Lately I have been out there in the wilds of Facebook and I have seen all the little clips from all of the horse "whisperers" and the great and wonderful horse trainers. If you will only do this one thing, they say, you will have no problems with your horse. A lot of what they tell you to do has to do with working your horse in a round pen for a while and then getting right on and riding.

I would like to tell people what we used to do. We used to get those horses in a stall twice a day and handle them. If the horse lived in that stall part of each day that made it handy. But either way, it came in and we handled it.


We did this from the day we got that horse; it could have been a foal or a yearling or a two year old. The process was still the same. We groomed it with brushes and a curry comb and we went over every inch of that horse with a rub rag. We didn't just bathe it and douse it with shiny horse coat stuff when we went out showing, we groomed and handled that horse every day.

When the horse was mentally ready for training, putting a light weight old saddle on it and very gradually girthing that saddle up was no big deal. We did that for several days and didn't ask another thing of that horse. We might ask it to just walk around the stall a bit but that was it. We hung a snaffle bit on the horse and let it get used to just having it in his mouth, too. We didn't go off and leave that horse to get caught on something with either the bit or the saddle.

We stayed right there.

About now, you are getting the picture. Slow and easy with lots of supervision and a good investment of time is what we used to get our horses ready to be ridden. When it was time to work them a bit, we put on the old saddle and the snaffle bridle and we put a halter on over the snaffle bridle and we went out to a little fenced in area and we slowly got them longing around on a short amount of long line. That took, not a day or a week but a while until that horse was ready for more. We went at the horses' pace not our program.

Back then we didn't even think in terms of riding two year old horses very much. Maybe just a little to give them the idea of being ridden and that was with an older horse along as a lead pony so that they could see what was what.

As a three year old the horse went into a serious sort of training but it was far short of what people ask of a two year old today. We still went slowly and we made it easy on the horse. We used older horses to walk out across country with us, too. And we did ride out almost as soon as that horse was manageable in the riding ring. We didn't consign a horse to the constant boredom of working in the ring. Our horses went trail riding along the fences in a big field or a pasture. They learned that deer happen and that bushes move in the wind and that the tigers they feared were (almost) nonexistent.

What this all amounted to was a four year old that was ready to go and do all of the things that we had in mind when we got that horse. We even were a little snarky about starting 4-year-olds over small fences back then. We did cavaletti work but not much "real" jumping.

We knew that we had time on our side. We knew that a horse that has never been overfaced, bored to misery or made sore by being ridden too much, too early will be an eager and willing companion. And we knew that horse would work well for us for the next 15 to 20 years or more, barring accidents.

We were in it for the long haul and so were those horses.

We did just about everything with them. In time they became the horses that we ponied the youngsters off of. We galloped up and down hills and we jumped cross country and we rode them in shows. We went on eight hour trail rides with them, rides that included streams and river crossings. They trailered easily and as a matter of course.

Time is the gift that people can give horses; years are gift that horses will give them back.