Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Trained, or Broke?

If I am given 90 days to start a colt, this is what ideally happens.
In the first 30 days the horse will learn to be responsive and respectful on the ground. He will be comfortable carrying a saddle, work easily on a longe line, stand tied alone or in a group. He will stand for the farrier or vet. I'll get on him. We will walk, sometimes trot, and he'll stop off my seat. He will rock back a step or two when I ask.
The next 30 days will be a continuation of the first, building on what he's learned. We learn to serpentine and circle, and align his hips to his head through his turns, with help from my inside leg. He will be comfortable doing this at a walk and trot.
I add outside leg pressure. I begin to balance him between my hands and legs. His shoulders begin to line up and shift from the pressure of my outside leg.
We add the lope.
He becomes comfortable on both leads. We start going in a large, loose circle.
He will back five or six steps softly and easily.
The last 30 days I begin to work in straight lines. I work in squares and triangles. The control between my hand and leg increases. My stops start to become slides. The shoulder control develops into the beginning of a spin. We start to track cattle. The colt usually begins to soften at the poll, lift his back and increase his drive. The circles become more even and sure. His back picks up speed and cadence.
When all of that is done I feel that I have a good start on the training of a young horse. I have entered his mind. I've changed his way of looking at the world, prepared him to accept the life ahead of him.


A broke horse will walk off down the trail happy and interested. He doesn't need his buddies, doesn't rear and try to head back to the barn.
A broke horse won't explode and buck you off when a road grader goes by.
He doesn't bolt when a horse comes up behind him, or he sees other horses running in a field.
He doesn't spook when a plastic bag rolls by, or at arena doors banging in the wind.
A broke horse goes left when you point it that way. Same for the right.
He stands when you hoist yourself up in the stirrup, lose your balance, and fall on your ass under his belly.
You don't get to take points off if he turns and looks at you like your a moron.
I worked for a trainer that strongly felt that as the horse continued his training he would become broke. He simply got on and started riding.
When I had to lope his colts it went something like this.
First I caught them by backing them into a corner of their stall.
Then I led a leaping, bucking, quivering mess to the tie rail.
Imagine saddling a wild billy goat, or an antelope. That would be me and these colts. Leave the halter on, slide the bit in quick, and get them out to the middle of the pen.
When I put my foot in the stirrup I had to swing up quick, because they were humped up and jumping, which believe me, is hard on an old fat woman.
Then off we'd go. Now. Fast.
And we'd be loping a perfect, quiet, evenly cadenced circle on a thrown out rein.
Amazing. Beautiful.
Scared the crap out of me.
I know a 15 year old horse from his barn that is still campaigning. He has an AQHA World championship, his ROMs in reining and cowhorse, his superior in cowhorse.
He also sucks backs at the drop of a hat, will buck when he's annoyed, spooks at kids, dogs, the wind blowing, anything outside of the arena. He has single handedly taken apart more than one trailer.
He is still not broke.
A broke horse may not know how to slide stop, work a cow, or change leads. He has something that no arena baby will ever have, no matter how much training it comes with.
Time. Hours in the saddle. Years of sensible riding.
One of the most successful non-pro horses I know came off of a ranch. He is big and pretty. He was broke. The woman who bought him didn't pay much considering what a cowhorse costs these days.
She bought a broke, sound horse. Then she got him the training they needed. They are a steady winning, confident team. The horse takes on each horse show as another day at the ranch. They are unstoppable.
Which do you want?
Broke or trained?


Smurfette said...

Can I vote for broke AND trained? I guess I figured that "broke" developed naturally as they were being trained, but your illustrations prove me wrong. What a way to keep horses in your barn, though, not at home with owner.

mugwump said...

What a way to keep horses in your barn, though, not at home with owner.

The ideal is to have the owner "broke" enough to take the horse home and continue the work.
I often end up with owners that take lessons forever as they continue on the path to a good horse.:>
I always hope that people understand that 90 days, or 60, or 30, does not guarantee something they can plunk on once a month and be safe on.
That's why I include lessons with my training...

verylargecolt said...

Really good post, and it was interesting to read what you expect in the first 30, 60, 90 days! The VLC is enjoying trotting, but he corners like a racehorse going to the left - drops his shoulder around the turn and leans in. My instincts are telling me just let the horse trot, and let him build muscle and start LEARNING to balance himself, but part of me was thinking that a lot of trainers would be yelling at me to pick up his shoulder and not let him do that. You just made me feel better that my instincts are right and I just need to ride quiet and let him be for now.

As for that trainer's methods, I agree with the people who say "I don't want them EVER to buck with a rider on. I don't want them to KNOW that they can buck with a rider on." Touche!

Nancy (aka Tony's person) said...

Broke, without a doubt. I'm too new (two and a half years riding) for a horse that spooks at everything--That's an excellent way for me to get hurt, I think. I can get more training--for my horse, for me. Broke--I think it's a combination of saddle time & the personality of the horse. Thankfully, Tony is broke in spades. Sometimes he spooks just because, but he brings himself back down _very_ quickly and seldom does anything more than sidestep a little.

