Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Mare Called Sadie

     Her nickname was Sadie Sue and her registered name was Smoothsational.  She was a bay, 15 hand, Quarterhorse mare with very little white.  She was definitely her own self!
     She was an outstanding show horse, very broke to ride and competed in a number of events - Western, Hunter, Trail, and more and very, very successful at them all.  I kept this mare for years because I didn't want to be beaten by her. 
     But here's the thing:  If Sadie did not have a halter with a little catch rope (6 inches or so) on her, she was wild and unpredictable.  She would spin out, run off and kick up her heels for all she was worth and God help you if you were in the way.  And, yes, I tried various things to change this behavior.  I roped her from the ground, I made her drag a rope when loose, I put kicking chains on her, but nothing changed her.
     She was also very "snarly" in her stall.  She wanted to be left alone thank-you-very-much! But.... as soon as that halter went on she went to work and I had no problems at all.  She would go quietly to be groomed, saddled and ridden.  She was such a joy to ride.  I even gave lessons on her.  This mare really liked to be ridden and worked. 
     I have heard some very good trainers say they assess a horse by it's behavior when it's loose in a stall or pasture but Sadie proved that theory very wrong.  You can't know a book by its cover and you can't really know a horse until you've worked with them.  Rest in peace Sadie Sue - you'll live on in our memories!  (And I hope those of you who have won her perpetual trophies over the years enjoy knowing a little more about her!)  Talk to you next week, JD.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Making a "Broke" Horse

     Wow - a broke horse, what a wonderful animal!  This is a lengthy subject though so I'll go into more detail with it in another blog.  For now, I'll start by defining what I mean by a "broke" horse.  Here are some attributes that I think are very important besides just "the basics" that go along with a good ride:
- Ability to handle from the ground easily and safely.
- Loading, hauling and unloading easily and safely.
- Being tied up without having a fit or exhibiting any behavior like pawing or rearing.
- Accepting things such as clipping and bathing (though I'll make an exception for clipping ears...they can tickle!)
- Being cooperative for the farrier.
- Knowing the word "whoa" from the ground as well as under saddle.
- Standing quietly when being saddled and groomed.
- Standing quietly with a rider on their back, waiting patiently for their next task.
- Accepting such things as a rider putting a jacket on and off while on their back.
- The skill to drag objects or carry things when asked.  My horses learn to carry flags, pull logs, carry buckets and sacks etc.  Generally, learn to trust their rider and do whatever they're asked without fear or worry.
- Opening and closing gates is also a skill I value in a "broke horse" - even if you don't have any gates to deal with, I think the movements involved in a gate - the side-pass, careful back up, moving forward slowly and deliberately when cued - can be helpful in alot of other situations (like posing for a win picture!). 
- Ability to be lead easily from the ground while my arms are full or I'm pushing a wheelbarrow.
- The ability to "pony" another horse when asked.
- And, a really broke horse might even move cows when needed (tame cows, I must admit).
     So, a broke isn't just the horse that can win their class though that's definitely a part of it.  A broke horse can do the job it's trained for easily and confidently and also live successfully and stress-free in our human world.  A broke horse is a safe and pleasant horse to be around!  More on how you get there in a future blog.......   Talk to you next week.  JD