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Brianna's Blog Post # 17: Lay The Base You Want To Build On
Lately, I have observed a trend among the horse world. One that has been built by our instant coffee machines, cell phones, and google. All of which give us what we want in seconds and prevent us from losing time on our netflix binge. They also require very little thought. This is the core of the issue. Today's world is made so simple and instant that people can not fathom taking a moment to simply think. Just sit in silence and think and study the world around us.
The trend I have noticed is that very few horse handlers are willing to really take the time to study the horse. So many riders and handlers want to rush horses right along as though they don't have time for basics. This is especially true for horses being started under saddle. So many “trainers” want to have a horse going under saddle in three days or even the first day of training. I have never quite understood this rush to ride and I have never seen the benefit.
The starting age for many horses ranges from 18 months to 3 years of age. I have no issue with starting a horse as early as 18 months old. This is the equivalent of a child in preschool or maybe kindergarten. It is actually proven to be beneficial, both mentally and physically, to start a horse under light work at 18 months to 2 years old, but it does not mean rushing the horse into full work. We give a child a full year to figure out how to color inside the lines and take naps. I don't see why we can't spare the horse 30 days to figure out how to carry a predator on its back.
Will Smith once said "You don't set out to build a wall. You don't say 'I'm going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that's ever been built.' You don't start there. You say, 'I'm going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall." I believe this should be the mindset in teaching horses especially the 18 month old. I often do three weeks of ground work before ever riding and after those 30 days the 18 month old goes out to pasture until the next year.
It is unfair to pull a young horse out of the field and throw a saddle and bridle on and start training as though they have been in training all their lives. These young horses need a “Welcome to school” week. They need someone to lay out the rules and explain step by step, week by week, the way the rest of their lives will go. They need time to understand that the human is not just to bring food, but to be learned from, respected, and trusted. Their bodies also need time to prepare for wear and tear and simply how to balance carrying weight. We as trainers are essentially telling horses to entrust their mind and body to something that is suppose to eat them. We could at least take our time to do so. We could at least lay each brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. This is after all the horses foundation and no one wants to build something breathtaking on a shaky base that no one took the time to lay out properly.