Going through the paces
2 year old on 3rd ride
A huge gap in understanding exists between the modern systems of ground work and arena based training and the time honored systems used on many working ranches of both yesterday and today. Most modern systems of horse training spend countless hours and days on ground work and then very slowly, being careful to not stress the horse, advance to more countless hours of round pen and arena training. A method thought by some well respected horse trainers to be abusive to the horse because of the monotony of endless repetition. Most of the time even after months of training, these horses have never left the arena or maybe they went on a slow trail ride down a groomed horse trail These horses were never stressed but also, they were never faced with a challenge. We strongly feel this is a set up for a dangerous situation; it is much like learning to drive a truck from a text book.
With a traditional ranch horse system of training the green colt is started in a round pen taming and gentling him. Once you gain his trust and sometimes affection you progress to working him under saddle for a minimum amount of time in an enclosed and controlled arena. As Soon as the horse is ready he is given an open gate and a job to do in open country. He learns to rein; by actually having to rein. He learns to stop and turn because the cow in front of him stops and turns or there is a gully or windfall… that forces him to think and change direction. This gives him immediately, a true meaning to his rider’s directions. The horse is being taught the way he was meant to learn. One day of this focused type of training which is basically on the job training is worth a month in a round pen. We are now learning how to drive a truck from the driver’s seat instead of a text book. Both systems are equally gentle on the horse, however, with a traditional ranch horse system of training which gives the horse a cow or a task to focus on, the horse is learning by doing which is long lasting rather than by just being schooled in a controlled classroom. Of course the traditional horse used on western ranches has been of cow horse breeding. But this type of training will work super on any breed. An Arab horse may not have as much natural instinct to follow a cow, but a river, a windfall or a deep gully provides a huge focus point for him to receive the same effect.
It is common for a 2 year old green colt with just a few days under saddle to be working cattle in rugged range country and loving it. His classroom cousin is still in the round pen or arena learning how to trot in circles on the end of a long line.
Ranch horses have been exposed to, and are expected to, and have learned to, deal with an incredible range of situations. Just to name a few would be the rugged mountain and range of Montana, Bear, Elk and Deer, creeks and river crossing, and the endless challenges of handling cattle in an uncontrolled environment.