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Horses injured at colt starting clinics?

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  • #21
    Originally posted by Isabeau Z Solace View Post
    Well... I am currently reading the Memoirs and Selected Letters of Ulysees Grant. One of the most interesting things in the beginning were the many tales of horses, animals, horse sports, and horse starting.

    The day that Grant was to start marching with the Army to Mexico, he mounted a 3 year old completely unstarted mustang. His superior officer saw that he had no horses, which apparently embarrassed the superior a bit, so they procured the unbroke 3 year old. (By procure, I mean they pretty much forced a servant to sell the animal to Grant.)

    Grant had 3 good horses just a few days earlier, but his 'servant' had accidentally lost all 3 of his horses. Young man was riding one, ponying other two (to water), when the 2 yanked him off the 1, and all 3 were gone.....

    Anyhow, Grant says that he and the horse had some trouble deciding which way they where going to go, etc, on the first day. But that thereafter the horse was as good as any other he had ridden.

    Grant also tells how the army broke FERAL MULES TO HARNESS IN ONE DAY.
    That's a heck of a story.

    Also, there was the time he was a young man, and attempted to hitch a saddle horse, untrained to drive, next to a trained driving horse and drive the two of them back home on a several days journey. At one point a dog chased his wagon/carriage, and the untrained horse flipped out. After many stops and starts, Grant decided to blindfold the untrained horse to enable him to drive it to a relatives house. Where he could swap out for a trained horse.

    The tale of the bull fights in Mexico were really wild. He says they attached explosives..... to the animal. ( I am thinking something like firecrackers?)

    So lots of fun stuff if you want to just read the first 80 or so pages. (Over 1100 pages total.)

    But the moral of my tale is that people can, and have, started horses under saddle in one day for a long, long, long time. Then taken those animals into war. So it can be done. And has been done. A lot.

    Whether most of us modern folks are tough enough for that kind of nonsense is another issue.
    That's all very interesting (I mean it - I'm not being sarcastic!), but I think the main difference is that the horses you are describing above are only "broke" in the most basic of ways. No one expects them to become fine-tuned sport horses that can be handled by the average person. They basically need to go from point A to point B with an experienced handler.

    That's not really what most of us want out of our riding horses these days. And we also expect them to hold up mentally and physically a lot longer than those horses.

    I don't really think it is a matter of "us modern folk" being "tough" enough or not. I mean, I'm pretty sure a lot of us *could* get on an unbroke horse in a day and make a go of it, probably with relative success. That doesn't make it a good idea.

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    • #22
      Well, a part of what is also mentioned is how valuable horses/mules were. They needed a LOT of them. The American army defeated the Mexican army partially on account of the superior heavy artillery the brought with them. They needed a lot of animals to drag all those cannons. Harness mules broke to drag cannons to and through war cannot be described as "only broke in the most basic of ways."

      Really, I do recommend reading the first 80 pages of the book to get the full idea. I'm too lazy to retype the whole thing here!! You would not get the impression that the horses were 'barely' broke. On the contrary.
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      • #23
        Originally posted by tdawgh View Post
        I agree with keeping things simple and keeping the horse feeling confident. I also agree that a rush job on a previously unhandled horse is a set up for stress and potential injury. Anyone bringing their horse to a colt starting clinic without ever having done any work with them before hand is setting their horse up for a stressful experience at best. But what about the colt starting clinics taught by people like Buck Brannaman, Martin Black, and Peter Campbell? And what about people who have done the handling and groundwork with their young horses and are just looking for coaching on the finer points of starting their horses under saddle? Or do you feel its always a bad thing to start a young horse under saddle in a clinic environment regardless of their previous handling and education?

        These type clinics just don't do it for me. You have to remember that these guys mostly cater to hobby horse types and work with QH's. What they consider "started" or "finished" doesn't scratch the surface of what most of us here think. I've gotten on horses after these type of colt starters. It's like riding a freakin' board. Stiff, no bend, you have to hammer their sides to get them to move forward.... Eh.

        The common conception of broke among the masses nowadays is having had a someone climb aboard once and not get bucked off.

        "Pat the horse; kick yourself" - Carl Hester

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        • #24
          Young horses should not be "started" en masse. That is ridiculous.

