We start colts that go on to find show-ring success with other trainers. Our reward is something besides ribbons and buckles.
Years ago when we lived in California, if anyone asked what we did for a living and we replied, “ride horses,” and that answer usually sufficed. Living in Texas, however, that answer generates more questions. It seems that just about everyone I come meet either has something do to with horses, knows someone who has horses, or used to be involved in the industry. If I tell someone that we ride horses for a living, they usually ask, “Oh, what sort? Rodeo? Cutting? Do you show? I used to train calf horses years ago … .” They don’t necessarily understand riding horses involves starting colts and it changes with the seasons.
I love this about where we live, and I enjoy meeting others who are affiliated with what we do. I’ve had this blog for almost five years now, and through it I’ve gotten to know a lot of people with horses. I figure now is a good time to recap what exactly my husband and I do from season to season, besides just “ride horses.”
I usually explain our job as though we are the equine equivalent of kindergarten. Some of the colts we start leave after learning the basics, and some go on with us through “elementary school.” Those that stay start for a short time learn how to carry themselves and accept rider cues. The ones that stay are often on track to be cutters. They work a cow and (hopefully!) gain a foundation that will carry them through a successful show career. We help them become broke, allow them to mature and hone their abilities to work a cow.
The fall is a bittersweet time for us. The group of 2-year-olds we’ve started the past year are ready to go on to their next trainer and become futurity horses. This year we had the privilege of starting an above-average set of colts, and we’re excited to follow their careers. It can be a little hard to say goodbye to a year’s worth of work in those horses. But it’s exciting to think that the next crop will be soon on it’s way, often filled with younger siblings of horses we’ve trained and known from previous sets.
The winter brings shorter days but longer hours. Green colts with cold backs and little knowledge navigate their way through early stages of doing groundwork, riding and starting to work a cow. We find ways to balance starting colts and doing projects to improve our place for the future.
I’m not much of a winter person, but there’s an unmatched comfort in having a productive day end with all the horses eating outside and wrapping up in my warm house as the crisp, cold winter air settles into the dark.
Winter morphs into spring, and by the end of spring our “breakers” (colts we’ve started) all have made their way through their time with us. Our days start to focus more on the horses that stay all year and working a cow. We also get more time from spring to late summer to ride some of our own horses and other outside horses, such as ranch colts, barrel horses and horses with specific issues.
The hot days of Texas force us into strange, dark work hours into early morning hours. Though buggy and humid, I like the rhythm of summer and the progress made on our set of horses, too. We also travel more to work them, bumming a cow and some shade (or relief from summer rains) at our friends’ indoor arenas with big, circulating fans.
A lot of people feel that starting colts and riding 2-year-olds is a stepping stone into bigger and better things, and they’re probably right. But this is our world and it’s the one that fits us best. It’s never a place to let your guard down, as colts are constantly exploring, learning and figuring out the world. This usually means pawing, chewing, pulling back, wiggling and a lack of “seasoning” to outside stimulants. But it also means a world of growth, interest and a chance to see big changes in a short amount of time. We get to be a part of young horses’ foundation and influence the way they mature, whatever direction they eventually go. We don’t really travel much to compete or get the glory that some of the amazing horsemen and showmen in all disciplines experience, but we have wins just the same.
And as summer closes and fall circles upon us, I look forward to seeing last year’s set compete, and meeting all of the new ones, too.