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A Sitting Horse

by Caitlin Yoder

Published: Friday, May 10, 2019

Cowgirl to the Core

I'm currently helping my dad sell a horse. While talking to a potential buyer, I try to be as helpful and transparent as possible. No matter how many questions they ask, I am more than willing to answer. One question recently came up that I didn't know how to answer.

"How is the horse if you let him sit for a while?" It's a valid question, but I may have laughed to myself at the time. The best answer I could give them was, "that depends." It depends on how long you let him sit in the pasture, how often he is worked on the ground, how he is treated, how you keep up with health and maintenance. The list goes on.

All too often I have clients bring horses in for training that have been left to "sit" in the pasture for too long. The owner is hesitant to jump on their backs for fear of what the animal might do, but I guess I signed up for this. Some horses are easy, they just need to be reminded once and they're good to go. Other horses are monsters.

Truthfully, it's sometimes easier and safer to start a young colt for the first time than it is to break an older horse's bad habits. I understand that life happens and sometimes owners need to take time off from working their horses. Not all horses develop bad habits with time off from riding, but some horses are allowed to get away with bad behavior on the ground, which then transfers over to the saddle.

Sweaty saddle blankets and redirecting can break most bad behaviors and get the horse back on track, but the owner needs to continue with these habits. There are also things owners can do even when they aren't riding to maintain a safe mount.

Even if you don't have time to work with the horse, instilling patience into the animal works wonders when you do decide to throw a leg over their back. Everyday, our horses are tied in their stalls for meal time. This teaches the horse to tie and respect the rope. When they are finished eating, we let them out to pasture, but the horses that we plan on working that day often stay tied in the barn.

Learning to stand tied and wait patiently helps prevent injury and broken halters when tying the horse is the only option. It is a basic lesson that should be taught to every young horse.

Leading your horse out to pasture after meals can also develop good manners. Make sure they walk beside you respectfully, without pulling on the rope or pushing against you. The more you practice, the better behaved they will become. When you have minimal time, leading the horse for short periods daily will add up.

When greeting a horse in the pasture, make sure to create boundaries. The pasture is the horse's territory, so they may think they can boss you around. Letting them do this will only create problems when it is time to work with your horse. Establish good behavior on the ground, even if you're just walking through the field to give your horse a pat on the neck.

There are many things owners can do to create a well-behaved horse. The horse will be more pleasant to be around and these exercises won't take up much time if the owner is already feeding and taking care of their horse daily.

The other reason I find this question difficult to answer is that we don't often let our horses sit for long periods of time. They do get time off to recuperate, but it's not usually months at a time. Even through the winter my dad uses the horses to help him with chores. He drives teams of two horses at a time to spread manure in the field or haul hay out to the cows. He also pulls tubs of hay to the horse pasture. I ride at least one horse nearly every day. These things take extra time and effort, but when people purchase a horse from us, they are getting a well-rounded companion.

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