This will be a short little story and may include a tip to be remembered when riding colts; two and three year-old horses just being put under saddle.
Young horses that have just been put under saddle usually can have difficulty resigning themselves to the idea and reality that there is someone on their backs. I've experienced it a lot when starting Mustangs in particular and I've always been looking for ways to remind the colt that all is well. It's interesting how colts can all of a sudden forget that there's someone up there in the saddle. Then all of a sudden they remember and at that instant the horse can become frightened and resort to flight or other types of behavior based on fear.
With older horses that have had lots of miles under saddle one can pretty much just ride without being too much concerned because they know the deal but with colts it's different. It kind of goes without saying that colts are more easily startled during the initial stages of being under saddle so this little tip has helped me a lot and I've witnessed it being very helpful in building confidence with these young horses.
I should say here that I start colts in a very soft manner. I allow the colt to dictate how much he is ready and willing to accept at any given time. Trainers who use exploitative techniques hardly take this into consideration, it's my way or the highway kind of attitude, and in my opinion that's a perfect recipe for disaster. If the colt is having a problem then my job and my goal is to help him and to honor his honesty and this means adjusting my approach. I'm constantly communicating with my colts in order to establish a very clear dialogue between us so that there is very little possibility of getting our signals crossed. With an absence of clear communication the trainer is setting himself up for a bad day not only for the himself but for the horse and for the future of that particular horse under saddle; for the rest of his life. Therefore, I will consciously step-up the clarity of my dialogue just so the horse must do the same in order that his attitude about what's going on is absolutely clear clear to me.
So my little tip is that once the horse is under saddle and especially for the first ten or even twenty rides or more I don't let even five seconds go by without rubbing on the horses neck or his mane just to remind him that I'm up there plus I'm constantly talking to him. As I mentioned before one would think that he couldn't forget that there's this big lump on his back but we have to remember that the colts mind is to a great extent preoccupied with lots of things and if he forgets you're up there and - bang - he suddenly remembers; well, it just might be too late at that point and the entire training process is compromised and injured not to mention some terrible things that can happen.
Constantly talk to your colts under saddle. Constantly rub on them to offer self-confidence and re-assurance. As time goes by and miles begin to accumulate then this procedure can be lessened if one chooses but on those first rides help your horse by not abandoning him and just expecting him to be o.k. with what's going on. Putting Mustangs under saddle taught me this lesson the hard way because when they forget you're there even for a second and then suddenly remember they can be merciless in the way they choose to remind us that we've allowed a disconnect to take place.
Our relationship with our horses and our time in the saddle will be greatly enhanced if we stop trying to muscle our horses and think of them as partners instead. If we, for whatever reason, can't or don't drop the muscle act we will never truly experience what it is to be one with our horses and as far as I'm concerned, if that's the case, then you're only riding half a horse if that.