I can still remember in 4th grade when they had us fill out a paper that asked what we wanted to be when we grew up-I said a horse trainer and have never changed my mind. So by the time I graduated high school, I was enrolled in an Equine Science program in Cheyenne, Wy.
Bob Day was the man in charge of the horse program. I have to say-I was impressed with Bob. He was known to have shown some really good horses. Just the kind of person I wanted to meet and learn from. The barn manager was a cutting horse breeder named Dick. Dick was strict about keeping the school barn CLEAN and feeding those horses on time. His greatest attribute though was as a farrier.
Dick is the one who taught me the correct skills for trimming feet. We learned on dead horse legs. They were kept frozen so they did not stink. It was just the initial getting used to having to hold that thing that was difficult. Talk about an educational experience. Have you ever seen a rotated coffin bone? Or the affects of navicular? We used to dissect the feet after we trimmed them to look for lameness issues the horse may have had. That certainly gives you new appreciation for what the foot can and cannot tolerate.
The riding instructor was a man named Ron Rocklitz. When I first met him, I thought "Great-another damn cowboy." I did not go to college to learn the same cowboy methods that I had already learned at home. But Ron was a nice guy and it was hard not to like him, so I kept my mouth shut and decided to learn what he could teach me. A very wise choice-caused mostly by shyness rather than wisdom-LOL.
The first thing they did was give us broke horses to learn some basics on. I am telling you-I was seriously questioning why I had come to this college. But I was lucky and got a retired show mare. She knew a lot more than I did...
To this point my knowledge of starting colts consisted of running them around in a pen, sacking them out, saddling, letting them buck and when they quit-GET ON. It was a lot kinder than previous generations but still pretty crude.
The first few rides consisted of (hopefully) just easing around the pen and pulling the horse's head this way or that. When they got to the fence they usually turned the way you were pulling their head. You learned to sit real still too. You certainly didn't want to be bumping on those colts sides because they might blow up.
Once you were pretty sure that colt wasn't going to blow up and dump you on your head, it was off to the pasture. In the case of the ones that would blow up and dump you on your head, they were snubbed to a saddle horse and you headed to the pasture anyway. The belief was-miles and lots of wet saddle blankets. That is what made good horses.
When the colts got pretty broke and you could do a few things with them in the pasture we took them back to the arena and started "training" them.
So here I sit on this really nice show mare, that obviously knew more than I did, looking at a "cowboy" to teach me something I didn't already know. It was a real struggle to keep myself open to this learning process because I felt that I knew this already and wanted to learn something I didn't already know.
I was soon to find out just how much I didn't already know and that maybe what I thought I knew wasn't right...