The past month has been crazy at work and on the farm. I’ve struggled to find the time to fit blogging in with everything else. This weekend was particularly exciting, and I feel that it needs to be adequately documented on my blog site. So, Buck Brannaman was at the Bell County Expo center giving a three day horsemanship clinic, and some of the friends we made during Brent’s Mustangs and Veteran’s 2018 (M&V 2018) program stayed with us over the weekend to attend the clinic. Great Friends showed up with four horses and three dogs in tow because we all planned to enjoy some ride time together when we weren’t attending the clinic.
The Buck Brannaman clinic was great just like the previous year. I always pick up a pearl of wisdom from this man every time I see him. This year I realized that even though I’ve felt like I was failing Comanche, I’ve actually been working him correctly (or at least following Buck’s methods) when trying to correct his giraffe/freight train behavior. Comanche and I even had a breakthrough this weekend while riding with Great Friends. He was softer and more responsive than he’s ever been, and nailed a few flying lead changes without performing his usual bolt like you’ve been shot at maneuver.
By far the greatest event of the weekend involved Darling Husband and his Mustang, Koda, from the M&V 2018 program. For any of you that are new to my blog or missed this post https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/hard-luck-horse-farm.blog/164 Koda was a wild caught Mustang that Darling Husband spent six weeks taming. She had not been handled by humans before the program. Koda is almost 2 years old and therefore too young for any serious riding, so we are spending our time preparing her. Darling Husband has mostly been doing ground work and getting her used to riding equipment. Koda spends a lot of time wearing a saddle while hanging out in the round pen when she isn’t getting into trouble with our resident hellion Tater Tot.
At the beginning of the weekend, Great Friends predicted that Koda would have a live person on her back by Sunday. This is just the next step in training. The plan for the next few months is to saddle and have a live person ride Koda at a slow walk for a lap or two around the round pen once or twice a week. Nothing to stress her still developing bones and tendons, but just enough for her to be comfortable with the sensation of a live being on her back. We brought in a professional to put the all important first ride on Koda.
Meet Mad Max the Monkey! Max is a trick riding expert! He can ride anything a wild bronc throws at him, but remains “soft” to the horse. This builds the horse’s confidence in having something flopping around in the saddle. Horses new to the whole riding thing are also usually afraid of anything higher than their head. Mad Max sits tall initially to prove they have nothing to worry about. Koda and Mad Max spent four hours of quality time together on Saturday while we worked almost every other horse on the farm. Koda even decided Mad Max should experience a good roll.
While Koda and Mad Max were hanging out, we worked the rest of the horses. Darling Husband even took a few spins on Royal, and Great Friends were kind enough to loan her to us for the next month to assist with Koda. Odessa doesn’t have the patience to put up with a young horse’s shenanigans, and Koda would feed off of Comanche’s amped up energy. Neither of my horses are the comforting equine mentor Koda needs for her initial live rider sessions. Royal is old hat at this colt starting business and is a great confidence builder for Darling Husband at the same time.
Once Mad Max had worked his magic, we decided that Koda was indeed ready for her first live rider on Sunday afternoon. Great Friends showed us their method for the first ride using another mature horse. This was a little different from the method I used years ago helping my father start a colt under saddle. I’m a big believer that equestrians never stop learning, and it is important to be exposed to different training methods. The two horse method does have some benefits, mainly a pick up rider to pull you from a bronco situation in the event your young horse behaves unexpectedly. Darling Husband’s work with Koda combined with her easy going personality, didn’t lead us to believe there would be any wild antics, but you just never know.
With Koda saddled in the round pen we began with one person holding Koda’s head, while the other person stepped into the stirrup, just some steady weight for a few seconds to teach Koda how to balance when someone mounts her. From there we graduated to leaning over her back, and placing a knee on her rump while standing in the stirrup. Once Koda was comfortable with these activities, the rider finally eased down into the saddle. As predicted Koda while a little confused was quite happy with all of the pats and scratches she received for standing still.
Finally it was time for the big moment. Great Friends brought, Mirage, another experienced colt breaking horse into the round pen with Koda. We repeated all of the previous steps, but this time Mirage’s rider would hold Koda’s lead instead of a person on the ground. Darling Husband stepped into the stirrup a few times, placed his knee on her rump while leaning over her, and finally eased his rear into the saddle sitting straight up. Then as Mirage stepped forward, Koda began to follow her around a small circle before Darling Husband quietly dismounted. The entire process from the first time someone stepped into the stirrup until Darling Husband dismounted from the final ride was less than thirty minutes. Darling Husband only spent about two minutes total in the saddle. At no time did Koda freak out, and we lavished tons of scratches, pats, and treats (Mostly from me, not everyone believes in treats, another blog for another day) on her when we were done.
It was a weekend full of highs for the Gardner Hard Luck Horse Farm! We learned a lot about starting horses from Great Friends. I’d like to think they learned a little about riding hunters, jumping, and maybe driving from us. To quote Winston Churchill, “No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle!” and “There is something about the outside of the horse that is good for the inside of a man.”