THIS DIRECTORY TO NAVIGATE THE SERIES:
ALBUM 1: INTRO AND TRAILER TRAINING
TRAINING ALBUM 2: EARLY TRAINING
TRAINING ALBUM 3: ARETHA'S FIRST
TRAINING ALBUM 4: ANGELITA'S FIRST
TRAINING ALBUM 5: VILASA'S FIRST
TECOLOTE BSN, SHAMBO BSN & ANGELITA
has to happen before these cute babies can become good,
safe, equine citizens under saddle?
the first training notebook, we discussed our training philosophy
and gave a lesson in trailer loading. (The subject of that
lesson, Corcovado, wants you to know that he now bounds
into the trailer, sometimes before the door is open!) This
article presents the vital early training every horse must
receive to be a good equine citizen. I.e., one you can lead
from here to there safely and pleasantly, much less ride.
If you read the first training notebook carefully, you will
recall that I didn't get the idea for this training series
until our three fillies were almost under saddle. Their
early training happened years ago, so I don't have any pictures
to illustrate the very early processes. We'll rely on creative
imagination and a few mildly relevant photos.
having fun writing this, playing. Our ranch name, Vilasa,
is a Sanskrit word meaning "delightful play or sport."
That's how we train horses at Rancho Vilasa and that's how
we live. Basically, we think that training should be an
interesting, engaging process for human and horse. A good
experience. So should writing and reading about horse training.
I'm writing for a mixed audience here: I'm assuming my reader
is interested in horses, but may not know a great deal about
Peruvian Paso horses or training. If you know more, there
are some good photos down below and in the other articles
to keep you interested. And some good information, presented
basic training. What baby horses must know before they can
even think about becoming mature, responsible, saddle horses.
The first thing to know about early training is that baby
horses are born knowing only one thing: How to be baby horses.
They are very good at it. They do not know how to do anything
else. That includes almost everything people want them to
do with them: Haltering, leading, tying, being nice for
the vet or anyone else, being bathed, clipped, sprayed,
hugged, snuggled or any of that. Blanketed, saddled, shod
or unshod. Longed. Backed. Or-- loaded into a trailer to
go to a show or new home. What will a baby horse do if confronted
with one of these training landmarks without preparation?
Anything it can.
horses are among the most dangerous equines. I do not recommend
that beginners buy a baby with the idea of raising and training
it for the glorious experience. It might be a glorious,
terminal experience. I read somewhere, like Equus Magazine
or some such, that horseback riding is something like five
times more dangerous than motorcycle riding. I believe it.
I've never personally seen someone killed on a horse. I
have friends who have witnessed fatal accidents. I did see
a guy lose a finger loading a horse. I've heard of people
ending up in wheelchairs from accidents at shows where I've
been in the next row of stalls-- not to mention poor Christopher
Reeve. And I've been in all sorts of wrecks myself. The
point of this is not to be negative about horses, but to
up the reality quotient. Horse training is dangerous.
THIS ADORABLE BABY MAY BE THE MOST DANGEROUS HORSE ON
what about baby horses? I've been clunked on the head by
horses twice in my life. Neither time was I riding. The
first was our dearest old mare, who spooked while I was
wrapping her leg and "kneed" me in the head. The
second time involved an adorable, sweet, smart, good tempered,
well behaved little stud colt we sold to Colorado as a weanling.
Hadn't been handled much, but the shipper was an old hand.
No problem getting him into the truck for the journey to
his new home! We had him halfway up the ramp. I.e., his
front end was halfway up the ramp. The shipper got a rope
around golden boy's butt to motivate him. Somehow the colt
got his leg on the wrong side of his lead rope. The shipper
said to me, "Pick up his foot and lift it over that
rope." I didn't even think before I grabbed his leg.
I had not read this article at the time and did not know
that baby horses know nothing.
baby-skookums just lift that cute baby hoof when I took
hold of his fetlock? Did he act like a trained horse would?
No. He lunged forward, striking out with his forelegs and
leaping onto the ramp with his rear limbs. Unfortunately,
my head was in the way of his left front. Only a glancing
blow to the temple. Which left me seeing stars, hearing
birdies, dizzy and thankful that it wasn't a direct hit
to my paper-thin temple. Did that sweet baby intend to hurt
me? No. Baby horses are inherently dangerous. Early training
is important. So is respect.
