Big Wyoming Horse Expo offers opportunity for learning, growth for horse owners
Patience is the key to working with horses, according to several clinicians who worked with students during the seventh Annual Big Wyoming Horse Expo.
Mike Anderson, demonstrated colt starting and groundwork at the expo. Anderson used one of his own saddle horses to teach the new colt what he wants it to learn. He said colts learn by the release.
“Patience is important in colt starting,” Anderson said. “Never rush a colt to saddle because it could get someone or the colt hurt.”
Repetition is also necessary in the training process. Anderson used a blue tarp, which he held alongside his saddle horse to get the colt used to strange noises. Once the colt stops reacting to the tarp, he covers the colt with the tarp and rubs him with it.
When the colt is ready to have a saddle on its back, Anderson told the crowd that it is important to be patient.
“When you put the saddle on the first few times, it is not important how far the saddle goes on, it is just important to get the colt used to the feel of it,” he said. “Put it on, but take it off right away. Do it several times, until the colt seems comfortable with it. Rub the saddle up and down its back up to its withers. Once he’s comfortable with that, switch sides and do it again.”
Jim and Sandy Jirkovsky taught their students ways to horsemanship skills.
“The seat may be different,” Sandy said. “But the basics are all the same. Horsemanship is an important part of riding the horse.”
Sandy said the horse only serves as a prop in horsemanship. It is up to the rider to sit up straight, and form a straight line from knee to hip to shoulder.
“Part of being a good horseman is making the horse execute the gaits correctly,” Sandy said. “Try to use minimal cues with the horse. There shouldn’t be a lot of visual movement. Everything should be as a team. Work in harmony.”
A good rider will learn to stay as one with the horse when performing different patterns, she said. When changing from a trot to a lope, the horse should be able to smoothly change leads within two to three strides
John Blair of Blair Saddlery showed participants how to determine if their saddle correctly fits their horse. Blair explained that if the saddle fits properly, only a thin saddle blanket or pad should be needed beneath the saddle.
“Too much padding distorts the saddle fit, and will cause the saddle to rock from side to side,” he said.
Blair said people sit in the saddle different ways. While sitting in the center of the saddle is ideal, some will sit too far forward, and others will sit too far back.
“If you sit too far back on the saddle, it is hard on the saddle and puts a lot of dead weight on the back of the horse. It will tire him out sooner if you ride him that way all day,” he said.
When the saddle is placed on the horse, Blair said the rider should take their hand and rub between the saddle and horse to see how the saddle fits. Ideally, the saddle should fit snug, but it shouldn’t dig into the horse.
Harry Anderson discussed equine nutrition with expo participants. Anderson developed an equine feed that can be used for all horses from foals to senior horses. During this process, Anderson said he need to make an efficient feed.
“Feed efficiency is the one number that tells you how much you get out of what you put in,” he said. “What is important in equine nutrition is to meet the nutritional needs of the horse, and how to most effectively get those nutrients into the equine body.”
Anderson explained how a horse’s digestive system works. Most feed products won’t digest in the small intestine, and travel into the cecum and colon to be further utilized.
Many people don’t consider the importance of minerals and vitamins in the horse’s diet, which aids in digestibility.
“If you want the best performance and health of an animal, nutrition may not be cheap,” he said. “The challenge of developing a balanced feed product is meeting the needs of a baby, working horse, and geriatric horse with one set of nutrients.” ❖