My third colt start went exceptionally well. Probably due to the fact I had so many friends around me. My trainer from MN, my barefoot ferrier and our buddy who should be a trainer but doesn’t have time for it, all went down together in one giant truck.
We save a LOT of money staying at my trainer’s Dad’s house who is a real sweetheart, has a giant beautiful house on a gorgeous ranch. All of my trainers “retired” horses live there and get extra special treatment from her dad daily. Wonderful grounds, tons of space, plenty of shelter if they need it and special diets twice daily…If I were a horse, I would totally want to live there. He had a few delightful additions this year, a pig who loved to be brushed and a cute one eyed dog we all fell in love with.
It took over 26 hours to drive down because we had some stops on the way, visited a friend, stopped to shop a few times and stopped at the clinic grounds before heading in to say Hi to the Clinician Jack Lieser and the Nokota conservancy owner Frank Kuntz and his daughters…also to see the Nokota’s they brought down from ND this year.
I was really happy to see Medicine Hat, he was a colt I started the gentling on June of 2011 but had to stop when we got to haltering because he was teething and it was painful for him. It was nice to see him all filled out, obviously better because he wasn’t super thin anymore and WOW DID HE GET BIG….that is one TALL horse and he’s not even done growing yet.
I was also pleased to see Crystal Knights son, a horse we had in TX last year 2011. It took Jan FOUR days to even get close enough to touch this horse and get a halter on him. He was very skeptical of humans…not a jerk, just as Jack would say…a “Survivor” which I learned this clinic and will write about later. Once Jan did get him to that point, he was nothing but love and honey. The trust she built up with him finally won him over. I was extremly interested in seeing how he progressed this clinic.
The rest of the boys were all new, never been touched 2 or 3 year old studs. I think we had 10 horses in all.
Before I start **(disclaimer– this is just for reading pleasure only, please do NOT go out and try this on your own without careful instruction by a trained professional that knows how to do this stuff like Jack does)** Honestly, you can hurt yourself and the horse not only physiclly but mentally too so please care enough not to do this on your own. We are in a clinic setting with very watchful eyes and people to jump in and help with instruction or hands on help at the drop of a hat.
First day started off interesting. From observation the night before and this morning on day 1, all the colts seemed calm and totally unconcerned…we thought they would be a very easy going group. We realized how fast that changed the second we calmly herded them into the arena. Now realize, we try to do this as softly and effectivly as possible so we don’t blow them up and send them into freak out mode, we want this safe and friendly not scary but regardless of how easy it was to get them in, the mood changed the second they got to the threashold of the covered arena…. even though they were in there the day before, today there was intent. That set the mood up. Just walking thru the group without intent was causing them to run in circles inside of our human round pen. Even when they were “settled” the electricity in the air was still humming, you could feel it! It was a very new hyper alert feeling I felt this time around that wasn’t there before in my other two clinic’s even Jack commented on it that the mood had most certainly changed for them.
We guided a few into the round pens. Anyone taking the clinic intending on buying gets first choice. After that it was who wants to work with this horse and someone would voulenteer. I wanted to be assigned to a horse this year because I always pick a horse with similar traits so I did not want to pick this year and honestly the one I wanted was still in with the rest of the group so I did not voulenteer to work the first morning shift which is AWESOME for me because then I get to take pictures.
It was slow going! Most of us are not ropers so just getting our roping skills back with a moving object can take us some time, I can rope my couch just fine but it doesn’t move. Charlie, the best roper in our bunch of course got his colt roped in about 10 minutes. This is very helpful since there are usually three horses and three people to a round pen. The idea is let the horse know the rope isn’t going to hurt them, connect with the horse only using body language, rope while connected, connect some more then slowly introduce a feel to the rope and start leading, you are then graduated out of the round pen.
This first day went like this…..everyone exept one got roped…only a few got touched enough where they were comfortable with it. The two that were in prior clinics were two of the few that were touched. One we couldn’t rope at all. Others stood there only long enough for us to get the ropes off them. The same went for the afternoon group including my colt. I mis read him too, I thought he was more seeing what he could get away with until I realized I was wrong, he really thought he was dinner. I somehow managed to let him know that wasn’t the case…. It was a strange day 1 to say the least we usually get further then that, the mood with the colts were still out for verdict too, they didn’t seem overly impressed by us. We were worried…..except for Jack. Always the essance of calm Jack said Nokota’s have a way of suprising you.
All dejected and sorry we went back to “Dad’s” place. A nice long soak in the hot tub with a few beers made the mood much lighter and we were ready to go the next morning.
