Rocky-May Training


May 24

When the colts and fillies first arrive in the round pen they mostly want to run away from me. I encourage this. I make the kiss sound, which they quickly interpret as a go forward cue. I use a lounge whip, which I rarely touch them with; waving it around is more than enough to get their attention. When I put the whip in my left-hand the horse learns to move to the right; when I put the whip in my right hand the horse moves to the left. When we first start there’s a panicked, “Get me out of here!” response. But gradually in the first round penning it turns into a learning session. They learn directives: turning, halting,  moving out,  standing quietly for grooming, picking up feet, and saddling.

At first most of the time is spent asking the horse to go around and around. As the lessons continue less time is spent with round penning and more with physically handling and riding the horse.  This is our third session and we’re already spending a lot more hands-on time.

May 26

Today was my fourth day of training Rocky. These four lessons have been stretched over a month. April 23, May 15, May 24, and today, May 26. I usually am able to start training around the middle of May. This year there was a dry spell in April, but the day after our first lesson it started raining and it is still borderline too wet. The problem with the wet ground is that it adds another tension for the horse plus the danger of slipping and falling if the horse has a cowboy moment. Consequently, I really started regular training on the 24th.

Though spread out over a month Rocky has clearly learned from every lesson. Today we took our first trail ride. I led him out down our quarter-mile driveway to the County road and jumped on bareback, using a bosal for a bridle. We basically just walked home but I halted him about every 50 feet and turned him both ways in order to give him some instruction about what the reins are for. He was very heavy; turning left was nearly impossible

May 27

Today was like other days with just a little more riding time than the day before. First we round penned. Then I brushed him. Though he seemed ready to stand as I was putting the saddle on, he ran away from me. I lounged him some more. After a few rounds he was ready to stop and stand. I talked friendly to him the whole time I was putting the saddle on. When I tightened the girth he turned his head toward me, almost like he was cinchy, but he was not putting his ears back or threatening to bite me. Nevertheless, I watched him.

I round penned with the saddle on for a few minutes. I long reined by tying a rope to the bosal and doing figure eights in the round pen. He is doing pretty well at ground driving. I took the saddle off and took him out of the round pen. When we got to the driveway, I jumped on his back and we took a 20 minute trail ride. On the way back we practiced stopping and turning, both directions.  I pull as light as I can and as heavy as I need to be.  This is a very important principle. A horse will become heavy according to how heavy your hands are. Tonight I attempted rein back. I pushed him into the reins. As he attempted to move forward into the reins he felt the reins and stepped back two steps. We did this exercise three or four repetitions.

As we got close to home, he  started to show a little impatience by tossing his head and pushing a bit. I didn’t want to obey his nagging but neither did I want to aggravate more than I needed to. I just kept the lesson going a little past his comfort zone to teach him  patience.

May 28

Today I put the saddle on Rocky, who was so relaxed and comfortable with it that I decided to take our trail ride with a saddle. We did not leave the training pen but just rode around its perimeter and accomplished figure eights around the barrels. We practiced backing up. I kept it to two or three steps back. I didn’t want him to become irritated by it and freeze up. He did very well. After 10 or 15 minutes I could feel him starting to get impatient and perhaps a little irritated but I pressed him to keep going another 5 minutes or so.

May 29

Rocky Day Seven

Today when I put him in the round pen, he stood quietly and waited for the saddle. After I put it on, I asked him to trot around me both right and left.  He was calm and pleasant. I introduced a snaffle bit. I left it on for 5 minutes but didn’t attempt to give him any direction with it.  Then I took it off and put on the bosal again. I long-reined him for a few minutes. I tightened the saddle and notch, and mounted. We rode out into the training pen and rode around the barrels. When I asked him to back up, he did it admirably, lightly, and as many steps as I wanted, like a pro.

So far I have kept Rocky at a walk when I’ve been on his back. Tomorrow we will try a trot.


