is key as well as shaking the saddle around. Throughout this whole process we have resisted the urge to be soft with him. Of course, be respectful. But there is no need to walk around quiet and shy like. We need a ranch horse not a puppy. 

Bending him is always a return to something that is familiar. It also gives him a chance to see what's going on. 

It is important to make cinching up a pleasant experience. We've all been around horses that dance when you tighten the cinch. I own one of them. A little pressure and a pet goes a long ways. There is also no need to go real tight right a way. Just enough to keep the saddle in place will do. 

Again, walk him around to get a feel for it. 

Nice work, Pops. Looks like it was meant to be there. This was definitely enough for one day. Letting a horse rest on what all he has just leaned is super important. 

Next time we saddled him we took it a step further. After a good warm up, we walked him to the fence and started to put pressure in the stirrups. Though the normal mounting side is on his left, everything we do we do from both sides. 

Then it was time to sit in the saddle. It does take a leap of faith to swing that first leg around. But a guy has a pretty good idea when the horse is ready or not. After up and down on each side and bending over and petting him good on the opposing side, swinging in was simple. 
I also didn't take the reins at this time. For about two more sessions, Paul would drive Red around the pen with his whip. I was basically cargo. At this point we didn't want to give him mixed signals. Paul was the one in control. If things got western, I was prepared to reach down low on the lead rope and pull the e-brake. This is why bending him every time is very important. It becomes so natural for him to give his head back to your thigh, that even in a bucking spell he would bend back to you. When it comes to working horses, I am all about safety first. 

You just can't do enough sacking out. Tapping a blue tarp all around him on a windy day is about as scary of an object as one can come up with. If you do it in a controlled environment, he becomes desensitized to it. Then when something comes flying up out of nowhere at your girlfriend's round up, you won't get dumped for not being cowboy enough. 

After wearing the darn thing and walking around the pen, you've pretty much done all you can do. 

Breaking a horse to stand and not pull back while being tied up is a super important step. Paul's got a good system. He takes a half of a snaffle bit and runs a long lead rope through it. This gives the rope tension, but allows it to slide through when a horse really gets to pulling. 

We want to sack him out and get him used to standing there no matter what the circumstances. But before we could do that we wanted to intentional spook him. 

We've all seen a horse loose his mind when tied up. It can actually be a very terrifying experience for all involved, especially the horse. With Paul's set up and a long lead rope, we let Red blow up and pull back all he wanted. 

Once he new he could get away, he simply calmed down. However, if we would have had him tired hard, he would never have quit pulling until he broke the halter. That's teaching him a bad habit at best. It's actually best to never tie a colt up hard. He needs to learn, through experience, what to do when tied up and trouble arises. 

In the meantime, we do our best to teach him to move forward to release the pressure, verses keep pulling back until something breaks. Sacking out in this safe space is a beautiful way to desensitize him to crazy things while being tied up. 

Here's our first full ride on his own. As is evident, all the work of bending, sending, sensitizing and desensitizing, that we have done leading up to this point has paid off. Not only is he a gentle horse, but all the commands we did on the ground are now translated into the saddle. 


Mission accomplished. Special thanks to my good buddy Paul Casey. I have basically been given the equivalency of one-on-one clinics from Buck Brannaman. Who's a better horse trainer, doesn't matter. What I do know, is Paul's way works. We not only get the results we are looking for, but we also come to understand the horse in the process. There's now a relationship between Red and rider. 

There is still plenty of work to be done. We now have a started horse. From here we can do more on the job training, while continuing to revert back to the tactics that we have already implored. Red is cool, and he'll make my brother a good horse. Before I send him back though, I better put on a few miles in the saddle. Let's ride!

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