In my latest column for Acreage Life, I tackled the topic of starting young horses under saddle. Up to this point, I had roughly tracked the chronology of groundwork and management of foals, but since mid-summer is usually a quiet time on the farm for babies, we jumped ahead to focus on slightly older horses. Because I work with Thoroughbreds, I’m often beginning this process a bit earlier than many of you with sport horses or riding horses.
The photo below is of one of my racehorses toward the end of the ground driving phase–you won’t want to start off with this much tack and a plastic tarp. I do find though, that working them over something like a tarp or with a flag in the roundpen as they advance at a particular skill can accomplish the same thing as the early desensitization training I use: it helps them learn that noisy or unusual things aren’t to be feared. As you can see by this fellow’s pricked ears paired with a relaxed eye and head position, he is focused but not tense–he has learned that his equipment and footing aren’t going to hurt him.
Learn more in my Acreage Life column, which you can find here: http://www.acreagelife.com/article-categories/bucks-horse-barn