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Rocky: Horse Training Lesson One

Rocky is a Curly Horse. He is six years old about 14 hands and a stallion. He is totally preoccupied with mares and fillies. I can relate to these overwhelming preoccupations with the opposite sex, but not lately. A long time ago I watched a young stallion rage in the pasture, I thought to myself… “Golly I’m just like that only I have to keep all that energy bottled up. The stallion rages and struts for the whole world to see. You can imagine that there are special problems, dangers and challenges of keeping and training a stallion.

Like a teenage boy, it is difficult to keep a young stallion’s attention. They are always looking over the fence at the latest filly that happens by. Nevertheless, like a teenage boy, a stallion can learn to be polite including politely respecting your space. Unlike a teenage boy (at least in my experience) stallions seem to be quick learners.

I spent some time before Rocky arrived at our place making sure the electric fences worked, but when his owner and I turn him loose in the small paddock he almost immediately dove under the fence but stopped at the gelding’s pen to strut and show off while geldings made violent, taunting faces at him and apparently feeling safe because of the fence between him and them. Before Rocky dove under the gelding’s fence, we herded and him back up to the original little paddock. I tied him in the stall after his owner left and isolated the electricity to only the little paddock where I planned to keep him. When I turned him loose he struck the same place and dove under the fence again, but I could see from his reaction that the fence worked this time. I put him back in the paddock and this time he paced along the perimeter his nose 2 inches from the fence, but he didn’t go through it again or touch it. Nevertheless, I’ve been keeping him in the barn at night in a 12 x 12 stall.

When his owner was here we didn’t talk much about Rocky’s past training. I assumed it was very minimal. When we started the round pen training I could see that he hadn’t done that before, but he was quick to learn stopping and turning when I asked him. However, he never totally stopped looking at the mares at least some of the time. Nevertheless, he showed the usual signs of submission by licking and chewing and ‘mostly’ paying attention to me.

On our walk to and from the round pen, several times, as we passed other horses, Rocky seemed to completely forget about me by walking into my space, strutting, pawing the air nickering and then roaring. I thumped him with the halter every time he misbehaved to get his attention back on me, just the same as the high school teacher does with the teenage boys in his charge using the tools or threats that are available to him.

After he had shown the signs of join-up, I brushed him and put on the saddle. He showed no concern or fear of the saddle. He did not arch his back. I asked him to trot and he moved out with no concern. I took the saddle off and jumped on bare- back. I asked him to turn both ways with the bosal. He was a heavy especially moving left. He did not want to move forward with me on his back and I pushed him gently but didn’t force it.

I planned to keep the training going, but it’s been raining, windy, muddy and now icy, regular April weather around here.

I originally wrote this on April 21 and finally posted it here yesterday May 28. I’ll catch up today with the other Rocky posts that are in my documents, but not posted on backwoods buckaroo.

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Horse Training Log ‎8/‎23/‎16

DSCF9932 db 800Sophie

Today, same as yesterday, only about twice as long a ride. The biggest difference was that today her rein-back was nearly perfect every time. We cantered for the first time.


We worked exclusively in the riding pen. She is awkward or confused about the shoulder in. Other than that she works really well. She’s a little crabby today; I think she’s coming into her season.

About Me

Both Sophie and Pearl are very calm compared to what I’m used to with Arabs. I have no siblings to compare with Pearl. However, I’ve had several colts and fillies with the same sire and dam as Sophie. Sophie appears to be quite different. This makes me wonder if my judgment is correct. I mustn’t forget there is another factor to be considered. Perhaps I’ve changed. The trainer is an important part of the equation. When I was working with Ruby this spring, she was way more difficult than when I first trained her as a three-year-old. I was tempted to exasperation. She was so different from what I was expecting. I know impatience or anger is a destructive vice from the trainer. I made a conscious and willful effort to adjust my attitude to peace, confidence and faith. I told her so verbally continuously. This effort toward peace needs to be consistent. I built a habit. I thought I saw changes toward the good in her, but I definitely changed.

Perhaps I’m just seeing results of my personal character adjustments in Sophie and Pearl.



