Sundance Gets Broke
|First posted Oct 6, 2001|
Last update Sep 2, 2007
The process of breaking a horse doesn't progress as many people think. It can be a slow process taking upwards of several months. A properly broken horse does not lose his or her sprit as the uninformed person may think.
Sundance (at time of this writing) was a two and a half year old. She had been raised from a colt by my friends and, in a sense, was actually a pet, and part of the family. I have been amazed by her determination in apparently wanting to go along with the older horses on our rides. She would actually get in between the others and try to force herself into the group.
October 3, 2001, was the first time anyone had ridden her. She had been "under the saddle" numerous times for several months now, but has never been mounted. You should not ride a horse until it is around 3 years old and the bone structures have had a chance to mature and become strong. Cowboy Terry is a big man so, since Cowboy Chuck is quite a bit lighter, it was decided he would give Sundance her first experience with a rider on her back. So today she was saddled up and Terry, and Chuck worked with her for a short time on a "lunge" line (a long rope fastened to the harness). It was obvious that she was trying to understand what she was supposed to do, but not quite sure exactly what that was. "Lunging" is a process of trotting the horse around in a circle on the end of a lunge line.
After a bit, Chuck took a deep breath, and mounted, expecting Sundance to begin bucking. When an unbroken horse is mounted for the first time, the horse may instinctively try to buck off the rider. After all, this is something new and unexpected for the horse. In nature, anything heavy that suddenly appears on the horse's back would probably be something like a mountain lion looking for dinner. It is natural for the horse to try and remove the offending weight off its back, and bucking is the best method the horse knows to accomplish this.
Amazingly, Sundance simply stood there. She behaved very nicely, and after a few moments, Terry began to lead her around the pasture with Chuck on her back.
After a few minutes, Terry removed the lunge line and everyone again held their breath expecting her to take off bucking and running. As Chuck began giving her the various commands that she will eventually need to learn, Sundance showed us again she was very anxious to understand what we wanted her to do.
After about 10 minutes Sundance began to lose interest in this new confusing stuff. Chuck dismounted and Terry spent a few more minutes playing with Sundance. Although Sundance thought is was play, it was actually more schooling. Terry would offer Sundance a carrot as a treat, walking away from the horse while clapping his hands to draw her attention. This is good training for the eventuality of the horse getting away after the rider has dismounted or been thrown. By clapping your hands the horse will have been trained to return to the rider expecting a possible treat.
Sundance also did a bit of bucking to get that strange hunk of leather saddle off her back. To my eye it appeared that she was actually having fun. In the last photo you can see Terry holding the treat in his hand.
Sundance finally got her treat and every one was happy, not only with the experience, but with the excitement of the adventure which was new to both Sundance and to most of us human participants.