Getting the Gate
Getting the Gate
Bred by Terry Crofoot of Crofoot Ranches LLP in Lubbock, Texas, the 3-year-old has a good handle on him already, put on by Thomas Saunders V of the Saunders Ranch in Weatherford, Texas. Well into the bridle, confident in his rider and in a settled frame of mind, Felix is ready to learn to work a gate.
Using the same techniques they teach in guest lectures at Colorado State University’s colt-starting classes, Terry and Thomas walk Felix through his first gate.
With an American Quarter Horse Association Membership, you'll get amazing benefits from a variety of AQHA's corporate sponsors. And with all the programs that AQHA offers, you're sure to find one you love! Whether you thrive in the show ring or are looking for a trail buddy, your membership offers something for everyone.
With Thomas riding, Terry explains what both men want in a youngster before working on a gate.
“You need to be able to move your horse’s hindquarters and place them where you want them,” he says. “Any exercises where you get control of the hind end will help.”
“He rides into the corner (of the gate and the fence) so he doesn’t have to worry about forward movement as he moves the colt up beside the gate,” Terry says.
The colt has a lot to take in: the rider’s signals with his leg and rein, the feel of the gate and the sounds. Thomas lets the colt tell him the next step; depending on the colt, this might be all he does in one lesson.
“Be repetitive, but don’t overdo it one time until he gets burned out on it,” Terry says.
“There are several ways to go through a gate correctly and safely,” Terry says. “Consider each gate and what’s around it to decide the best way to approach it, whether you go forward through it or back through it.
“You want to avoid getting in a position between the gate and the gate post where you could get pinched or the gate closes and wedges on you and your horse, especially with a green horse.”
This gate is made to swing both ways. For a green colt, it will be easier to ride through the gate forward, pushing it open.
To start, Thomas positions Felix parallel to the gate with his haunches toward the gate’s hinge, head toward the latch. Thomas opens the gate and pushed it away well clear of the post to ride through, around the end of the gate. On the other side, he straightens Felix with his head toward the gate’s hinge and then sidepasses Felix against the gate to close it.
“A finished horse on a gate should arc his body to go around the end of the open gate,” Terry says. “Then he should straighten up alongside the gate and arc his body the other way, with his nose tipped away from the gate, to push the gate closed.
Being a member of the American Quarter Horse Association means supporting the world’s most versatile horse breed. It means competing in some of the most exciting equine events. It means enjoying a family friendly trail ride with the confidence that your trusty horse will make it memorable.
Thomas will gradually work on improving Felix’s body position. And he’ll work on opening and closing the gate from both sides. A rider has to be able to open and close a gate with his left or right hand, depending on how the gate’s hinged.
“Riding in a feedlot really teaches a horse,” Terry says. “You open thousands of different gates thousands of times a day in the feedlot. Those horses are probably the best gate horses in the country.”
As Felix gains in his confidence with the gate and moving his body around it, Thomas can introduce other options that ask for more handling. For example: What if this same gate did not swing to the inside of the arena?
“Pushing the gate away from you is always the safest way to open it,” Terry says. “But if you have to pull a gate toward you, it is safer to back through.
“If you’re backing through, you are more conscious of it being a more hazardous situation, and you are more apt to keep the gate open farther to create a bigger space and take a bit longer doing it.
“On the horse’s side, if he happens to get hung up, he’s more apt to go forward and away from the pressure and actually open the gate instead of squeezing it shut on you.”
Thomas positions Felix with his head toward the hinge and grabs the gate with his left hand. He sidepasses away from the gate then backs around the gate completely, wide of the gate post. When he’s clear on the other side, he asks Felix to sidepass away to pull the gate shut.
“It’s not the easiest way to open a gate,” Terry adds, “but it’s one that can be used as a training maneuver to gain control of your horse. And in a ranch horse competition, it can show off how much control you have.”
But as with any new maneuver you teach your horse, don’t rush.
Your American Quarter Horse Association membership gives you discounts on many corporate partners and the award-winning America's Horse magazine! This members-only publication is filled with informative articles that help you make the most of your experience with horses, whether it’s keeping them healthy, correcting behavior problems or having fun on the trail.
The biggest mistakes happen when the horse really doesn’t understand what you’re asking, in where you want him to put his body, sidepassing, moving off your leg, etc.
“Depending on the horse’s personality, he might get frustrated and mad,” Terry says. “Some just get nervous because they don’t know what you want. Watch for those signals: They tell you when you could be going too fast. You just have to slow down and think of a way to let him understand.”
In that case, go right back to the basics you started with, moving the hindquarters, sidepassing and standing against the gate.
Sometimes the most important thing in training a horse is the clothes you wear. You want them to be comfortable, and Wrangler has provided just that. The jean "made for cowboys by cowboys."
One of our many AQHA Partners is the Wrangler brand. The Wrangler brand has established itself as the great American jeans lifestyle brand that was born in the spirit of the West and great outdoors. Wrangler helps support many AQHA events including the Built ford Tough AQHYA World championship Show, Team Wrangler, the Youth Excellence Seminar and much more. Find out more about AQHA Corporate Partner Wrangler.
Ranch pleasure is one of the newest AQHA-approved events. This video will show you a little more about the new class.