Sunday, November 29, 2020

The First Rides In My Colt Starting Program

 It's fall time and the next stage of my colt starting program has commenced.  I thought you'd like to follow along and see where I'm at with the progress of my reining filly.

As I'm writing this column, I'm watching the 2020 NRHA Reining Futurity in OKC. Very fitting.

Where It All Started

I'd like to take you back to April 2019 when my reining filly was born.  (I have an article about the event in titled: Midwife Duties and on my website if you're curious.) As you can see in this photo, it shows how tiny she was. It's easy to forget that when I see her now.

My No-Buck Colt Starting Program

My colt starting program can start with foal imprinting as in this case. Dr. Robert Miller popularized this technique in his book titled: Imprint Training Of The Newborn Foal. I am a big fan of this philosophy and I've used it for decades. I believe that it is more humane to teach a foal to be used to the things that the horse is going to be around in their life.

So basically my philosophy and training program has always been to constantly desensitize the horse at every age to prepare them for this job or life around humans as an adult horse. The training never stops.

Weanling Year - 2019

Here in this photo you see my reining filly, a weanling in this picture, being trained to accept a blanket and saddle pad.  It's all part of the desensitizing program. I am so used to thinking about taking any situation I can and use it as a training session.  In fact, I have an article titled: "A Little Bit Every Day" where I describe how I take the long approach to training. Little bits of training but over a long period of time. That's what I'm doing with this filly.

My weanling had learned to be tied, to be blanketed, to be loaded onto a trailer, to be groomed and of course, have her feet done. All the ground manners!

I used to joke and say that I'm too short to have horses misbehave on the ground. I never tolerated it. And since I'm going to be 60 in Feb/2021, I can say that I'm too old not to have horses behave properly. LOL  I believe it gives the horse a better chance at a great life around people.

Yearling Year - 2020

  2020 has been a crazy year but I can proudly say that I got my horse started under saddle. When I used to colt start horses for customers way back, I would desensitize the horse to all the equipment, teach ground manners, get the horse used to a rider, getting on and off the saddle, teach all the voice, rein and leg cues before I got on the horse. My training program has always been heavy on the groundwork. This would happen in the first week of a customer's horse in training. Sometimes it would take a horse 10 days to be used to everything. For more information on my program, please see my website:

Customers used to wonder why I didn't do the Wahoo-cowboy style of colt starting where I lassoed the horse, hog-tied, blind-folded them, jump on and hope for a short 8-second bucking session. Are you kidding!? That only happens in the movies! When I told customers that my first ride on their horse was 'uneventful' and calm, because the horse would be SO desensitized to everything by then, that they thought I was kidding. I would have to video the event sometimes. I even thought that perhaps a few customers were disappointed that I didn't get bucked off at least once. Geesh! The only times I did get bucked off horses and was sent to emergency was when customers lied on their training contract and didn't tell me that their horse in for other training had 'issues'. I digress.

Long-Yearling - November 2020

 So bringing you up to the present time, I had already spent 2020 getting SusieQ used to being saddled and me getting on her. On. Off. On. Off. I never get bored of it though I imagine that this will be my last colt-starting.

She's used to the bit and she knows her voice cues and leg cues. For more information on how to do that from the ground, please see the articles on my website.


One thing that I did decide to do this year was to pony SusieQ in preparation for riding her on the trails in my back bush. I look forward to doing that next year.

As you can see in this last photo, I have been on her, just sitting, in my round pen. This is the 4th time I've done that. I have also walked her around about 50 feet over a few stops and walks. I get on. We walk a few feet. We stop and sit for a while and then I get off. She's only a long yearling after all. That's the advantage I've always had being a short, petite person - being able to get on a long yearling. 

So I have plenty of time. I have signed her up for the ORHA 2 year old reining futurity and that is not until next Sep/2021! Lots of time. :)

Two Year Old Year - 2021

 So I look forward to continuing SusieQ's training next year where we ride the trails and start her in my reining fundamentals training.

 I hope you enjoyed this article. Merry Christmas Everyone! And a Happy New Year!

Putting My Spin on Colt Starting!


@KISS Reiners

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