TONY MANIPULATES ARETHA'S TACK
A young horse must tolerate its saddle being moved
and adjusted before anyone can ride.
young mare is in the early stages of saddle training. To
get this far-- Aretha
has had to learn to be caught in her stall or pasture, to
lead, and stand in crossties (The ropes on each side of
her head are called "crossties". These can be
dangerous. If the horse panics and rears/lunges and the
ties are too low, he/she can get hung up with both front
legs over the ties. The horses front legs are likely to
be about head height for any nearby humans. A potentially
deadly contact. Therefore, the ties should be high-- horses'
ear height. These are a bit low. Despite the potential for
problems, we have not had any accidents in the cross ties,
other than a few broken posts.).
filly, Aretha, has already learned to stand for grooming,
feet cleaning and trimming. She's learned how to get into
our wash rack, have a bath, and then back out safely. (If
you start working them, horses sweat. You have to hose them
off or the salt in the sweat will make them itch and etch
their coat so that it ends up totally dull. Bath training
is necessary.) Aretha knows how to behave with a vet and
how to longe in both directions.
longeing and the longe line. It's pronounced "lunging"
and the "lunge line". I spell it "longe"
because many, many years ago I was taught to ride by a retired
Colonel in the Prussian army. [I am not making this up.]
That's how he spelled it. Also, after I stopped taking
lessons from Colonel Seison, I took lessons from a succession
of English riding teachers.That's how they spelled
it, too. I think the spelling is part of the English riders'
mystique that they and only they really know anything about
horses and riding. English instructors teach an obscure way
of spelling something that doesn't look how it sounds and
which you, as their students, have as secret esoteric knowledge.
Teachers and students bond as a tribe based on a secret
language, feeling forever superior to ordinary folk. This
is true. Whenever I hear the word "lunge" I always
wonder snidely, "Do they know its spelled 'longe'?"
This adds an element of neurosis to riding which really
isn't necessary. It's hard enough just not being afraid
of your horse.
what is longeing? It's when you take a long line and attach
it to your horse's halter and then make him run around you
in a circle. That way , you can exercise him in an extremely
unnatural way if you want. (Horses never run in tight circles
in nature.) Or you can do it for the vet so any lamenesses
show up fast. (Working hard in tight circles causes damage
to the horse's legs.) Or you can go it before you get on,
so if the horse bucks, he/she does it on the longe line
rather than under you. Longeing is very very useful that
way. We'll talk about different types of longeing later.
Also see lots of pictures.]
so Aretha had to learn all this is before even thinking
about saddles or bosals or cruppers or wet or dry longeing
and her show career. And she has-- you can see her happily
standing there in the cross ties all saddled in her Peruvian
work saddle with her Peruvian bosal on her cute little head.
What Tony is doing is "messing with" her tack
(saddle, etc.)-- moving it around. Flapping it. Etc. Why?
Because Aretha has to be able to tolerate her gear moving,
being touched, lifted, squeaking,and having more leather
parts put on and off. And eventually, she will have to deal
with a rider getting on and off and riding her. One step
at a time. And you must do every step! You'll see what happens
if you miss one below.
a young horse has learned to accept tack standing, it needs
to learn to do it moving. The round pen is the safe place
to start. Vilasa demonstrates some basics.
PREPARING TO LONGE VILASA BSN
A horse must go through a series of training steps
before it can be ridden. First it must learn to longe without
a saddle. Then with a saddle. Vilasa is is a very hot, sensitive
young mare. We rigged up this surcingle arrangement with
a girth and latigo so she could ease into the "longeing
with tack" concept.
is important, as we will see in the following articles which
present these horses' first and subsequent saddlings. The
horse needs to learn to pay attention to the trainer/rider
while experiencing new and perhaps scary things. You build
up, step by step. This filly, Vilasa BSN, is probably the
best horse we've bred. She's a daughter of six time U.S.
and Canadian National Champion of Champions Breeding Stallion,
*JOR Norte y Sur and our "living antique",
La Soberbia. We call Soberbia an antique because her
bloodlines are so old. Her mother was a full sister to the
immortal *Mantequilla and her father was a linebred, direct
son of Sol de Oro, Viejo, probably the most influential
horse in the development of the modern Peruvian Paso.
is three years old-- leggy and gawky like at 13 year old
girl. Pasos are slow developing horses, needing six or seven
years to mature sometimes. Vilasa will fill out and bulk
up as the years go by. Right now, she's a block of solid
muscle. The photo was taken in very early spring, so she's
still got her rough winter coat. Note the saddle and saddle
blanket waiting on the ground. Vilasa's a very spirited
animal. Most horses don't need this surcingle step. She
did. Tony will longe her with the surcingle. If she seems
like she can tolerate it, he will put the saddle on.
VILASA READY TO BY LONGED WITH THE SADDLE.
Note that no stirrups, crupper or bosal are attached . This
is early in the training process. She's wearing a Western
training halter for greater control.
did okay with the surcingle, so she's upped to a plain training
saddle. Later, a crupper (tailpiece that prevents the saddle
from slipping), stirrups, bosal and pellonero (detachable
saddle padding) will be added. The last step is to add the
full traditional Peruvian tail piece, which dates back to
the time of the Conquistadors. This happens after she is
under saddle. Notice the strength of this young mare as
she stands. Look at the very clean, tight legs.
