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Colt Starting

 My Opinion

colt startingThere are lots of ways to get your colt started now days. There are just as many opinions on how to go about it.

One of the most popular is to go to a colt starting clinic. Some of the people teaching these are very good at what they do. Some of them are very good with horses, but not so good with people. Others are good with people, but just average with horses.

I attended several of these in the late eighties, and early nineties. I had already been starting colts for quite a while. This was about when the natural horsemanship craze was starting.I wanted to learn what it was all about. Many of the clinicians back then were very good. I learned a lot about getting a colt going in a lot less time, and in a lot better frame of mind.

Then it seemed like everybody jumped on the band wagon. I was at a Buck Branaman clinic once when a young man said “I teach clinics too”.  Buck smiled and said “yeah, who doesn’t”.buck branaman

Some of these guys were real good. They were also good teachers.

The problem I started to see was, too many people who weren’t very skilled with horses, were attempting to start their own colt. After the clinic was over and they took their colt home to continue the training, they were lost without the guidance of the clinician.

Some would get into some trouble with their colts. Others would give up and just forget about it, or sell the horse.

In my opinion the colt starting should be left to the colt starters. It takes a lot of experience to be a good hand with a green horse. Some of the people I saw trying to start their own colts, were just learning to ride.

I’ve starting colts for over forty years. It’s a lot different world than it was back then. There are a lot of adults just getting there first horse, and learning to ride. Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s a good thing. It’s good for the horse industry in general. However I don’t think a green rider has any business with a green horse. One of them has to know enough to teach the other.

Twenty years ago when I started a colt, it was pretty standard it took thirty days. Back then though I was sending the colt home to a cowboy who had a job for it to do. Now days, most of the colts go home to a novice or a weekend rider, who already has too many things on their plate. They usually don’t have time to ride the colt on a regular basis.

I think in most cases, the thirty day rule needs to change. I know a lot of people don’t want to spend that much money on their horse to get him started, but it’s cheaper than hospital bills. In most cases now days, I won’t take a thirty-day colt. I try to evaluate the riders ability, and the horse’s temperament. I usually have to try to convince the owner that the horse needs more time.

My recommendation if your new to the horse world is, find someone with a lot of expertise to help you pick a horse. A new rider should get an older seasoned horse, and probably a few lessons. Even if a young horse is real gentle, it still doesn’t know anything. A rider just learning to ride doesn’t know how to teach it anything.

Maybe I’m a little too picky, but if I’m going to do something, I want to do it well. There is so much to learn about horse’s and horsemanship. Much of which can only be learned through experience. A good teacher can keep you from making many of the mistakes a lot of people make while learning. I’m grateful for all the teachers I’ve had and continue to have.

One of my favorite quotes, though I don’t know who said it “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.

Be sure to check out my videos, here’s the link:  Practical Horsemanship


  1. Celeste S. says:

    Finally you said what I have been thinking for years about the modern colt clinics. I also think that just as there is a horse now and then who just can’t be made safe, there exist people who just can’t be taught about horsemanship. I remember a guy who showed up at our Fairview Ranch in the early ’80’s. This kid had a dream to ride from Alaska to Mexico horse back. He was sincere, humble, and willing to learn. I never saw anyone try so hard. Be he just had no horse savvy or caballo common sense. He stayed at it for about four months but he could get in trouble even on my little brothers bomb proof 22 year old kid horse. Granddad did his best and so did I but in the end he finally gave up and went home. It was sad but for the best. Poor kid. I sure enjoy reading your stories!! Thanks for sharing them.

    • Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I really enjoyed the time when your grandpa lived by me. He would walk over almost everyday and watch me ride, and share stories with me. Great man.