News from the Round Pen…

Hello friends,
It has been quite some time since I posted here… Partly because no one really seems to visit these blogs much any more, and and like most folks, face book is where its at if you want to communicate. So I’m there more when I have the time to put some thing out there for you to chew on!! But I thought I’d put up a little something just to let ya know that I’m still around! I received an e mail the other day that I thought would be of some help to folks, so I am posting it and my response back to her with the wish that we are still doing some good out here and keeping folks out of trouble.. Here’s the letter..

Hi !! My name is ******, and I’ve been around horses all my life, and owned one for a few years. Unfortunately moving around and being military (coast guard family) and living where we did at the time (Belle Chasse,LA, but stationed in Venice), there was no place for my horse, and I sold her. The fact that you were in the USCG was what first drew me to you to see if you might have a few words of wisdom, maybe some good advice for me. I finally found a place where we live now (Hubert,NC, stationed at the training center on Lejeune) where I can work with horses. It’s called Heart’s Desire Equine Rescue. I found it looking for horses online, and a mustang was what really caught my eye. His name is Chip, but I want to call him Stone if I can work through these problems and adopt him (my husband is not aware of my plans for that yet haha, I wanted to work them out first *:) happy). He was severely abused, and now hardly trusts anyone and will avoid you unless you have food for him, and even if you do have food, sometimes he just doesn’t even care. You can’t even get a halter, or anything on him. He is now 21 years old, and was captured at 7 from Fish Creek,NV. I wanted to know everything about him, so I contacted BLM and found out all of it. It strikes me kind of funny, because I always said after my last horse I wanted something younger to have for a long time, that didn’t have problems, that I could just hop right on and do rodeo with. Meeting this horse changed my mind, and I want to help him, but need to know how to do it. If you can point me in the right direction, maybe just give me a few pointers, I don’t know how I’d thank you. Attached is a picture of him. Thank you for your time

What would you do with this? Here’s what I sent back.. I hope it helps.

Hello ******, and thanks for your note.. My hat is off to you and yours for your military service to our country! I know first hand how hard it is to do some of the things you want to do when Uncle Sam comes first.. Now let get into your question.. First off, I will tell you that my first thoughts and advice to most folks is find a good horse that is well trained and will SAFELY meet your needs based on your experience level. Most folks think that just any horse will do and they can watch a few training shows on TV or go to a colt starting clinic and have all the knowledge they need to train or retrain any horse. Which sadly ends up in more ruined horses and people getting hurt in a lot of cases. That being said, I will give my take from a training perspective. Training or retraining an older horse is extreemly difficult even in the best of circumstances. You are dealing with a lot of bad habits, fear, poor training and bad behavior ether learned or forced onto the horse over a long period of time. Those ingrained problems are a lot to overcome and will take a lot of time to fix and perhaps not be able to get it done at all. This horse, as I understand it from your note was 7 years old when he was captured so he already was an older horse in terms of training even then. Now he’s 21 and been through who knows what over the course of 14 some years. That is a lot of troubled water under the bridge. You mentioned he was abused but didn’t say exactly what kind of abuse it was? That would be helpful to know as many things change in terms of how you go about identifying the problems he has and how you go about trying to change the behavior. You didn’t say whether or not he has been broke to ride or when the last time was he was ridden… So I will go with the facts, that he is now at a rescue farm, very distrustful, not halter broke (if you can’t get one on) and hasn’t been ridden in quite some time or broke to ride at all.. This will require a major training effort and will probably take months to accomplish if it can be done at all.. And I am not talking about training for a hour or so a couple of times a week. You are talking maybe all day to start, for many days just to get to a point where you can safely say he’s gentle enough to think about getting a halter on him, let alone starting him under saddle. Also included in that is figuring out if he knows how to be tied, trimmed, brushed, lead etc… All of which will need to be done before thinking about riding him. A very experienced trainer may be able to figure that out and get it done relatively quickly but most lay people won’t. I don’t mean to ramble on but as you can see, I have many trepidations about what you are thinking about trying to do here with this horse and your ability to do it correctly and SAFELY. Not only your safety but the horses as well. Stuff like laying a horse down and making it magically transform into a gentle as a puppy horse for the poor little girl and gaining more brownie points with mom on side only works in the movies and I am not looking to to be rich and famous.. There’s enough of those guys out there all ready. Please don’t take offense, I am not berating you and it is nothing personal against you or your abilities.. But if you check around the net, or read my books, I am not in the business of be a warm and fuzzy icon. I call it like I see it and don’t spread a bunch of BS on top and call it sugar. So…. The only real training advice I can give you based on what you have told me is… The place to start is going to be gaining his trust and respect as the herd leader. He will have to believe and trust you are there to keep him safe and also provide the leadership he needs to get along in your herd of 2.. (You and him). That is not always going to be with treats and petting and thinking that way will get you in more trouble. Horses respect the leader of the herd and sometimes you need to establish who that’s going to be or he will.. Now, before you try to start doing what I would suggest as a starting point with this horse, you need to ask yourself, Am I good enough and tough enough to do this safely? If the answer is NO or even I’m not sure… Than DON”T DO IT!! I don’t want someone to get hurt on my watch!!!
The place I would start with this horse is in the round pen and getting him to hook on. Teaching him how to move his feet at your direction not his, look to you for guidance and focus and figuring out that the best place to be is with you as the leader of the herd. It would take a lot of writing to try and teach you how to do this by email and watching it being done and practicing it is really the only way to get good at it. So short of that, I can offer for you to take a look at my round pen video. That will give you a starting point of how I do it. But again,, and I can not say this enough… Whatever you do.. DO IT SAFELY.. and consider all your options before you do something you regret later.. Rescuing a horse can be very rewarding if you find a good one, but taking one in for the sake of just having one won’t be a good thing for you or him.. Please stay in touch and let me know how it goes.
Best Wishes to you and yours,

That’s about it for now friends.. Please drop by our face book page and let me know how you’re doing! Have a good one!

About Smokie

Smokie Brannaman grew up on a 5000-acre horse and cattle ranch in Southwestern Montana. Working with horses, cattle and rodeoing as a professional trick roper was his way of life as a youngster. Upon graduating from high school, Smokie chose to serve his country in the United State Coast Guard. Although his military duties did not always allow much time to spend with his horses, he never the less, rode and trained horses of his own and others throughout his military career. Smokie retired in 2000 from the Coast Guard and worked as a Corporate Operations Manager for a security company. But he soon realized that his true enjoyment came from being around horses, training, riding and helping others with their horses. After working for 2 years as a stable manager for a large boarding stable, Smokie hired on at Ots Sunrise Farm to work with the young horses halter breaking, ground work and starting horses under saddle to progress to more advanced training. Smokie started his own business, Horseman’s Services Limited, llc in 2006 and now works full time as an educator of the horse and rider. Smokie utilizes the training methods of his brother Buck Brannaman, Jeff Griffith, and others, as well as his own techniques learned during a lifetime of working with horses. Smokie is a published author of two books about horses and their riders, Whisper This… Not to your horse, to yourself, and his newest book Equiknowlogy 101… and numerous horse training DVDs. Smokie lives in Greenleaf Wisconsin with his sweetie Vickie, and has three grown children, Kat, Travis and Jason. He raises and trains registered quarter horses of his own, which he uses as, Cavalry horses for his hobby, Civil War reenacting, and performing in Wild West Shows throughout the Midwest.
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