VILASA BEING LONGED EARLY IN TRAINING
Notice easy, relaxed movement, loose longe line. She's
is what we like to see. She's accepting the lesson. Relaxed,
TONY LEADING ANGELITA
Don't take this for granted. Just because you can
lead them unsaddled, doesn't mean you can lead them saddled.
another pre-saddle training photo which shows tons of early
work has been done. Once the horse can handle standing
tacked up, she/he has to tolerate what happens when she/he
walks: The movement of stirrups, squeaks of leather, pull
of the crupper on the tail, movement of reins and the rumel.
And you walking next to her/him. The horse is a different
animal saddled and unsaddled. This filly is farther along
in her training than Vilasa in the photos above. Note bosal,
reins and stirrups. Angelita de Venganza is a four year
old filly out of a Meadow Springs Ranch mare, Venganza MSR,
and by the double *Piloto stallion, Resueno. We started
her at age four rather than three to allow her a little
extra time to mature.
TONY "SACKS OUT" VILASA
The horse must tolerate being touched on every part
of it's body.
out" is a process used almost universally in training
horses. It means "touching the horse everywhere until
it can tolerate and even enjoy being touched." You
can use your hand, a dressage whip, a "thingie with
a plastic poof on the end" like Harry Whitney, a lariat
as shown here, a feed sack, your jacket, anything. The point
is: Don't miss a spot. All those triggers have to be desensitized
or an amazing reaction may happen if you hit a spot you
missed the first time you get on. Harry Whitney is great
at this. He was working with one of our horses at a work
shop. The gelding was very early into its training. Harry
worked him and worked him and got him real smooth. Then
he got on him. Harry's boot toe moved forward and poked
the horse in the belly. That ol' boy cow kicked faster than
lightening and nailed Harry right in the foot. (That's when
they kick forward with a back foot-- hard.) Harry said,
"Looks like I missed a spot." You gotta get them all.
EXERCISES TO LIMBER THE NECK AND TEACH TURNING
All exercises must be done in both directions and to both
exercise prepares the horse to turn. It's important that
the horse know what a pull on the reins means when you're
up there for that first ride. Some people teach a horse
to turn and stop from the ground driving them with long
lines. This exercise is a variant of that. Peruvian and
other gaited horses are "doubled" in training--
pulled around like this by the rider in the saddle. (Actually,
that's not quite right. Doubling is a cue. The rider lightly
touches the bosal rein and the horse bends its neck in an
extreme fashion. It's taught to respond to a light cue,
not hauled around.) Why would you do this? Suppleness is
very important to gaited horses. Gaiting is harder on the
horse than trotting. If the horse isn't to get stiff and
sore, he/she must be kept loose and supple. Hence, doubling
and exercises like this.
VILASA IS LEARNING FAST: SHE'S BEING LONGED
WITH A CRUPPER (TAILPIECE) AND BOSAL
perfectly relaxed being longed in the round pen with all
her tack but the stirrups.
TONY SHOWS VILASA THE STIRRUPS,
LETTING HER "CHECK THEM OUT" BEFORE BEING LONGED
SHE'S RELAXED AND CALM WITH THE STIRRUPS IN PLACE
we forget anything? Miss any steps? We'll see. Tony puts
her out on the rail and...
MISSED A SPOT!
say! Those stirrups hit her sides and off she went. Do not
believe it if people tell you Peruvians don't buck. They
buck just fine. This is why we use a longe line, a round
pen (with lots of sand) and go through all this work before
getting on a horse. This was quite a rodeo.
SHE AIN'T DONE YET!!!
by a long shot! This is a horse not relaxed on the longe
line. Notice the taut line. The dust. She's still bucking.
This taught us to respect this filly and be prepared for
her first ride. Which is coming right up...
ALBUM 1: INTRO AND TRAILER TRAINING
TRAINING ALBUM 2: EARLY TRAINING
TRAINING ALBUM 3: ARETHA'S FIRST SADDLE
TRAINING ALBUM 4: ANGELITA'S FIRST
TRAINING ALBUM 5: VILASA'S FIRST
BUY SANDY NATHAN'S BOOKS:
STEPPING OFF THE EDGE: LEARNING & LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
A MODERN SPIRITUAL COMPANION
A TALE OF MYSTICIAM & MONEY MENON
"BILL GATES MEETS DON JUAN."
TECOLOTE: THE LITTLE HORSE THAT COULD
BORN PREMATURELY ON A FREEZING NIGHT, THE COLT HAD TO FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE.
THE ANGEL & THE BROWN-EYED BOY
A FUTURE WORLD ONLY HEARTBEATS FROM OUR OWN
Click the covers above to go Sandy Nathan's books on the Amazon Kindle store. All Kindle books are 99 cents.
They are also available as print books at Amazon.
The Angel and Numenon are also at the Nook store. The Angel is an iBook, as well.
AUTHOR SANDY NATHAN IS THE WINNER OF SEVENTEEN NATIONAL AWARDS!