The first few rides on our three-year-old will be in the small pen. We start with sessions of free longe or “round pen” work. When we have the colt’s attention we progress to work on the longe line. Somewhere along there he begins to wear a saddle. If at all possible we do it so that he doesn’t buck. He might buck a little with the first saddle, that may be unavoidable. If so he finds out he can’t get rid of it and he accepts it. After that we go to great pains to avoid letting him buck.
“The only thing he can learn by bucking is how to buck better!”
So when he is being longed we do not allow cavorting and bucking. It may look cute, but it’s not constructive, not when I’m about to put my pink body in the middle of it. Often we will add in rides with the “Padrino” (Godfather) an older horse to “pony”, or hold the lead rope of the young horse for the first ride or so, depending on how “hot” or nervously reactive we find the colt. We always do a lot of work “in hand”, before we get on and walk around. The first rides we encourage the colt to just walk. If he decides to speed up or get jumpy, we take one rein and bend or “double” him down to a stop. Then we start over. Finally he is ridden in little circles, changing sides, riding into smaller circles, always with only one rein, and only with little “pull and slack” signals on the one rein. When he seems relaxed, and is licking and chewing, we get off. The point is for the colt to learn that the reward of the rider removing himself from the saddle is bought with acceptance of the rider’s weight on his back. That acceptance is shown by the colt relaxing, licking, chewing, and swallowing. It’s as if he says “let’s do lunch!”