Day 2. Different day different feel but only sorta……The colts were still pretty worked up when we did the morning walk thru, and totally wet, it rained hard. A lot of the same from the day before, just trying to establish a connection and contact. I usually have my colts haltered by the first day….I was really suprised when I couldn’t do that until late day 2. A lot of the other horses were like that and the ones that were haltered earlier that day were still having issues. We started to realize the two lead horses, Medicine Hat and the new pony cross we named Dark Knight were very skeptical and reactive so the whole lot were too. Very interesting observation, especially since last year, the lead horses were Magpie and Nova…two very calm non reactive gentlemen…and so that herd was too, all but Crystal Knight’s son and Halvsies who also took 4 days to trust humans thanks to our buddy Charlie. Kelly’s horse who we called Peanut Butter was the most reactive, Charlie had to take over and then Jack for a very intense split second timing session very interesting conversation. Someone called this horse “Difficult and Stubborn, even a Little Shit” Jack was very cool about all that though and said he is not a Jerk, he’s just a Survivor….he’s always been able to go where he wants when he wants, how would you feel if someone put a leash on you and told you, you can’t do that anymore….we have to look at it from his perspective. That hit me like a truck…that’s so true. They have these little apes with predetory everythings that are one tenth thier size telling them what to do now….do you know how much patience and acceptance it must take for them not to want to kick our asses on a daily basis with what we don’t ask but demand of them? It’s so important to ask and important to realize how much it is to ask of them. Think of our domestics…honestly, how do they tolerate us, especially the ones that don’t bother to ask and even hurt or abuse….it’s mind boggeling.
Day 3. Things changed, the heartbeat in the air was different, the air was lighter, a little less wet and some of the colts were coming out of the herd in the morning walkthru to give handshakes to humans. (reach out to sniff our hands) Much calmer and more confident every horse but one was haltered and started sucessfully leading and at the beginning stages of accept the human. Two were saddled and sat on, the two from the prior clinics. Most of the colts had changed thier opinions about humans so much that almost all of them were able to be walked up to and haltered after lunch rather then roped first. Peanut Butter included. Which just shows how effective the RIGHT kind of conversation can be. I think by the end of the day most of the colts were pretty friendly and interested in the crazy things we did. My guy loved anything new and if he showed interest, I would play with it to which he would at first spook or crane his neck and blow at but then after a few seconds he’d be chewing on it or pushing it around with his mouth and nose. Day 3 was an incredible turn around day where the herd decided to really accept us as part of an extended family….and they did it on thier own and did just as Jack said…suprised us. The two most skeptical colts were in the best hands, one with my trainer Jerusha and the other with our friend Charlie, both will be instructors in the ND clinic, and both who helped others in this clinic. Those horses could not have wound up with more perfect people. Charlie was just finishing up leading I beleive at the end of day 2 and his horse Red Stripe was just starting to warm up to him. Jerusha’s colt was the most skeptical and still wasn’t allowing touch. She had the patience of a saint with him mostly just talking to him with only body language and nothing else.
Day 4 a REALLY rainy day, the morning was hard because the rain was making the arena roar….every colt exept for Jerusha’s Dark Knight was saddled, only two out of those saddled were not ridden and Jerusha got a big reward for her patience- Dark Kight allowed her to touch him and halter him. He could not get enough of her after that, he huddled into her if he were afraid of something, he wanted her to be near and I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel the connection he had with her and it felt like pure love. She finally won him over and boy was it a win for both of them. Same thing with Charlie’s horse Red Stripe, he was able to sit on him, a HUGE amount of progress from the day before. Kelly’s horse Peanut Butter was one of the boys ridden…another huge progress from the day before. Jacy (my colt) along with a lot of the others handled being saddled and ridden like they did the obsticles the day before, “oooh no what is that….Oh, okay it feels funny, I kina like it…..” By the end of day 4 the weather cleared up and the sun came out. It was really good to have it, like the light finally came on out of the darkness and there was nothing left but good in the world. We felt good, our colts felt good and the world was right. Basking in the sunlight of knowledge and relaxation, the reward for all our hard work both horses and humans. It was a great storybook ending to another fantastic colt start clinic with the unmatched Nokota horses.
I’m looking forward to our ND clinic in June where we will see again some of the horses we have worked with in prior clinics. I hope our four are in our next clinic, Jacy, Peanut Butter, Red Stripe and Dark Knight. I’d also love to see some of our old friends like Halvsies, Magpie, Silver and well everyone else. Even if not in the clinic it would be nice to see them in the feild. Where they are now, how they have changed. This is truely one of the greatest experiances of my life. I can’t get enough.