Last month, I showed you how to mount your colt for the first time and then flex his neck (find that installment at HorseandRider.com). In this lesson, you'll learn how to move both his front and hind ends. A helper on the ground, wielding a stick with plastic bags attached, will encourage the colt to move his hind end and then follow through with his front end. As your colt circles this way around the round pen, he'll be learning to follow his nose and move his feet with you aboard.
(A caveat: Colt starting isn't for beginners. If you have any doubts about your horsemanship or riding skills, play it safe and take your colt to a professional trainer.)
Why You Need This
This approach enables your colt to get used to how it feels to move his feet with a rider on his back in a controlled situation. The person with the stick helps to direct the colt's movements, as opposed to just letting him move about on his own. It proves to the colt that humans still have control of his feet, and helps him not to worry about your being up there on his back. As always, the sooner you can get his feet moving and changing directions, the quicker he'll start to relax and use the thinking side of his brain.
For Best Results…
- Your colt should already have had extensive groundwork. The more fluent a horse is at his groundwork, the easier and safer are all mounted lessons. If necessary, review the groundwork lessons I've provided previously in this magazine—many of them available online at HorseandRider.com.
- Your colt should be saddled and wearing a snaffle bit or bosal-type hackamore.
- Enlist the aid of a helper armed with plastic bags affixed to the end of a training stick. (The helper will use the bags to encourage the colt to move first his hind end, then follow through with his front end.)
- Work ina large, safe, enclosed round pen.
We'll continue directly from last month's lesson. You're on your colt at a standstill, in the center of the round pen. Place both hands on the reins, also holding the saddle horn with one hand (you'll be holding the rein and the horn together—make sure this rein has enough slack for the colt to easily bend his head and neck around the other way). With your other hand, flex your colt's head and neck around as you did last lesson, staying loose and relaxed throughout your body.
Move the hind end. With your colt's neck still flexed, have your helper lean forward, step close to the fence, and, with active body language, shake the bags at your colt's hindquarters to encourage him to move them away. (Your helper will shake the bags at the same side that the colt's head is flexed to—that is, if his head is flexed to the left, the bags will shake at his left hindquarters.)
As the bags shake, move your leg (on that same side) back and press your colt's flank with your heel to encourage him to move his hindquarters away. Even though he won't understand what that leg pressure means at first, it's never too early to start introducing him to the concept of it.
Move the front end. Once your colt has disengaged his hindquarters by stepping them to the side, your helper will step around and encourage him to follow through with his front end by swinging the bags toward his head and neck. (If his hind end is moving to the right, for example, the helper will shake the bags at the right side of his neck, to move his front end to the left.)
At the same time, point your hand in the direction you want his front end to go. For example, point out to the side with your left hand to "open the door" for his front end to move left. You can also press with your opposite leg up by the cinch to further encourage your colt's front end to move through the turn.
If your colt is lazy, your helper may need to actually tap him with the stick/ bags to move each end of his body.
Continue on in this way for four or five rotations in the same direction, watching to make sure your colt doesn't seem to be getting dizzy. (If he is, stop sooner.)
Stop, rest. Bring your colt to a stop by holding the rein at your hip until he stops moving his feet and softens to the pressure. At the same time, your helper will release the pressure of the bags by backing away a few steps and scaling back so that the bags (which should remain moving to provide continuity throughout your ride) are shaking only lightly.
Go the other way. Now bend your colt's head and neck the other way and follow the same steps in the opposite direction. Continue practicing the exercise, alternating directions, until your colt seems relaxed—usually it takes three to four times on each side to achieve this goal.