4Horses&Holding said...

Broke. :)

(I linked here from the VLC blog, I'll now have to find the time to read all your past posts. Oh no!)

Anyway, the horses I have started all just get miles of trails & relaxed riding on them before I start worrying about training in the 'pretties'.

Occasionally I would chase cows a bit with them in the pasture (we used to live on a cattle farm) at the end of a ride, we just pick one out and concentrate on 'sticking' to it for a few minutes.

My latest project is a (11 years on the 19th of this month) horse who I bred but, what with life happening, is only just started on trails. He's a very spooky-natured guy, and I don't doubt that if he were sent off to a high-stress, must-be-trained type of trainer, it would totally blow his mind.

However, we had our first trail (road) ride out a few weeks ago, and he did wonderfully well. He was very alert, a bit frightened at times, but he controlled himself and his innate fears beautifully.

I'm not in a hurry to be competitive on him, heck, I don't have time to compete now, anyway. I'll just work on getting him good and broke, and then worry about fine-tuning everything.

4Horses&Holding said...

Added to say that a friend of mine had sent a horse to a BNT for 90 days. $700 / month (in S. Florida) worth of training...... the horse came back with some good training, but not broke.

She was still nervous to get on him and ride anywhere but in an arena.

I'd rather have a horse with 90 days of trail riding on him than a horse with 90 days of w-t-c + WP stuff in an arena.

So many people don't understand that 90 days of initial riding is NOTHING for a lot of horses, especially those who have had the entire 90 days in an arena or sheltered environment.

Horsegal984 said...

Broke. My first horse was broke, and he was a lifesaver to me. He wasn't trained, still isn't "finished" but I can take that horse anywhere and count on him to do what I need him to do! I live in the city(Charlotte, NC if anyone cares) and where I board was about 2 miles from my work. Had to work Cody and go to work for a meeting, didn't have time to do both, so we compromised. Rode the horse to work, along a highway, had to walk on an overpass to cross the 6 lane interstate. He balked pretty good, looked around, and went ok and across we went. Tied him to a tree while I went in for the meeting, and rode him back home, not even a second look at the interstate. He was 7, only had a left lead canter and felt like a motorcycle on a 20m circle, but how many horses can you really trust like that anymore.

When I got my second horse (PITA for those of you on VLC) I spent a lot of time on broke. He got ponied everywhere I could off Cody, he learned about cars and trucks and roads long before a rider, has seen goats donkeys ducks chickens llamas and everything else I could find to show him by 3. He lunges in or out of a round pen or arena. He longlines, ground drives, ponies, has great ground manners, and will tolerate almost anything I ask him to accept. Big blue balls, tarps, beachballs, road cones, plastic bags, etc.

He'll never be Cody, but I want him broke like Cody. You can put time on them to make them trained, it's harder to get them broke.

I am a ammie eventer. I'm not ready to event yet, I'm barely schooling x-country now. But you give me the choice between a Prelim level TRAINED show jumper or a BROKE "i guess he jumps" horse to do my first x-country on I'm gonna take broke everytime! Broke might not be as pretty but I know I can count on him to have enough brains and sense to get us both through it in one piece!!

Heidi the Hick said...

Wow, excellent post! Thanks!

Now that I'm (ahem) a grown up, good manners mean so much more to me. I have two seven year old appys who really are not as "trained" as I think they should be... but they never trample me, I can catch them, I can pick out their hooves... stuff that should be required but a surprising # of people skip over.

This summer I'll work on refining their training. I want nice soft lopes out of them by September but most of all I want them respectful and sane.

They're keepers... I want to be able to trust them for life!

Magna Cum Mule Trainer said...

Here I don't see many buckers/fit throwers but I do see an alarming number of trained horses who can't TIE. Oh, the owners would rather just loop the leadline over or put them on some twine so they don't get panicky, versus being made to THINK and not throw a fit on the tie rail, or hell, being properly trained to tie to start with!

End result? Oh, at the last show a $20K reiner got loose with a not-snug saddle and tried to run hell-bent for leather down the county road to Bennet. That horse was loose for 20 minutes and the saddle slid under her belly... pretty sure it was trashed by the time they got her. Hopefully the horse was okay.

I cannot and will not put up with a horse that doesn't tie. My mule has a giant pulling scar behind her ears from when the abuser twat beat her while tied.
We got over that first thing, and she'll stand tied all day.

Josie said...

Here's what I'd consider ideal: broke BEFORE they go out to be trained. Yes, even if they start their training at 2 or 3. If I've had them since birth or got them as weanlings, they ought to be pretty much "broke" by that age.

Last year I took my then-4yo mare to a lesson with a trainer who told me she was about the GENTLEST youngster he'd ever seen. Right out of the trailer into the strange ring without batting an eyelash. Accepting and willing and relaxed.

Of course then she proceeded to show him just how much TRAINING she still desperately needs, LOL. We drift, we slow down and speed up at random, etc. But I think I could get on her in the middle of a three-ring circus and have the same very green ride! And that's just perfect for me.

mugwump said...

Exactly what I love to see come to my barn!

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