          Some quiet QH types can be "started" under saddle quickly, even in one day. "Started" meaning carrying a rider without bucking. Other youngsters , not so much, and forcing things is asking for trouble.

          If people who have never brought a young horse along want to learn how, I can't think of a worse way to go about it than at a "clinic".

          I had never heard of "starting clinics". It sounds like the fast food, drive through, method of horse training. Yuck..

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          • #25
            Originally posted by FineAlready View Post
            T
            I don't really think it is a matter of "us modern folk" being "tough" enough or not. I mean, I'm pretty sure a lot of us *could* get on an unbroke horse in a day and make a go of it, probably with relative success. That doesn't make it a good idea.
            Not to mention the fact that there was no such thing as ANIMAL WELFARE or HUMANE practices in those days. Ideas about animal welfare and animal abuse developed around 1877, when the book Black Beauty was written. The civil war took place between 1861 and 1865. Although a book about civil war times might not detail the animal neglect and abuse that was common at the time, it is a fact that in those days there was no concern about the welfare of animals, and harsh treatment that we would consider abusive today was common place.
            "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

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            • Original Poster

              #26
              Originally posted by Isabeau Z Solace View Post
              Grant also tells how the army broke FERAL MULES TO HARNESS IN ONE DAY.
              Wow. That must have been something!

              As for the colt starting clinics, I think it probably depends on the clinician as to whether or not it's a good or bad experience for the horse. I've watched colt starting clinics with Buck Brannaman, Martin Black and Bryan Neubert. I remember thinking BB did a really nice job of keeping everyone safe, even the green riders. Some riders in that clinic didn't look as if they knew how to stay on a broke horse let alone one who has never packed a rider before, but they all survived. None of the horses looked freaked out or stressed, and most were far more calm than their riders. Some of the riders were whole 'nother story though.

              I do remember wondering what those green riders were going to do when they got home and didn't have BB to keep them out of trouble.

              I agree that a clinic setting does give a horse exposure under the guidance of the clinician and if the clinician is any good, I think they can help everyone stay out of trouble.

              As for starting a horse in a group setting, I thought it was strange too. But from what I've read and heard a lot of clinicians (BB, Martin Black, Bryan Neubert, Peter Campbell) will turn a group of young horses loose in an arena together and flag them off their horse. It's supposed to give the young horses support from the other horses in the group (herd?) and get them accustomed to the other horses they will be in the round pen with when they have riders aboard. They are supposed to get comfort from the herd - especially if they are not getting it from their riders initially.

              So, from what I'm hearing a) no one has heard of or seen any horse get hurt in a colt starting clinic (my original question), and b) no one would ever start a young horse in a colt starting clinic under any circumstances regardless of the clinician or the previous handling/training of the horse.

              Thanks!

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              • #27
                Originally posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
                Not to mention the fact that there was no such thing as ANIMAL WELFARE or HUMANE practices in those days. Ideas about animal welfare and animal abuse developed around 1877, when the book Black Beauty was written. The civil war took place between 1861 and 1865. Although a book about civil war times might not detail the animal neglect and abuse that was common at the time, it is a fact that in those days there was no concern about the welfare of animals, and harsh treatment that we would consider abusive today was common place.
                Well you really have to read the book to make a judgement about 'what' it documents. And the book is a memoir, it is NOT about just the civil war. That is why the animal stories are so interesting, they encompass decades.

                I know at least one of the prison programs that starts mustangs have them under saddle the first week often times. And I am sure there are plenty of other folks who can get a horse going undersaddle in one day, without a big fuss. Road to the Horse does it in 2 days, I believe?

                The 'quick start' is still plenty alive and well. BUT you have to have a certain skill set to get it done well.
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                • Original Poster

                  #28
                  Originally posted by Angelico View Post
                  These type clinics just don't do it for me. You have to remember that these guys mostly cater to hobby horse types and work with QH's. What they consider "started" or "finished" doesn't scratch the surface of what most of us here think. I've gotten on horses after these type of colt starters. It's like riding a freakin' board. Stiff, no bend, you have to hammer their sides to get them to move forward.... Eh.

