At the Rocky Mt. Horse Expo this year, we watched one of the clinicians working with colt training. I became interested as I was walking by and heard her say it was best not to get bucked off the first time you climb on a horse. Boy, do I like that thought – also knowing we had just taken on a horse who had proven to enjoy bucking. Maybe she had a hint or two, so I sat down in the stands to listen. Of course, she was working with a couple of young, unhandled horses, but she progressed pretty quickly to the first time things are on their back – also mentioning that this process could be used on any age horse that would have the inclination to buck when first feeling weight. Several of the ‘firsts’ had already been passed with Bill’s new boy, Alloy, but we were at the stage of restarting him under saddle.
Hence, we ‘built’ a mannequin, to be the first rider up. There are products out there you can purchase, if you are going to do this a lot. There is also the simple method: take an old pair of jeans, sew up openings, and fill with ‘stuff’. I think she said one pair of hers had clean shavings. We don’t use shavings, but we use a lot of wood pellets, and hey, they cost approximately $5 for a 40# bag!
I took a pair of Bill’s jeans that were headed for the trash (we have a lot of our old jeans laying around here for various projects), sewed the holes together in the knees – so what if they have a bend in the knee; doesn’t your knee have a bend when you are riding – and stitched the bottom of the legs shut, and stitched the waistband together, leaving the zipper operable. We used the zipper opening to fill/empty the ‘stuffing’. So far, it has worked like a charm. Yes, our mannequin weighs in at 42# when we got done, but both of us weigh considerably more than that and we wanted a true test.
|Bill and 'Manny'|
Today is test day. We plan on saddling up Alloy in a small round pen type area and placing “Manny” in the saddle, hopefully tying the legs to the stirrups. With young horses, you start with a smaller, lighter bean bag type and just lay it on their back, letting it slide around and fall off as they walk, so they get used to things that do fall (at some time in their life, something IS going to fall off them). You want them to learn that it isn’t scary and they soon learn to even try to balance the item so it does not fall off. As they progress to the balancing stage, you move on to a bigger, heavier mannequin like we made. Al is past the first parts, but needs to learn it is not OK to buck with weight in the saddle. Since neither of us is good at bronc riding, Manny gets to do the job; hence the reason for tying it to the saddle. It needs to stay on!
|Whatcha' got, Bill? Notice Alloy is just ground tied.|
Wow! Can that horse buck? So happy he waited until he was unsaddled and in his corral before the show started. The mannequin in the saddle was such a non-issue. He stood so still for saddling, then walked to the round pen and waited patiently while Bill ‘mounted’ the dummy rider and tied its legs to each stirrup, even tying a piece of twine from the waistband to the saddle horn.
Hardly a blink of the eye, except when the camera would turn on or off, which caused the ears to come forward to alert position for a moment. Walked around in the pen, got led outside in the driveways, stood tied to the hitchrail while we talked to a neighbor.
|Walkin', walkin' outside any pen.|
It was decided we should go for a short walk around the area, so I grabbed Washoe (who desperately needed some action) and we walked around a two-block area, stopping at the post office to show off a bit. How nice – the post mistress had an apple to split for two sweet horses and another neighbor joined us to finish the walk home.
I think Al has been taught to ‘smile’, because he showed off the flehmen grin a lot, asking for more apple, we’re sure. He has one very proud owner right now.
|Happy, happy, happy.|
He finally got turned back out with the other horses and we expected some rolling in the dirt. What we got was a bunch of ye-hawing and very nice bucks all around the corral! Then he walked up behind Bill and followed him to the fence. One big, huge non-event. Expectations, according to Bill. He behaved exactly as expected.