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Happy Trails with Dawni O'Bryan: Training Horses and Raising Kids

By Dawni O'Bryan

March 1, 2023

In the rodeo world, the cowboys and cowgirls have basically two options when it comes to picking their equine partner. Option one is to dig deep into the bank account and buy a high dollar horse that will send them to the pay window. Option two is to train your own from either raising it from a baby or buying a prospect that doesn’t know a whole lot. Most folks around here go for option two. However, it is not uncommon to send a horse to a trainer for a few months to “get the buck out” or to “get a handle on them.” That training investment is usually worth the monthly rate that the trainer charges. Of course, training videos and clinics put on by the professionals are also good investments if option two is the only thing feasible.

My husband and I have trained a few horses and we have raised a couple of kids. There are a lot of similarities to each task. Some horses/kids are more challenging than others and that is to be expected. Here is a list of things to keep in mind whether it is your child you are trying to train or your horse that is in training. Some are original and some are borrowed.

  1. They both need boundaries, repetition, and clear expectations.
  2. They both need positive reinforcement and to know when they did a good job.
  3. They both go through physical and mental changes where their brains stop working and you wonder “What the hell happened?” It is best to not give up right here.
  4. You have to loosen the reins once in a while and give them a little freedom, so they can show you what they know.
  5. Your energy often determines their reaction.
  6. You never know as much as you think you do. You’re going to learn as much from them as they do from you. Often, you’ll be learning and growing right alongside them.
  7. If they blow up, don’t match their anger. Take a deep breath, check your cinch, and get back on.
  8. Figure out their why, and often you’ll avoid the fight next time.
  9. Let them make mistakes and figure some things out while the stakes are low.
  10. Sometimes, the toughest ones just need extra time and love to bring out their best.
  11. Patience is a virtue and a key element.

Best wishes in your training endeavors.

The weather is starting to change and the urge to get back in the saddle becomes stronger as there are more hours of daylight, baby calves are hitting the ground, tulip leaves are starting to poke out their heads, and blades of grass are starting to appear. It is time to oil up the saddle and dust off the saddle blankets. Come on spring!

“March 4th, the only day that is also a sentence.” John Green

Happy Trails.

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