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Horse Training Log ‎Monday, ‎August ‎22, ‎2016

this is an exercise I do to encourage the horse to lighten up, give to pressure on her nose. A horse's usual response is to push against the pressure. After standing like this for a minute or two, they find out that they can escape from the pressure by dropping their nose a little bit.

The above exercise encourages the horse to lighten up from the pressure applied by the bit or bosal.  A horse’s usual response to pressure is to push against the pressure. After standing like this for a minute or two, they find out that they can escape from the pressure by dropping their nose a little bit. The colt  transfers this learning to when the pressure from the bosal is applied by human hands.


With horse training, it is probably a good thing when each day seems the same especially when there is still some potential wild behavior. At least there were no cowboy moments today. As she keeps to this calm behavior there will be less and less of a chance for backsliding.

We walked and trotted down the driveway and out onto the road for a quarter-mile. On the way back we practiced halts, which are working nicely; she stops square and she anticipates my lightest touch. My action for the halt is as follows: first I push my but deeper in the saddle, say “whoa”, and then pull one rein straight back to my stomach. If she doesn’t stop immediately I alternate reins so as not to let her head turn. Often from the halt I turned her back the way we had come turning every other time right or left. She anticipated the cues to stop and responded lightly about 95% of the time. Sometimes on these halts we practiced rein-back, a few times she performed perfectly, sometimes a couple of steps awkwardly, sometimes she froze up and wouldn’t move at all.


Double Bridle

Double Bridle

Dawn Treader

Recently I have started riding Dawn Treader with a halfbreed, which is a vaquero curb bit. She only carries it; I do not use it. For my hand cues, I use a light bosal which she wears as well as the bridle. Eventually, I will double rein using both the bosal and the bit. Finally Dawn Treader will graduate to just the bit. At least that’s the current plan. I am attempting to follow the old Californio reinsman methods.

Today we practiced utility movements: opening the gates from on her back, riding the pinwheel and straddling a log while we full pass down the length of the log. She is calm and doing very nicely. I really like these sensitive horses.  No one would know by looking at her today that she has been extremely hot-blooded/emotionally supercharged.

DSCF9915 wc 800Kiwi

I rode her with a snaffle bit. I wanted her to get a feel for it. She was mouthing it and feeling heavy and generally having a hard time paying attention to me. Her mind was on a bit. After a trail ride, I put on the bosal and pretty much went through the same training maneuvers as Dawn Treader. She is definitely not as hot-blooded as Dawn Treader I believe she will be really calm beautiful pleasant horse for someone.

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Training Sophie Day 6 – 11,  Sunny Delight and Pearl

DSCF9796 wc800After the breakthrough on the fifth session (the last post), we repeated the circle game for two more days because she continued to run away when I presented the saddle. Finally, she stopped running and moved out only when I asked. We have had six sessions since the fifth session; they were very similar. We’ve taken a trail ride down the county road every day. The last two days I have ridden her with a saddle; before that, we were bareback on the trail rides.

Aside from saddling and ground manners, I’ve been working on moving forward. Like a lot of fresh trainees she moves out slowly, reluctantly and or cautiously. I push her forward or faster by carefully making the kiss sound, squeezing with my legs and if there is no movement, kicking gently. She eventually moves out and even trots.

On our trail rides, we do a lot of halts, turning both directions, rein–backs  and just letting her get acquainted with the world with me on her back. Rein–backs are  awkward and only two or three steps and that’s good enough for now.

If there’s anything exceptional or different about her it would be that she is extra calm when I am sitting on her back. Perhaps she has shown a little stress by acting sleepy, but she has never shown any normal resistance even down to arching her back when I first get on.

DSCF9155 db800Besides Sophie, I’ve also been riding Pearl and Sunny Delight. They are my least trained horses.

Pearl is doing excellently; she will be a fine horse. She is very light and responsive.

Sunny Delight (alias Jihad) is afraid when I first get him into the round pen. We do a little join up exercise two or three circles in both directions and he does a very clear join up, facing me and walking toward me. He needs steady riding. When he is fresh he is fearful but settles down quickly. He is way fat with no extra feed but grass. He is a good keeper.DSCF9807 wc 800

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