Understanding Where You’re Starting
When I get on a fresh horse, I like to walk in small circles first so if they’re going to do something, I have control of it without fully giving them their head in a wide open setup. A lot of people get on and kick one into a lope on a loose rein, but pretty soon that horse is bucking and they’ve lost control.
Finding the Feel
I like to analyze the feel the horse has and see how he’s going to respond to the bridle reins, my leg and my seat. Too often, people will lope a few circles and back into the corner and rope, and that doesn’t set you up for a good practice.
Getting His Mind Right
I’d rather get on, do my smaller circles, then trot and lope each direction and flex the horse each direction so I know how much control I’m going to have. This gives them time to think about what they’re doing. Getting one thinking through your cues and through their job sets them up for more success out of the box because their brains are ready to listen to what you’re asking of them. It’s hard for a young horse to learn without being able to think, so instilling the basics throughout your warmup will prepare them for success. If they’re using their bodies right—flexing and moving correctly and clearly understanding your cues—then they’ll learn more quickly, enjoy their jobs more and last longer. TRJ