Dakota is a 10-year-old spotted Saddle Horse, and he has a few issues. I told Ray that, last year, Dakota got tied up to a hitching post, and I was bringing my saddle out and dropped it out my arms. That spooked him, and unfortunately, the hitching post was not secure. That top rail came up, and he was tied to it. Of course that spooked him even more. I got him together and put him on the other hitching post, and I went to go pick up the saddle and put it on him, not realizing that the other hitching post was in the same condition as the first one.
The odds of it happening twice with me are probably higher than most, haha, but he took off down the road with a piece of hitching post attached to the rope. He beat the heck out of his legs. So he’s always been very head shy when it comes to being tied up and having anything like the saddle brought out. So Ray helped me work with him through that. When I saddled up to ride him on Saturday after Ray had worked with him, I brought that saddle right around the side of the trailer which normally he would have spooked, but he just looked at me as if to say, ‘Oh, ok, no problem.’
Then Ray worked with him in the round pen with a bucket attached to the lunge-line, which I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. It allowed him to keep going in a circle with that bucket and that bucket was dragging to the point where Dakota finally realized, ‘The bucket is not going to come up and chew me up so I guess I don’t have to worry about it.’ He just calmed right down. He worked with him on both sides, so I’m going to continue working with him on that.
Ray’s a very personable man. I like his gentle approach. He’s very informative and explained every step of what he was doing, which I think is great. When you’re training people you need to explain why you’re doing it, not just do it. He really recognized that every horse has a different personality, which I appreciated as well. A lot of trainers, or folks, just go in.
He did work on one horse that was being broke for an auction, and he completely stressed, and again I thought was excellent, that while he was able to get on this horse that had never been handled or had a saddle on it before, that does not mean you could go home and do exactly what he did. He made it clear that it will take consistent reinforcement of what the horse learned that weekend to really accomplish things with the horse. You can’t get on a horse two days later and ride it and say, ‘Ok, I’m going on a trail ride’ – that won’t happen. He was very quick to point out that while the horse looks like he can handle a rider, the horse will still need additional training. That was very important, and a lot of trainers won’t do that.
That horse got auctioned off and so did another one that he worked with that had never ever been handled. The first one had a little bit of handling. The second one was much younger, and I liked that he was very, very cautious and very slow, and he watched the reaction in that small filly – how she was reacting to him when she looked to approach him just to touch him. It was very difficult to touch her. They had to herd her into the trailer just to bring her. He was able to get to the point where he could stroke her neck and then slowly move towards her face, which was great. She said, ‘Ok, you’ve gone far enough,’ and he would walk away. Then he would approach again, but it was always on the term of the horse which again was a movement I have not seen before in some of these other trainers, not that they don’t do it, I just hadn’t seen it.
I thought it was very good because the next day when it was waiting to be auctioned off, a friend of mine and I walked up to it, did the same approach, very quietly approached her and used the back of our hand up the neck, and she was very responsive to that. We could actually touch her on her poll and down her muzzle, which was amazing compared to what she was like before. He did a very, very good job with that young mare.