We spend a tremendous amount of time teaching our horses to lope quiet slow and
relaxed. Yet there comes a time when they also need to know how to run fast and still be in control!
Down The Fence with Richard Winters
This month Rocky, our 2 year old futurity prospect is back at his owners enjoying a little R&R. While
he’s away I decided to take a little trip myself. I loaded up a few of my other 2 year olds and hit the
highway. Taking the youngsters to new places from time to time will add valuable experience to their
training and will hopefully better prepare them for when they’ll be shown in a new environment next year.
To be completely honest with you, this trip is for my own benefit as well. Generally I ride my colts by
myself without much feedback or input from anyone else. From time to time it’s good to get a fresh
perspective of where my horses are at in their training from another set of eyes. So I’m here in Buellton,
California, at Sandy Collier’s training stables. However, Sandy is away in Texas on a colt buying
expedition. Her assistant trainer, Sarah Winters is here and says she’d be happy to watch my horses
and share her opinion. (No, the last name is no coincidence, Sarah is my 17 hear old daughter who rode with me for years and is now training reined cow horses full time with Sandy!)
Sarah has been dedicated to the art of developing and training young horses her entire life. For years I
have been instructing her and mentoring her in horsemanship and it has been a pleasure to watch her
develop her skills. However, I don’t instruct her much anymore. Now when we ride together we
discuss and share ideas. We communicate more as peers rather than as instructor and pupil. Needless
to say, I’m a proud dad! The following is what Sarah and I discussed that day in relation to the colts I was riding.
“Sarah, watch this colt turn around. It seems
like he’s bound up to the right and not stepping very clean.” I turned the colt around a couple times to the left and then to the right. “It looks
like he might be rocked back a little too much.” Sarah suggested. “What would he look like if you put your hands forward and didn’t attempt
to collect him so much? He looks a little like those old fashioned cow horses that rock back on their hind end during the spin and kind of hop around.”
Sarah is right. A proper modern spin is a forward momentum maneuver. In order for a horse to step
clean with cadence, there must be forward motion. I start the turn around again. This time with more
float in my reins. I’ll use my direct rein with a light neck rein and start him with my outside leg. After one
or two revolutions each way the colt starts to free up and step cleaner, freer, and smoother. “I like that
a lot better,” says Sarah. It feels better to me to. Another set of eyes and an objective opinion can make all the difference sometimes.
We also talked about how young horses lope and run. We spend a tremendous amount of
time teaching our horses to lope quiet slow and relaxed. Yet there comes a time when they also need to know how to run fast and still be in control. “Dad, why not allow and even ask
these colts to stretch out and run early on? If that is part of their development from the beginning then maybe it wouldn’t be such a big
deal when it’s introduced at a later date.” Sarah then described a particular training exercise that they were currently implementing with all their 2 year olds.
Out on the sliding track, they’ll come around the corner and encourage the colts to stretch out and run
down the long side of the track. Before getting to the corner, they’ll ask the horse to come back into
their hands and slow down. Now they’ll turn the corner collected. Not a rounding turn, but a straight
right-angle turn. The two right-angle turns at the end are to be made slow, collected and shoulders very
straight. This teaches the horse to not drop their shoulder in the turn and to keep their hip underneath
themselves so as not to swap leads when turning or changing speeds. Then the rider will speed up again down the long side and collect up before the turn at the far end.
I give that a try on one of my other colts. As I head down the long side, I can hear Sarah, “Faster dad!
You need to go faster!” When I get towards the end and draw my colt back into my hands to slow
down, he swaps leads. “You need to anticipate that and keep his shoulders straight and his hip in” Sarah
shouts. O.K., I’ll try to do that. Run a little faster. Keep him balanced a little better on the ends. A
couple more times around. Now it’s starting to feel better. Yes, that time he came back into my hands, stayed soft and maintained the correct lead. I think I like this exercise!
Going somewhere new and getting new ideas is a great thing. I’ve done it for years, but I don’t do it
enough. Sometimes you can get in a rut when you’re all by yourself with no objective input. This has been a good day.
Maybe next time Sarah will come back home and ride with me. I might have an idea or two I can share with her!
Contact: Richard Winters
5025 Thacher Road
Ojai, California 93023
Phone: 805 - 640-0956
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