Reader Question: Trying To Train My Colt

I had a reader question recently from Jessica who is “Trying to train her colt”.  She originally emailed me her question, I emailed back asking for clarification so I am condensing her two emails into one.

Dear Mrs. Castro,

Currently I’m trying to train my yearling colt but it’s proving to be harder than I expected. The man we bought him from when he was 6 months old told me that he was halter broke but he’s never had a halter on him in his life. 

I haven’t been able to train him before now because of high school and now that I’m in college I have even less time to try to train him. Do you have any tips to help me halter break him? He’s going to be gelded in a month of so and I’m hoping that he’ll calm down after that. 

My colt is really hyper and impatient and will sometimes get antsy is I don’t do things at his speed i.e. walking out to the barn as quickly as he does, feeding him as soon as he’s hungry, getting the feed slowly. Sometimes he paws at the gates and he’ll run up at people. I don’t think he’s ever reared, I’ve never seen him do so and I’ve never seen him kick. He’ll nibble on clothing to get people’s attention but he’s bitten once or twice but we reprimand him immediately. 

If we don’t he’ll repeat the problem. He’s finicky about the halter. He doesn’t like to come near us when we have the halter or lead. He also likes to play hard to get. I’m hoping to get his halter on him soon and I think once he’s gelded he’ll be easier to train. Thanks for your time.

Allison

Hi Allison,

Thanks for the training question.   I’m sorry that the gentleman that you bought the horse from led you to believe the cold was halter broke.   It would have been nice for you to have known he was not broke in any way shape or form in advance!

I agree with you that once he is gelded he should calm down a bit.  But there are still some behavioral issues we need to address.
Let’s begin by getting him into “work mode”.  
To teach him patience and to look forward to his lessons the first thing I would do is keep the colt in a stall. 
One of the only times I would take him out of the stall is when the two of you are working. Other than that I would give him an hour a day of turn out to stretch his legs.  Ideally you should turn him out in a round pen or some other small isolated enclosure.

The reason for the stall is that right now he is acting like a wild horse. 

At his age his attention span is very short and his legs can’t take a tremendous amount of work. Standing around in a stall will help teach him patience in every area. Sure he will pitch a fit and carry on for a while, but he’ll get over it. Besides, once he is halter-broke, he can go back outside with the other horses.

The best thing for a horse that age is to spend lots of time with him.  

Spend time getting him used to you, a halter, and all of the equipment. I would start the halter breaking by touching his body with the halter and lead all over it on both sides before I put it on him. Don’t bother to put the halter on him each time until he is completely comfortable with it.

After you are able to get the halter on him consistently, start teaching him to respect your space. 

He must always move out of your way. ALWAYS. If he doesn’t, he quickly will become dangerous.

A horse should respect you enough to move his feet, shoulders and hindquarters out of your way.
The best way to do this is to approach him from the side toward his shoulders, sides, and or haunches and he should always move away from you. I walk toward a horse with authority and cluck. When he is out of my way enough, I stop clucking and say whoa. It’s never too early to start teaching a horse to whoa.

If he does not move when approached in that way, spank him

You don’t spank him like you would a full-grown horse because he is not.  But he is a tough little guy and his Dam would reprimand him if he were out of line, so don’t you feel bad about doing it. 
I like to use the leather tassels at the end of my lead line. When you spank with the tassels (or even just the end of a lead rope) they can just make the noise and you don’t really have to use much  pressure.  Use only the amount of pressure needed.  If you need less pressure use less, if you need more use more.   He will understand soon enough what you want from him if you remain consistent with your cues.

His little mind is constantly learning, and constantly trying to figure out a way to get out of working so stay tough and diligent.   You bought this colt to enjoy so enjoy the journey as much as the final destination. Stay consistent with your cues, praise, and punishments. Celebrate your successes no matter how small they may seem at first. A wise horseman once said, “If a horse gets one percent better each day it will only take 100 days to train him.”

Stay safe and keep me posted!

Deanna

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About Deanna Castro

Deanna Castro has been training horses and riders professionally for over 18 years. She trains riders in Horsemanship, Western Pleasure, Showmanship and Trail Riding. Deanna is married to Native American Horse Trainer Fredi Castro and she is the author of "Six Weeks to a Better Horse".
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One Response to Reader Question: Trying To Train My Colt

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello Mrs. Castro:
    I believe this young lady could benefit greatly from Horseproblems Australia’s video podcast titled “Dangers at Feed Time” Your blog introduced me to this guy with a referral to the clip about the one-rein stop. He does a great job of showing the respect he requires from a horse in the “Feedtime” clip. It sounds like this colt needs to learn some–RESPECT, that is!!
    Thanks for a great, informative blog–I enjoy it.

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