The 29th Ride

Jan 24, 2023 | A Cowboy in Chinese Camp

Meet Carlos. He’s coming 6 years old this spring. Bren started him as a 4-year-old, putting 28 or so rides on him. That’s right: where a lot of folks believe they can step in and take over. They’d be feeling confident Carlos is probably past the need to buck them off or do something shocking if the tractor happens to backfire as they ride past. That might hold some truth depending on what was emphasized during those first 28 rides. But in all honesty, people who ride a lot of young horses don’t worry much about being bucked off or dealing with shocking behavior during a backfire. What they’re concerned with (or should be) is putting a lot of good stuff into that horse rather than bad. That’s not possible if fear and worry are sharing the saddle with them.

The Horsemanship that we practice (whatever we want to call it) is principally grounded through intrinsic learning. That’s allowing the horse to experience various scenarios, while behind the scenes we’re quietly directing them in such a way the wrong answers are difficult, and the correct answers are easy to find. Carlos had a health issue this fall but he’s looking good now and fully capable of a good solid buck off.

Hey, let’s mount up! Starting at ride number 29 or so, I’ll be focused on going forward above everything else. We’ll be looking for chances where “He” can work on going too fast at times while I work on “Me”, not pulling back on the reins when he does–won’t be easy, but it’s so essential to his desire to stay forward minded. I’d like Carlos to eventually turn, bend and travel in a balanced way which will allow us to go any place or do anything in our future together. That’s not going to happen if I’m so confining and don’t allow him to experience being “out of balance”. No horse wants to be out of balance, but many youngsters learn to travel that way due to riders having no understanding the center of a young horse is rarely, if ever, in the center! If that doesn’t make sense, you might reconsider riding young horses.

Believe it or not, I’ll need Carlos to develop confidence in himself, so if needed he can make good decisions for both of us. Say what? There’s no better example of this than working around cattle when things are getting tight. I’m inclined to listen more to my horse than my own instinct. After some experience, most horses seem to recognize the cows are getting ready to do something that’s not on the script. The horse may start to fade back or even hold up. They may want to shape themselves to respond accordingly. A rider that doesn’t recognize this is happening and starts a fight with their pony can put everyone in a bad spot.

Lastly, I’ll want to impress upon Carlos the value of “Waiting”. This teaching starts very early with our youngsters by simply tying them. Carlos can already hold up a pole, hitching post or trailer for hours without needing a bag of hay or some other form of entertainment while doing so. The continued progress towards “Waiting” is just turning Lesson 1: Going Forward, inside out. I must again let Carlos experience the peace that comes with “Waiting”. Oddly enough it builds the best “Stop” into a horse you’ve ever felt.
Developing young horses is a big responsibility, not only owed to the horse but to everyone down the road of that horse’s life. Folks will either love or hate you for what you left in that horse. At this point, we have no plans to sell Carlos, but who knows. Meanwhile, I might ask you to ride him someday. I wouldn’t want you to question whether or not the horse had any training whatsoever!