Horsemanship

Building Confidence in Young Horses
Even the really good ones benefit from a confidence boost.
Wesly Thorp heeling on Juiced Up Cat
Thorp on Juiced Up Cat as a 6-year-old in 2020. | TRJ File Photo/Jamie Arviso

Young rope horses need confidence just as much as their jockeys. Here’s how World Champion Wesley Thorp instills it in his green ones.

In 2020, I won the American Rope Horse Futurity Association World Title in the heeling on a 6-year-old named Juiced Up Cat—a gelding I’d been jackpotting on and taking to the rodeos all that year. 
He was outstanding, and he always wanted to be a winner. But, when I started to throw him to the fire the following winter, I learned a good lesson. 

Rattled 

I had been taking “Juice” to the jackpots once or twice a week, planning to move him into my second-string spot behind my good black horse. But one day in Dublin, Texas, we had a steer that was really fighting the chute and taking forever, and it scared him. He had never been nervous in the box and, suddenly, he was. 

Dialing Back Down

He was so good at such a young age, I needed to be reminded that he still was green. And I needed to still take care of him like a green horse. He needed confidence in me and the situations I was going to put him in. We slowed way back down, and I went to just saddling him and exercising him throughout the week. I’d bring the steers up, and I’d just score and put him up after that. 

End Goal

That taught me I had to really over-focus on my horse’s confidence, and it’s something I do with everything in my program now. I want the edge knocked off of my horses so they’re paying attention at their best, and I avoid putting them in a bad situation and setting them up for failure because I didn’t do my job and spend the right amount of time on the details. TRJ

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