                  The common conception of broke among the masses nowadays is having had a someone climb aboard once and not get bucked off.
                  This is interesting. Were these horses you rode horses that someone else started in a clinic, or horses started by the clinician/trainer/horseperson themselves? And can you say who the colt starters were/are? I wonder what the skill level is for most of the riders in the vaquero style horsemanship clinics. From what I've seen its a pretty mixed bag, but for sure there were more than a few very green horsepeople in the clinics I watched.

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                  • #29
                    Originally posted by Isabeau Z Solace View Post

                    But the moral of my tale is that people can, and have, started horses under saddle in one day for a long, long, long time. Then taken those animals into war. So it can be done. And has been done. A lot.
                    This does work- if you get on that horse and ride it for hours, and proceed to ride it for 8+ hours a day, every day, in the company of other horses.

                    And if your goal is a horse that will carry your weight while following the lead of other horses - and not asked for much more.

                    And back to the "colt starting clinics" - Much rather the trainer come to me - and train the horse and the rider - than a "starting clinic".

                    But, I also have no need for such a thing. Have been successful starting my own, my own way, never felt the need to go to an arena with a "big name".
                    APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman

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                    • Original Poster

                      #30
                      Originally posted by Isabeau Z Solace View Post
                      I know at least one of the prison programs that starts mustangs have them under saddle the first week often times. And I am sure there are plenty of other folks who can get a horse going undersaddle in one day, without a big fuss. Road to the Horse does it in 2 days, I believe?

                      The 'quick start' is still plenty alive and well. BUT you have to have a certain skill set to get it done well.
                      Yes, exactly! My friend started her colt under saddle last fall when I was visiting. She saddled and rode him w/t/c in one session. It's hard to put a timeframe on exactly how long it took though since the entire process kind of flows together with the groundwork which was something she worked on from when he was a baby. But the saddling and going w/t/c was done all in the same session. There was never any buck, or trauma, or freaking out. He didn't even break a sweat on the first ride. She had him riding out in maybe another day or two. We rode together and aside from a little loose steering, he was perfectly fine riding out. I am back visiting this week and although she gave her colt the winter off, she got on him again the other day and you would think he was a horse with far more training on him than he actually has.

                      I will say that my friend is very good with horses, and her horse trusts her completely so that has a lot to do with how things go between them. It's obvious they have a good relationship.

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                      • #31
                        It gives people the wrong idea.

                        I am sure you all have heard of people who have gone to a weekend clinic, decided they were now an expert and tried what they learned on their horse and had it go very wrong.

                        I heard of one guy who was brought up on cruelty charges when he ran a mustang to death in a round pen.

                        People are always in too much of a hurry these days. Why encourage it?

                        There should be more clinics that explain to people how long it takes and how much skill it takes. Someone should explain how green horses and green riders/handlers only make $$$ for the people teaching the clinic.

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                        • Original Poster

                          #32
                          Originally posted by Appsolute View Post
                          This does work- if you get on that horse and ride it for hours, and proceed to ride it for 8+ hours a day, every day, in the company of other horses.

                          And if your goal is a horse that will carry your weight while following the lead of other horses - and not asked for much more.
                          Although this would not likely work with training feral mules to drive.

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                          • #33
                            Originally posted by Appsolute View Post
                            I would never take my horse to a “colt starting clinic” - start my horses SLOWLY with calmness and confidence. At home, where the horse is comfortable and not stressed.

                            These clinics sound SO STRESSFUL to a young horse, and that is not conducive to learning or to a lasting relationship.

                            It’s trendy – along with learning how to horse train via DVDs in my opinion. There are no short cuts to proper training, or proper horsemanship.
                            Agree. I attended one of these clinics a few years ago. It was held in an indoor arena set up for indoor rodeos. I took a seat high in the bleachers. The smell of the sweat from the horse that was being "started" was overpowering in that large building. Yes, the "trainer" got on at the end of the session, everyone applauded, and the owner was given her horse back. The horse was dripping wet and heaving for breath. All I could think about was what she would have to deal with the next day, when the "trainer" was not around.

