As I have mentioned in the past, I really don’t think too much of the way I used to break horses. And I say break because that is what I was doing to them. There was no thought to an easier method, just get on and git-r-done!
Shady was a mare I rode for my parents when she was a 3 year old. She ended up not being a very good momma (Annie and the Ego). She was mistrustful and fearful and I missed all the signs, heck I wasn’t even looking for them.
At the time I was still fairly young and rubbery, so I did not spend much time doing ground work. I used to laugh at my Dad for spending time walking around on the ground when he could be in the saddle. I used to tell him that “anything he was doing on the ground, I could do in the saddle!” Oh, how that statement came back to bite me…
I did some ground work, about 3 hours worth, so she wasn’t totally blindsided. But, once I got to the point I could put a saddle on her…well, no more ground work! Yee haw!
I snubbed her head around and quickly swung up into the saddle. Initially she was frozen, so I let her have a few minutes (ok, seconds) to get acquainted with the fact that I was on her back. As soon as I thought she was ok, I used the end of my reins to encourage (ok, spank) her into moving. Boy, once she started moving, it got pretty western! She immediately broke in two; Bucking, squalling and peeing all over. I didn’t mind the bucking and squalling too much, but the other I could have done without. Man, it was everywhere…on me, on her and on the ground! I couldn’t pull her head up and couldn’t see her tail behind her. Once she settled into a long easy bucking rhythm, I started to have fun. I mean, she was still bucking pretty hard, but there was nothing dishonest about how she was doing it. It was just straight around the round pen and I could spur like a saddle bronc rider! It was some kinda fun!
Usually, a young horse will only do this for a few minutes. They just get tired and want to stop or at least slow down. Not Shady, after about 20 minutes I started to get concerned. After all, it was south
and the summertime! So I tried to pull her up, which only got us back to running! I figured she would get tired after a while, so I let her run. After 10 minutes of running, nothing was getting better. But we had slowed down to long trotting, but still moving. After an hours ride, I had enough! She didn’t want me on her, and I was willing to oblige. But she was not going to buck me off; I was going to get off on my own terms. So I pulled her into a circle (one rein stop) and she came to a stop. As soon as I shifted my weight to get off, she broke in two again. Another 10-15 minutes of bucking. This went on for about 3 hours. I like to joke that she bucked for 3 hours but in reality there was lots of starts and stops. It just seemed every time I shifted my weight, she would fire up again. Once she got exhausted I could pull her to a stop and get off, but we both were in the same shape! It took forever to cool her out that night. Texas
I would like to say things got better immediately after that night, but no, it was not to be. For the next month or so, I rode her 5-6 days a week. She bucked everyday, which I didn’t mind. Heck the rides were shorter every day! But, the squalling and peeing I could have done without. To be honest, she did not buck as long after that first ride….sometimes it was only 10-12 jumps and she would settle down.
After I turned her over to my Dad, (that’s a heck of a deal…turning over a bronc to your 50 year old Dad) he started doing the groundwork. He said it was visual, one day it was like the light came on for her and she turned into another horse. I believe even my Mom rode her for a while too! She was sold to a little 14 year old girl, who just loves her! She was definitely not the same horse I rode, which speaks volumes for the groundwork. As age and brains meet together, I’ve decided that there is something to this groundwork thing. I don’t always enjoy doing it, but it is important to do!