The best part of what I do at the ranch, and there are a lot of good parts, is working with the baby Thoroughbreds. Race horses have a very dicey future, just the nature of their game and we could get into a whole pro and con discussion about that, but it's not the reason for this post. I take my job seriously and I very much believe if I get these babies as gentle as possible, teach them to release to pressure and to think their way out of a bind, it just heightens their odds of survival. I have been all about horse survival ever since I was realized that was not a given . . .
Charlie used to scoff at me, would try to tell me what to do, I would nod, turn down his offers of sending help, and he finally just let me be. The babies that are now coming two year olds were the easiest the trainer has ever started and he told Charlie so. After being out on pasture winter, they were easy to catch, halter and loaded right up on the noisy clanking stock trailer. No accident, that. They saddled without issue. No accident that either. I prepare those babies from the first touches across their backs, seeing things behind and over their heads. Easy when you are taller than they are, and I won't be that for long! I rub the ticklish little girth areas and during the halter breaking process, they will feel pressure around their middles, learn to pick up and hold up their tiny feet, learn to accept a human holding on to them. They learn to lead freely, first with and then away from mamma. Everything I do is built toward riding, and in their case, racing.
Today, Charlie laughs when I offer to send him a picture of this year's pride and joy, wearing her first halter. "I just want to see her on the track, racing!" he says, grinning. I tell him that first halter is an event and having it go well is an occasion worth celebrating. Suddenly serious, he says "Terri, it makes a difference. I didn't agree at first, but seeing those wild heathen yearlings (that's last years' crop, didn't do as much with them) halter up as gentle as they did, and having them walk right on the trailer, I believe it now." He's as good an old style horseman as they come, and praise from him is not to be lightly dismissed.
I usually don’t use these bulky old nylon halters but my handy teensie little rope one was too far off to run get. I no longer believe it’s the tool, but what you do with it that matters, anyway, and we don’t leave them on, no matter.
This baby is only a couple of weeks old. I let her use her natural curiousness as to what the heck I was doing in there, petting her mamma. She finally got brave enough to come check me out. Then it was a matter of little touches, approach and retreat, letting her leave and making it feel safe for her to come back. Next thing you know I am rubbing her all over, and then I just stood there and put the halter on her like it was no big deal. So, it wasn't. Let the weight of the rope encourage her to turn towards me, then take a couple of steps to me. That's the beginning of halter broke.