Know Your Horse

Oct 1, 2021 | Back Country Horseman

To be honest when a banged up stock trailer pulled in and two cowboys jump out of the truck and unloaded a horse, I was never real excited to throw a leg over that horse.

Most these guys in my country know horses and seldom fall off. By the time they ask for help, things gotta be pretty bad. Although not a common occurrence, this did and still happens from time to time.

Back when I kept horses for 30-60-90 days, I’d get a chance to assess, what, if any, kind of foundation the horse had. I found cowboys had usually put three foundation piers in their horses that far too many folks miss. Although maybe having issues with the horse, it was seldom if ever connected with the piers I’m going to talk about.

The first pier is simply standing tied.

A cowboy needs a horse that can stand tied, to anything almost indefinitely. Just by the nature of his or her work, getting on & off, tying a horse to anything quickly while something can be done is an absolute necessity. The horse needs to understand as well that this is their time to take a break rather than throw a fit. The horse shouldn’t need entertainment to stand tied, like a feed bag in front of them.

The second pier in this foundation is handling the feet and having shoes put on.

Most cowboys shoe their own horse or use a farrier with short patience when it comes to getting this done. The better a horse stands, the better the shoes will go on. This project also leans again on pier number one, as a horse should be able to stand tied patiently while being shod. How many times have you or I seen a horse, regardless of what level of education or where it competes at, need three people to hold it for a farrier with the skills of a dancer so as not to get kicked or stepped on? If you’re a Boot or barefoot person, I refuse to argue about that anymore. Read on.

The third pier is loading into a trailer.

Most cowboys horses will load into any trailer, any time, any place and with any horse and usually behave. It’s a must if you’re doing day work at other ranches in which you may unload and reload into another trailer, in the dark, the rain, whatever. Whether being sent in ahead of you or following you in, they need to load up without grain, carrots and coaxing.

Going down this list some of you may be thinking: “My horse is solid on all three of those piers“. But it’s “Your” horse. It’s not always easy to stay honest and objective. Some of you may be thinking: “I don’t care for the whole cowboy deal. My way is working just fine.” A few others may be able to admit: a

There’s also a direct link to these piers: All are directly connected to the horses Self Preservation Mechanism.

  • All 3 piers require patience and a sense of confidence within the horse.
  • All 3 require the horse to override this same mechanism and get the job done.

Without these being solid you may get by. Some of you for years, but never have the horse you’re hoping for or can totally depend on because there’s a hole in your program.

If you’re developing a youngster, these piers should be pretty darn solid at one year’s old. Our twp colts were loading well, tying for several hours without throwing a fit and well able to have their feet handled and cleaned as yearlings. If you’re working with an older remedial horse, it’s still possible to sure up and reposition these piers. You’ll most likely need help from a pro–It’s worth your time and expense to do so.

All three piers in a solid formation will allow you to keep building upwards. But without all three piers solid, I can promise you that you’re making arrangements and compromises in your program to allow for the weaknesses.