Horsemanship Intern Training With Richard Winters

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I currently have a young intern on my ranch who is helping me with the day-to-day operations of our horse business. He's an eager young man with a good attitude and is also a hard worker. However, he lacks experience with horses and horsemanship principles. That's all right. That's why he's here. It has reminded me that we are not all born with the horsemanship knowledge that is often times taken for granted. The following is a random list of things that I recently pointed out to my young intern that perhaps you or someone you know could find helpful.

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One - Automatic waterers do not always automatically work correctly.

Many barns have some type of automatic water system and they can be very convenient. However, it is important to check them every day. They can foul out, get stuck or malfunction in myriad of ways. I've also seen horses defecate into the water bowl and thus make the water undrinkable. My young intern knows that he must visually inspect each waterer daily.

Two - Feeding and stall cleaning is not just about feeding and stall cleaning.

When going into a stall to feed and clean each morning is also the perfect time to inspect the horse that's living there. Has he eaten his meal from the previous night? Is there the expected amount of manure in the pen? How is the horse physically? Has he somehow hurt himself during the night or is there some type of malady that needs attention? These are things that a conscientious intern should be paying attention to every morning.

Three - Make sure everything is symmetrical.

My intern will often saddle horses one right after another for me throughout the day. It's important that the pads are placed evenly side-to-side underneath the saddle. I also want to make sure that I have plenty of pad in front of my saddle. Pads tend to slide back. If I have to cheat, I will cheat my pads behind. Keeping the saddle pad balanced side to side, with plenty of pad in front is how I want to see a horse saddled. Cinches also must be adjusted correctly.  My intern came from a situation where he only had one horse and one saddle to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Now I need him to pay attention to where that cinch is positioned on every horse he brings me. When the cinch is tightened, I want the center of the cinch to be right in the middle of the horse’s belly and behind his front legs. And let's make sure the off side billet is in good shape and securely fastened.

Four - Be "Bridle Wise".

When my intern hands me the bridle reins I don't want to see cheek pieces that are not tucked back in their keepers. It's also important that he has reached over to the right-hand-side and has lifted the brow band up to the base of the horse’s right ear. On many bridles, the brow band has a tendency to slip down a few inches on the cheek piece, in between rides. This will inadvertently cause the bridle to fit incorrectly. Remember, it's the little things that make the big difference.

Five - Don't put your horse away like you're throwing out the trash.

One horseman said we should put our horse away like a fisherman puts away his best fishing rod. I have instructed my young intern to lead each horse back into his or her pen and then make a U-turn as though he were going to lead the horse back out of the gate again. Now he should slip the halter halfway off and rub and pet the horse for a moment. It's now appropriate to walk away from the horse and close the gate. I want to make sure that I am walking away from the horse rather then the horse leaving me. Horses will begin to anticipate being turned loose and jerk their head away and run off. This kind of behavior is at best disrespectful and at worst dangerous. Taking just an extra moment to thoughtfully turn your horse loose will leave them in a better frame of mind to be caught the next time.

I recently told my intern that it was not my intention to pick on him or micromanage all of his actions. If he wants to become a horseman (and I know he does) there will be a thousand little things that will need to become second nature to him. So for now, I'll just keep sharing good and important horsemanship tips and principles that will last him a lifetime. The next horseman he works for will thank me.

Oh, and by the way, Alex, you're doing a great job!

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