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                            • #34
                              Originally posted by tdawgh View Post
                              Yes, exactly! My friend started her colt under saddle last fall when I was visiting. She saddled and rode him w/t/c in one session. It's hard to put a timeframe on exactly how long it took though since the entire process kind of flows together with the groundwork which was something she worked on from when he was a baby. But the saddling and going w/t/c was done all in the same session.
                              Well there's the difference. The "breaking" process is not that one instant of settling yourself onto a horse's back and asking them to step forward. It's the whole process leading up to it. Your friend's horse was prepared over a period of MONTHS, years even, so that when she finally sat on him it was no big deal.

                              For the majority of breaking clinics I've seen, they actually advertise looking for basically semi-feral horses. That's a WHOLE 'nother bag. Not even comparable, one iota, to your friend's situation.

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                              • #35
                                That reminds of me of a "Colt Starting" class I observed at a college once upon a time. About twenty youngsters, most of them saddled for the first time, all loose in an indoor. Apparently to get the bucks out and get used to the saddle? Ina panicky herd situation? I never did understand why that was considered a good training practice to teach. I think the program has a new instructor, so maybe progress has been made out of the Stone Age.
                                Leap, and the net will appear

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                                • #36
                                  The best way to start a horse is to give it a foundation of longing and long-lining; the long-lining being in my opinion the most important, because then when you get on, the horse already knows how to stop, start, turn, etc. My best broke horses I was given time to do this before sitting on them. However, I have broke them out by just getting on them...and it takes longer to get them reliably starting, stopping, turning, bending, etc. in my opinion. But, when I was breaking horses for a living, most people didn't want to spend more than 30 days to have them going w/t/c and ready to trail ride. That meant curtailing some of the ground work. In addition, there were times that I bought horses unbroken that I needed broke and sold quickly--those would also be ones that we curtailed the ground work on. But the best work I did was when the people gave me time to do it right. I liked to put 30 days longing/ground driving on first, and then ride. But that was not always possible. I can say that in my career I have at times pushed a horse to learn quickly--and then hoped that the owner would back off it for a while, because it was just too much pressure on the horse, and it wasn't going to be good if it continued. But, again, training for the public, when it meant my bread and butter, meant I did what was necessary to make the customer happy, not necessarily the horse happy. I eventually quit training for the public, and now have the freedom to start horses right; it is much better that way.

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                                  • #37
                                    Originally posted by Isabeau Z Solace View Post
                                    The 'quick start' is still plenty alive and well. BUT you have to have a certain skill set to get it done well.
                                    But you can't ignore history. In the Amercian west, there were vast distances to cover and horses were necessary for work and for transportation. There were feral horses, and it was often necessary for work or transportation to get a horse broken quickly. They thought of the process as "breaking a horse" as in "breaking their spirit." This was accomplished through any number of cruel practices such as tying a horse's leg up, knocking the horse to the ground, or most often by simply exhausting him.

                                    This type of cruelty is what Tom Dorrance, and later Buck Brannaman and Ray Hunt sought to put an end to with their style of "gentling horses" rather than breaking them. Their methods did not take too much longer, and the end result was horses that were sounder and more reliable.

                                    BUT there was never any need to break or gentle a horse in a few hours in Europe. There were no herds of feral horses, and they didn't have the vast distances that there were in the American west. Horses lived in closer proximity to humans, often in stables and were handled daily. In the European tradition, horses were started gradually from foaling on, and were usually longlined, longed and/or driven before they were ridden. There was none of the drama that you see in the western tradition, and although I am sure that there was cruelty (the animal welfare movement started in England) it was not a normal part of the "breaking" process like it was in the American west.

                                    In modern times, there is simply no reason to rush to start a horse, and most horsemen (particularly in the English disciplines) have followed the European tradition in starting horses. If Tom Dorrance's method's were better than the old "horse breaking" practices, then the European tradition clearly resulted in horses that were even more highly socialized. While feral colt breaking can be done, and can be done quickly and with less cruelty than was done before Tom Dorrance came along, it is not the BEST method. Since there is no need for speed in modern times as horses are no longer needed for work or transportation, then why not use the slower better method of starting horses?
                                    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

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                                    • #38
                                      I've read Grant's book. It's a very good read and you'll learn more about him and his times than you can imagine. And you'll find that much of what is written about him, and those times, is flat, dead wrong.

