Those of us that raise a horse from birth and on into their "useful" years have all experienced it; the critique of physique, the evaluation of attitude, the hours of observation for tell tale signs of willing partnership and judgment of future discipline. It takes years to raise a horse to the age where you can actually see any fruits of your labor. The breeding is easy, waiting 11 months for your product, keeping your mare happy and healthy throughout her pregnancy, birthing out the foal and getting past those first few critical days all seem to be a mere pittance of time compared to the long anticipation of that first ride. The repetitive lessons of leading, loading, learning to tie, move away from pressure, desensitizing, standing quietly, long line lessons, picking up the feet, learning to respect the space of humans, behaving in a group, ponying on trail rides, getting bathed, worming, shots and all sorts of other daily activities your youngster may encounter in the 3 or more years it takes to raise them up before they can even be thought of as a riding horse. It is not something we take lightly here, we are serious about well behaved, happy equine partners and we do it day in and day out, over and over. Some days are good, some days are great and some days you wonder if they actually have a brain!
But nothing can compare to the satisfaction of spending all that time, effort and love on a horse that willingly says to you, "OK.......Lets Ride!"
When Casper turned 3 years old in March of 2006, it was time to plan his under saddle training. Was he ready physically? Was he ready mentally? At the same time that Casper turned 3, so did my gelding Baybe. These were two very different horses at 3 years of age. Casper was a "laid back, take it all in" type of horse, whereas Baybe was "cautious and alert" ALL the time. Casper did not worry about his place in the herd, he was very confident of himself, Baybe was basically shy and low man on the totem pole and had no confidence. Two very different horses, with two very different demeanor's!
Up to this point both horses had gotten the same treatment and same ground training, with pretty much the same reactions. So putting the saddle in the middle of the round pen for Casper was comical and for Baybe - it was frightful!
Casper nosed the tack with utmost curiosity with it placed upon a noisy tarp. He walked all over the tarp to "figure" out just what was this "stuff", rearranging the entire setting to suit his liking. Then he wandered off to gaze longingly over the panels at the mares. So off to work he was sent! He tacked up without a hitch, didn't care too much for cinching, but accepted it and took my weight on and off and on and off and got bored of that too! So I mounted up and had hubby hold a long lead rope to his halter, while I worked him off my leg...forward, sideways, backwards, forward again.....all I could say was "WOW"..I loved this horse! He picked up everything so quick and that was how he acted all spring and into summer, even putting on a bit for the first time was easy. His attitude and mind were just like a sponge!
Baybe, well, let's just say he needed more time, he wasn't quite physically nor mentally ready for this human attachment thing! Physical immaturity in a horse is readily evident in how the horse wears his hooves down, carrying his legs well underneath himself to the point of inner wear and no outer wear at all, which tells me about how balanced the horse is and Baybe was not balanced by himself, so carrying a rider would set him even more off balance. He was given the chance anyway to take on that saddle and blanket.........but mental immaturity won that spring! He never could relax and being nervous and edgy is not a good sign! Mounting was out of the question. Baybe got further ground training with the saddle and blanket, but he was allowed to mature one more season. I actually started him again in the late fall/winter and by the time he turned 4 the next spring, I was able to show him in W/T classes.
Casper was well past W/T mid summer of his 3rd year. But taking it slow was important in preserving his soundness for later in his life, so we just had fun, rode around, played around, learned new things and became buddies. How much more fun could this little horse be? Not having more than 30 rides on him, I showed him under saddle at his first breed show, we did not place in anything, but I was so very pleased with him!
next blog.........Changing from Horse to Stallion