Starting a horse under saddle and bridle and teaching him to carry a rider are always challenging tasks. Becky Siler carried that process a step further when she decided to take a 2-year-old Moyle horse raised on the ranges of Idaho and turn him into an endurance mount.
Becky cares for the horses at Walt Disney World in Florida and competes in both endurance riding and competitive trail riding, so she brought a wealth of horse experience to the project. She also had met with John Lyons several times and studied his methods, which she used throughout the colt's lessons.
Parts one and two of Becky's story appeared in the January and February 2005 issues of John Lyons' Perfect Horse. Part one explained how Becky chose her Moyle colt, Eli, in Idaho and gentled him enough for the long van ride to Florida. Part two continued Becky's story back home, where she schooled Eli in ground manners. This chapter completes the story, as we see how Becky taught Eli how to carry a rider and learn to become a perfect trail companion.
By late May of 2001, Becky planned to saddle Eli for the first time in preparation for a nearby clinic she had signed up for with John Lyons certified trainers in June.
Although aware that John was in the process of trying a new way of saddle training by doing all the bridle work first, she decided to teach Eli the "old" way, saddling him loose in the round pen and sending him around. Because she knew she would be instructed with the "give to the bit" lessons at the clinic, she felt that Eli would benefit from the "old" style of saddle training.
Becky planned to take Eli to her friend's round pen to do this first saddling, as he always seemed calm and relaxed there and genuinely enjoyed his trips in the trailer.
She began the lesson by doing some inside and outside turns, and approaching and sacking him with the saddle pad, which she had done before. Putting the saddle on for the first time did not bother Eli at all until he moved off with it. At first he seemed surprised, then he bolted around the pen for four or five laps. He never bucked; he just acted scared.
After that initial reaction, Eli took to the saddle calmly. Becky proceeded to work him on inside and outside turns for approximately 15 minutes. Then she called it quits for the day.
The next day, Becky saddled Eli in her own round pen, and she used a different saddle that had latigo strings hanging off it. As soon as Eli moved off with that saddle, he became frightened of the strings flapping from it, bolting and bucking. Becky asked for several inside and outside turns to help get him to focus on something else, and that calmed him down.
She asked him for turns and stops until he became comfortable with the different saddle. She continued the same lesson plan for the next four days. Each day Eli became more accustomed to the saddle until it became routine for him.
On to the Clinic
By the second week in June, Becky felt they were both ready to tackle the two-day clinic in Ocala, Fla., where Eli would learn about the bit and hopefully be ridden for the first time.
Becky liked Steven and Linda Duchac from the start. They had gone through the John Lyons certification program together and were willing to let her bring a stallion, which many clinicians are not willing to do.
The couple laid out a solid plan for the weekend, which included classroom time as well as the leading and bitting lessons. The plan for Eli was to spend most of Saturday and early Sunday working on the bridling and giving to the bit sessions, then have Linda get on him first in the round pen Sunday afternoon if he seemed ready.