Setting Them up For Success

In my last post I talked about how I had grown up admiring trainers and competitors and trying to wrap my head around some of the things I watched them do.

One of the things that has, until recently, always boggled my mind has been the videos that trainers or riders post showing off their colt loping through the pattern for the first, second or third time. Generally these videos look amazing. I remember watching those videos thinking “lies. Lies. Lies!” There is no way. How can a colt lope through the first couple times looking that relaxed, that collected in their turns, that SNAPPY!

As I’ve developed my own program and gained confidence in my abilities as a trainer and rider, I’ve learned that my way of thinking towards these videos were so uneducated!! The really cool part is that it’s actually not that hard to set a colt up for success his first trip through 😉 SURPRISE!

Now, I’m gonna get up on my soap box. You know, the one where I talk about how amazing I am as a trainer? Just kidding. Well sorta. I have a super nice colt in currently that came to me to be started on the pattern. He was super broke when he came and just needed a few weeks of adding my own personal buttons that I require to get work done. Unfortunately, winters in Northern Alberta aren’t conducive to outdoor barrel training and about the time I was ready to start doing drills and patterning this colt, the local indoor arenas shut down for larger events. No big deal right? I’ll be honest… I’m the hardest worker out there, but I was a little stressed. I knew I could ride him lots outside but I had talked myself into thinking that I couldn’t possibly get done what I needed without good safe ground. Thankfully, I’m far too stubborn and can be pretty darn creative when it comes to riding, so I figured out how to give him the tools I needed so that the second we got back to dirt, I could get straight to loping through. It worked. His first trip through at a lope, he worked like a seasoned pro. Quiet, calm, relaxed, confident. Exactly like all those videos I had watched over the years. The really cool thing… Its not as hard as it looks.

You see, I always thought that more runs made a great honest barrel horse. And to some degree that is true. But often the cloverleaf gets way too much focus. The best, and most efficient way to make a barrel horse? Start with a broke horse. I don’t mean walk trot lope on a lose rein broke. I mean pick up the ribs, collect at all gaits, place each foot where YOU ask broke. I took a three year old around a barrel (not around the Cloverleaf… Around a barrel) at a lope yesterday. He’d never even seen a barrel before. Did he struggle? Nope. Why? Because he’s been given the tools to adapt and use himself properly in any and every situation. He’s been taught to collect himself and stay balanced, both in straight lines and big circles. Moving to a smaller circle was no big deal for him. He didn’t change the rules because the game changed. Hmmm… Sometimes I feel like people can learn more from horses than we give credit for 😜

I used to panic a little bit when I thought about starting a horse on the pattern. It was a bit of a source of anxiety for me because I was uneducated and didn’t have enough knowledge to make it easy. For me or for the horse. As I’ve grown as a rider and trainer and added tools to my tool box, the first lope through the pattern actually gives me tingles! When I know that’s my goal for the day on a colt, I get excited! It’s like that final exam that you spend weeks studying for! I love giving A+ to my four legged students as much as I do my two legged ones, and, just like with my two legged students, it’s my responsibility to set up my four legged students for success. Once you understand the process, you realize (like I have) it’s not hard to do!!

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