Horsin’ Around: Horse trainer deluxe
by Roger Thompson
Fort Collins, Colo.
It seems every spring I wind up at a horse sale. Now I don’t know if I am looking for that special horse or just enjoy going to them. Of course I enjoy looking at all of the horses and how well the trainer can make them appear. And, I keep in mind that there are a lot of gimmicks that an owner can use to make a horse look gentle in a sale ring.
I have known a number of people who have bought horses at a sale and then a day or two later can’t even get in the corral with them. So a buyer needs to know the company putting on the sale or someone involved in the sale, but like the old saying goes, “let the buyer beware.”
Brittain Roberts will be moving to the area to work with Lance Shockley in reining training this summer. Brittain’s theory is “building better horses from the ground up.” Here she stands on a colt she claims is “possibly the hardest colt I ever started” that she picked up wild off a 2,000 acre pasture in Uvalde, Texas. Her methods are, “in a nutshell, patience and perseverance.” She will be taking on select colts this summer.
Photo courtesy of Brittain Roberts
So, Saturday, April 20, found my friend, Jim, and myself at the All Breed Horse Sale at the Larimer County Fairgrounds. It was bitter cold and not too good of a day to stand around looking at horses. We missed the working ranch horse show the day before which gives a buyer a good look at how a horse works. But we were able to watch some of the cutting.
Then we were able to see Wreckless Dwite perform some of his tricks like bowing to the crowd and shaking his head in response to questions. But this horse is standing at Stud and I knew there was not enough money in my pocket to buy him. So we got a hot cup of coffee and made our way into the stand at the sale ring.
The sixth horse to come in was a nice little red roan mare named “First Choice King.” First Choice was trained and ridden by Brittain Roberts, who is trying to establish a training program here in the northern Front Range area. As I looked in the catalog, I saw that the horse had over 13 crosses back to the foundation King breeding. Now being an old boy from Texas, I like the King line of breeding for their athletic ability and cow-y attitude.
As Brittain rode into the ring on First Choice I was startled to see a large blue, plastic tarp wrapped around the rider’s middle. Miss Roberts put First Choice King through the reining paces and the mare preformed well. Then they stopped and Brittain began to unwrap the tarp, which flowed down both sides of the horse.
She spread the tarp so that it flowed to the ground all around the back of the mare. First Choice King never moved a muscle and I was awed by the sight. If that had been one of my horses with all of the rattling and flopping there would have been a rodeo right then.
Brittain then stood up in the seat of the saddle and pulled the tarp up over her head. Everyone in the stands were sitting on the edge of their seats as they expected to see this gentle young woman get bucked off and have her head stuck in the turf. But First Choice never flinched.
Brittain turned down $1,700 for First Choice and I followed them out of the arena to talk with the trainer. She told me that when she first got the mare in, First Choice was wild and skittish, but with a lot of work in the round pen with plastic tarps she gentled her down. Brittain put only 90 days training on the mare before bringing her to the sale. She also told me that First Choice has been started on cattle.
Brittain said she uses a compassionate approach to starting her colts and I could see that in the way she handled herself and her mare as well as the result of her training. If this had been a gelding, I would have made an offer right there because this is the sort of horse an old man needs to be riding.
Anyone interested in contacting Brittain Roberts may do so via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. or by phone at (970) 946-5918.
Roger Thompson is a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.