Then and Now

Posted by Sharon Labels:

Over ten years ago, I decided I would let someone else have the first rides on my two-year-olds. That year, I hired a man to ride two fillies for the first two or three rides. Although I have no complaints about how he did the job, that's the last time I hired the job out. The next year and every year after that, I started my own colts and a few that came to my barn as well. Since I believe the first six rides are so may be the most important rides of the young horse's life and since I take these colts on to become trained reining horses, I wanted to do the work myself.

I've been starting colts all my life, but my methods have changed through the years. My brother just reminded me of that fact. He is reading my book, A Life With Horses, and we had a lively conversation about our childhood, remembering, laughing about some of the thngs we did.He asked me if I remembered the names of certain horses or when they were born. Then we talked a little about how we started colts.

"That was just plain stupid," he said.

He was referring to the practice of climbing on the colt (at least three years old), opening the gate and riding across the prairie hoping we could hold things together. He reminded me of the colt who flat out ran away with him over the hills and holes until he stopped, fortunately with Harold still aboard. He reminded me also of the mare who bucked me off a couple of times and one who "spooked me off"in buck brush and ran.

Things are a little different now. Now we both work the colt on the ground before we get on. We use a corral or enclosed area for the first rides and we don't head out before we have a little handle on the colt and at least a little faith that he won't run away or buck us off.

I'm just starting to ride my two year old filly, Sapphire. She's a pretty little thing, a cross between my cowhorse (Silk) and my stallion, Running With Wolves. Like her mom, she has plenty of "sting". Last winter I saddled her in my barn and lunged her in the snow a few times. A couple of weeks ago I saddled her again, got on her in the stall, then mounted in my old round pen and walked her a few steps. I could not do more because the round pen is really a turn out pen and it was slippery in places. So it was time to graduate to my arena. Maybe not everything has changed about the way I start horses now, because my arena is not fenced, which means if Sapphire spooked or ran, she could leave the arena, run through trees or over various obstacles. I didn't have a choice though. I counted on her trusting me as much as I trusted her and so far that has worked. Here is a photo taken off my video (set on a tripod in the corner of the arena).

No, I didn't want to be bucked off any more than I did when I was sixteen ... or twenty ... or thirty. Now I miminize that possiblity, but it's still there. Taking that chance is worth it - I will have a horse that has been on my program since day one. I assisted in Sapphire's birth, halter trained her and now I'm riding her. What an incredible journey!

Would I go back to pulling a three year old off the range, slapping a saddle on in some fashion and heading out the gate? Nope. In the words of my brother, "That was just plain stupid!"