Soaking Your Horse

“Let ‘em soak a while”,was what Buck would tell me. Sometimes that meant that when we’d been riding a colt for a month or two, he would turn them out to pasture for a few months before bringing them back in to work again. Also, early on, it meant to allow the colt time to accept the confinement of saddle, bridle and tie ring.

After some “sacking out ” he’d saddle the colt, fit him with “a pair o’bits” referring to a snaffle, and tie him from a limb of an oak tree and leave him for an hour or two. (We’d ride off on other horses to check cattle.) When the colt stopped pawing, swishing his tail, whinnying and tossing his head, Buck would untie him and begin working him on the end of the rope in circles in the small pen.When the colt softened in his attitude, and was moving in a smooth and relaxed way, Buck would quit the work, unsaddle him, and turn him out. After a few days of this, the colt would be pretty accustomed to being saddled and bridled. At that point we’d go on and “pony” him, dallied to the saddle horn of an older horse. Of course the “sack of potatoes” on the colt’s back, to get him used to carrying weight, was me.

The soaking time is important because the horse needs to be in a learning frame of mind in order to be taught or trained. If he is irritated or distracted or scared or angry, the teaching doesn’t seem to “stick”. When he reaches a point of acceptance, his eye will have a softer look, his ears will be up and moving, his nostrils will be relaxed, not wrinkled up, his tail will be quiet, and he will lick and chew with his mouth. Usually he will also have lowered his head and neck. All this without any active work – just time. Learning patience from those patient old oak trees.

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