Kindergarten training, elementary training, middle school training, high school training and college. Yep, horses go through the very same thing our kids go through. Some get through school with no problems, some get set back a year and some have to get tutored. I am the last person to claim I am a trainer. I can take a horse through middle school training, but the upper high school moves and college, I will leave that to the experts. I put good basic training on all my horses and every horse is ready at 5 years old to go off to their new home and be a reliable and safe riding horse.
But training should never be stopped. The horse should always be learning and not be bored. Just like people, we get a little bit of knowledge and it fuels our mind to acquire more knowledge, the horse is the same, they need to grow and expand their training all the time. It keeps them happy to run over and put their halter on themselves (if they could).
Kindergarten is all the basics a horse should know before they are a year old. Halter, leading, loading, bathing, clipping, standing tied. Leading at a walk, trot and standing patiently. Turning right or left at the walk or trot. Backing up. Picking up their feet on cue. Moving away from pressure. All of this is from the ground, taught in-hand with patience and kindness.
I take each and every one of the babies through these same basics as much as possible. We hand walk them everywhere. Babies get excited when they run and if you have ever watched a foal run with it's mother, they are very close to their momma's side....that gives them confidence and when you run with a foal in-hand, they want to do the very same thing with you. But I am not a 1200 lb horse, so baby gets to learn to run at arms length first and only for very short distances. Foals do not have a very long attention span. You get about 5 minutes of their brain, if you are lucky. But you can get 5 minutes several times a day. Soon, they are looking for you to come and get them, it takes about 2 weeks of repeatedly hand walking them and then they see you and they whinny! Come and get MEEEEEE! Yep, they are people loving critters and they like to learn. If they are bored, just like human children, they can cause trouble. Better to keep them learning than to end up with a 500 lb brat you can't lead to the barn or doctor if need be.
Our horses go places, not just down the road for a trail ride, so they HAVE to have manners. Foals like to play and they can play rough. Teaching manners early on in their life, just like their own momma does, will pay off big! Outings to shows where you are alone showing your horse, it is good to know your horse will stand tied to the trailer w/o causing a commotion, so you can go to the bathroom or whatever else you need. I have even used the Honey Buckets with my horse standing outside the door. Going on group trail rides and not worrying if your horse is going to be nasty to the other horses. Going into an arena to practice your new move for the week and not having to worry about being alone or with a bunch of horses. Manners and behavioral training make all this possible.
You probably ask yourself, why are they ready at 5 years old and not 3 years old. Well, let's just put it this way, if I have a foal for sale, which I do on occasion, the buyer must be savvy to training or have a plan for training. I prefer to sell to people who intend to show their horse in some fashion. I do not expect every buyer to be headed towards the Olympics, but I want the horses we produce to have some sort of future. Without training, they will be worthless. I also do not put pressure on our horses to be finished for riding by 3 years of age. That would mean lots of things have to happen before the horse is even 2 years old. A 2 year old is not ready mentally or physically for the work. Then there is longevity. Horses should not break down before they are 10 years old. At 10, they are supposed to be prime candidates for higher level training. If started out too young, the chances of them being useless pasture ornaments becomes much higher. There is also scientific evidence that says a horses skeletal structure does not fully mature until 6 years old. So no, you will not find a "Been there, done that" 4 year old on my place. That is the whys and the hows comes!
Next blog...........Bringing up Baybe