                                      Grant was regarded in his day as an excellent horseman. That's why he could stick on an unbroke horse pretty good (he was also a young, healthy, athletic man at this time; that's something to consider ).

                                      When you discuss military use of horses you have to put that use into the context of their "system." They broke horses "quick and dirty" in the field because the need was dramatic and risk of loss was quite substantial.* They didn't engage in much "advanced training" because they knew combat was costly in horse flesh. Why spend a lot of time training an animal that's likely to be dead in a short period of time? If the animal would go forward then it was a "keeper" and got put into service.

                                      Also, training was done by mixing broke, trained animals with unbroke, untrained animals. You could put a greenie into a formation and they would generally settle and accept their new life. If they didn't they were "de-selected."

                                      With harness animals you yoked a greenie mule to a broke mule and did some simple work. If the greenie settled then it was part of the team. If not, it was removed.

                                      This system would not have passed approval by Rashid or Brannaman or their ilk. It was a tough, sometimes brutal, school for animals and men. Most of us here would blanch at the techniques used. But they worked for the job at hand.

                                      The "quickie" school of horse starting can work, but the horse will of necessity have holes in its training. After a "colt starter" does their job the owner will have the task of filling in those holes. As long as the owner knows this and has the skills necessary then you really don't have a problem. The main difficulty is that owners, today, seldom posses the skills or the time to employ them (if they do). So we see a LOT of half-broke animals out there. Some are pretty docile so the problem is not not severe. Some are much more aggressive and riders get hurt regularly and frequently.

                                      I'm not a fan of "clinics" for a bunch of reasons, but that's fodder for another thread.

                                      G.

                                      *Note that at this same time the training of saddle horses in garrison was much slower, usually taking a year or more. It would have been much closer to what most would consider a reasonable time and approach today. Ditto for draft horses and mules.
                                      Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

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                                      • #39
                                        Well, I might be the dissenter here, but I did participate in a 4-day colt starting clinic with Bryan Neubert...on a 2-yr old that was super friendly, but didn't know how to load onto a trailer (it took 2 hours of positive encouragement and some grain to get him on), and "halter broke" only in the sense that if you could get the halter on him, you could sort of coax him in the direction you wanted.

                                        There were probably about 8 colts and none of them were round-penned all together. Bryan did all of the ground work and put the sadde on the first time (followed by some bronco bucks that Latch-the horse- has only done one other time in his life when he got spooked by a loose bucking strap on a friend's western saddle). We went from barely halter-broke to chasing cows in 4 half-day sessions. Did he know all about bending and flexing? no. He knew: click and nudge to go forward, pull left rein to turn left, right rein to turn right, and both plus "whoa" to stop. I find that pretty miraculous, actually. And there was no forcing involved. Just patience and it was surprisingly calm (except for one person who got bucked off of her horse...not bad...1 out of 8!)
                                        Here was Latch just before the clinic (at our friend's ranch in Wyoming where we bought him): https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.ph...type=3&theater

                                        And after all of that, here is Latch today: https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.ph...type=3&theater
                                        https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.ph...type=3&theater


                                        ETA: Bryan Neubert was a student of Tom Dorrance and Buck Brannaman so his methods are very similar.
                                        The only thing the government needs to solve all of its problems is a Council of Common Sense.

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                                        • #40
                                          I'm in the 'it depends' mindset. Some horses seem born broke, others take longer. Colt starting is just that - starting. The owner is then expected to either get on with the training or hire a trainer.

                                          I've been to a PP and also a Monty Roberts 'show' and, so help me, not my style at all. Parelli got nowhere with his cob mare from the prairies that was totally unhandled. Poor thing, it was totally unfair on the horse with a hundred people watching. Roberts got our vet to pre-screen for a horse that would not embarrass him.

                                          Many colt starters are not worth the money - they just don't have the knowledge or feel, but the TD, BB and RH school - I'd put my horse with them before doing it myself because they are better at it having done literally thousands of horses.

                                          Clinics can be run sensibly, or not, depends on the trainer.

                                          I've not seen anything terribly offense at at the Trainer's Challenge done over three days...but for me, I prefer my own guy.

                                          So, I'm not actually against them - depending.
                                          Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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