As I mentioned earlier, I have this horse I call “Little Joe.” With all the horses I have met in my life, two were named Joe. Both were well-built, short, stocky ranch horses. One was the owner’s horse at 4UR Ranch in Creede, Co where I worked in the Summer of 1999 (I think.) The other belonged to a very rich man in Cranfills Gap, TX that has invented things that some of you probably have in your home. Anyway, I really liked both of these horses.
When my Joe was born he reminded me of them as all three were sorrel (red/orange) with a sorrel mane and tail with great Quarter Horse muscle tone.
(Read “The Reason for this blog” for Little Joe’s history).
The day had finally arrived for me to start training Joe. Since I couldn’t catch him in the middle of an open pasture, and because horses are naturally herd animals, I simply put a halter on whichever horse walked up to me first and lead the herd (which was 5 in this pasture) to the corrals. I caught them all individually and put three back into pasture, leaving Joe and our pony “Outlaw” in the pen.
I had decided that the pony would serve two purposes: he would be a companion for Joe, and my sons could start learning to care for and ride their own horse. It would be easier to have them both in the corral every day when we arrived.
The first thing I did was place a saddle on the ground in the middle of the round pen and let Joe in as well. Horses are prey animals and the first thing he did, was ensure himself that the strange, new object in his pen was safe and not going to eat him for lunch. Horse’s (prey) sight is different from ours (predators). Our eyes are in front of our head, and their eyes are on either side of theirs. This causes a blind spot, and their depth perception is not like ours. See image.
Because of this, Joe was very alert, and bobbing his head up and down at the saddle and snorting at it. Then he walked away and ignored it, but kept going back to it for reassurance. That’s what he is doing in these pictures. I did this so that he could introduce himself to the saddle, because at this point, I hadn’t even introduced myself.
I first got Joe moving in the round pen to establish direction and to let him know that I was going to be asking him to do some things, but wasn’t going to hurt him. I got him to go to the right, and because of fear (horses number one motivator), he ran circles around me. I let him run until he calmed down and then sent him in the other direction.
Something funny happened. After I had established direction, and he began to understand that I was in control, I allowed him to stop and he swung around and stared at me. I was excited this happened. Now remember, I have started 100’s of colts, and it had only been 6 years since I trained my last one (after 17 years of training)-but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what to do next! Well, Little Joe didn’t have a clue either! We just stood there and stared at each other and I said out loud “Buddy, you’re doing great, but honestly, I don’t know what to do next.” Then I remembered my goal was to eventually get closer and halter him.
For the rest of our “session”, I worked him in the round pen and worked on him trusting me. I was able to eventually get close enough to get a hand on him, and then pet him, halter him and I even saddled him. I felt like that was way more than he probably needed, but he was just so willing, I kept going.
Over the next week I would learn that on this day I made some mistakes…