by Cole Germann
As a horse trainer, there are several tasks that I believe are important for the horses before they are turned over to me. When starting colts, I see lots of horses at all different levels of training when they arrive at my place. Some are seven year-old studs that have never been handled. They have just been run in to the trailer straight from the pasture. Others are pets that have been loved too much. Both types of horses present their own significant challenges.
I believe to get the most bang for the owner’s buck it’s imperative to have a horse that is halter-broke and has been handled enough to be caught and have his feet touched. The more time I spend working with the horse getting it to lead or trim his feet, the less time I have to mold that horse into one that is safe and reliable to ride. The horse doesn’t have to jump in to the halter, lead perfectly or stand still to be brushed. Nor does it need to pick up his feet easily. The horse needs to have respect for humans. I would appreciate the horse not trying to kick or paw me when I finally do get him caught.
If the horse is a stallion when it arrives and the owner wants that horse to be a gelding when he leaves, that also restricts the amount of time I have to work with the horse while he heals from surgery. I am only able to work with him enough so he can heal up and work out some of the testosterone built up in his system.
I believe a lot of people can do some of the beginning ground work themselves. There are many good methods that can be learned from the many books and videos that cover the basics and those basics can be accomplished without a round pen or fancy equipment. The horse owner can teach the horse how to respect people and space from the first day the horse is haltered. The owner doesn’t have to beat the horse to gain the horse’s respect. But he also can’t let the horse drag him around or walk on top of him. If the owner is unsure about something, he shouldn’t do it. It takes a lot longer to un-train bad habits than it does to teach them how they should behave. Some people believe they are doing the right thing, when they are actually loving their horse into habits that take away from time that would be better spent in actual training.
A spoiled horse that runs over humans or fights out of disrespect is a lot harder to train than a range horse that might have only seen people the day he got loaded into a trailer. I see a lot of horses that people have started and both horse and rider end up over their heads with training or behavioral issues. Either the horse has been in a wreck and needs to learn how to trust again, or he has learned that it can get away with being naughty and disrespectful, and consequently dangerous. It is impossible to train a horse without some level of trust and respect.
My goal in training a colt is to have that horse riding outside calmly on a loose rein. The horse needs to listen to my legs and seat, and feel comfortable with all the cues asked of him. The horse needs to ride quietly out in the open, by himself, before the owner comes to pick him up after 30 days of training.
Cole Germann is a professional horse trainer who trains horses out in the beautiful National Grasslands near Sidney, Montana and Squaw Gap, North Dakota. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or his cell phone is 406-853-0634. Stay tuned for Cole’s new website and for more articles about practical and effective horse training techniques.