A Blank Canvas: Week Three Moving Forward

January 22nd, 2018 10:29 AM | No Comments

 Ed Harrison Week 3For the past two weeks, professional trainers, Kyle Flatter and Ed Harrison have shared step by step instructions on starting colts from the beginning stages and progressing through the first rides.
Both Kyle and Ed believe in a quiet approach and only working the colt as fast (or slow) as the colt is comfortable with progressing.
Both trainers introduced the saddle pad and saddle to the horses and started working on forward motion, and learning to respond to cues.
As the colts progress, Kyle and Ed decide to go different directions in training methods. However, their horses continue to improve and learn how to become show horses.
Once Kyle’s colts are comfortable moving around the round pen under saddle, he slowly gets on their back.
He explains, “I’ll walk a lap or two around the round pen then ask the colt to cut across the middle. I’ll start working the figure eight in the round pen. As long as there is not a huge resistance going in the direction I’ve asked it to go, I’m okay with a colt not immediately turning in that direction.”
Kyle believes as long as the colt calmly moves forward, then it is learning.
However, he warns about the colts who are not necessarily keen on learning, yet. “What I don’t want is when I ask the colt to go to the left, it swings it’s head to the right and pulls me right. Those are the colts that when you take them out of the round pen, they look up and say ‘see ya, I’m out!’”
As long as they are trying to be soft and responsive, I’m okay with it.”
If the colt is calm at the walk, Kyle will ask them to trot.
“I feel like on the first ride or two as long as you can get on and walk and jog quietly and they listen to that “whoa” then you are okay. I won’t move a colt out of the round pen until it can walk and trot a figure eight. I won’t go any farther until I have those check marked.”
Once the colt is able to comfortably walk and trot, Kyle asks the colt to lope.
“Sometimes, by ride three or four, they’re ready to lope. Sometimes you have one who is tense so I’ll wait 5-8 rides or whatever it takes for that colt to take a deep breath, trot around and let me have the control before I lope. Once they feel soft in the trot, I’ll ask them to lope off. AS long as they aren’t trying to run off I’ll ask them to lope a couple of times around the round pen, then say whoa, to make sure I have my brakes. I’ll give them a break, let them walk for a few minutes, then turn around and ask them to lope the other direction.”
Kyle cautions to move slowly when starting to ask a colt to lope.
“I don’t like it when people lope one direction, stop, roll them right back and lope them off the other direction. You’re setting yourself up for a bad situation. Every time you stop, that colt is going to want to rollback and go.”
Kyle also discusses the mouthpieces he uses on the first few rides.
“I start the majority of mine in a hackamore or bosal. Once I have basic whoa and just a couple rides on them I go to the snaffle. Before I ride them in a bit, I put on a headstall with no reins and just let them wear it in the stall or round pen to let them get used to it. I’ll let them chew on it and get it out of the way before I get on. Otherwise, when I get on, they are more worried about the bit than paying attention to me.”
He continues, “The benefits of a bosal are that it is more like a halter. So if one is used to being lunged on a halter, then that pressure is familiar. So when I ask for something like “whoa” it’s familiar.”

Contrary to Kyle’s program, Ed continues teaching his colts on the ground, through ground driving.
“In my program, Ground driving is essential and necessary before I step onto a young horse for the first time.”
Ed, an international missionary, uses the scripture,
“ For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” Isaiah 28:10 as his guide when developing colts on the ground.
“I have found that horses work much better when they are transitioned into new things. With that being said, when you put are ready to ride your youngsters for the first time, you will have to pull and attempt to guide them around in order to get through the ride. You may have seen the colts that get mad, confused, buck or flat refuse to go anywhere; most of these things can be attributed to the colt having missing information or the transition from ground work to riding is simply too much for that horse.”
Ed uses two lunge ropes, one lunge whip and a rope halter to complete ground driving drills.
Ed describes his step by step ground driving routine.
“l hook one lunge rope to the left side of the halter and pull the excess through the stirrup. Then repeat on the other side. Once I have lunge ropes clipped onto the left and right sides of my halter and run through the stirrups, I am ready to start driving.”

After deciding which direction to go, Ed says, “simply pull one rein and step behind your horse shoulder and drive them forward. You will work your horse one rein at a time as you are starting off. Use the walls of the round pen to your advantage.”
He continues, “Many horses will pull their bodies to the outside and draw the slack out of the lunge rope. This is because they are not going forward enough. Pull your rein and snap your lunge whip to drive your horse forward and stop them from pull on the end of your rein.”
When Ed is ready to change directions, he simply lets the wall stop the colt’s forward momentum, pulls the opposite rein, and uses the lunge whip to send the colt in the opposite direction.
Ed even asks the colt to start learning to back up through ground driving.
“The back up is not difficult to achieve, and even a stiff horse can do it. The back up will come from simply gaining control of your horse’s feet.”
He breaks down the process.
“Simply, facing the wall, pull one rein and move your horse foot in that direction and then pull your other rein and move your horse’s feet in that direction. You will continue working the movement of your horse’s feet until you can pick up on both reins and both front feet come back towards the direction of the pull, which is backward.”
Ed works with his colts in the walk, trot, and lope, all from the ground. He advises not to pull too much to make the colt stop and emphasizes the wall as the stopping mechanism. “Allow the wall to stop your horse in order to keep the pull of your rein fresh and meaningful!”
After Ed feels the colt is comfortable with these cues from the ground, he will then step on the colt for the first time.
Stay tuned for the fourth part in this series when Kyle and Ed start incorporating more control and directional guidance to their colts.

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