Slow Down to Go Fast: Part I

Cowboy, clinician and horseman Bryan Neubert shares his insight into starting ranch colts.

This is the first part in a two-part series.

Bryan Neubert of Alturas, California, introduced his methods for starting ranch horses when he was 50. Neubert’s experience, gained through a lifetime of starting colts and honed by learning from such horsemen as Tom and Bill Dorrance and Ray Hunt, can help you get your horses better, faster.

Now, he tells how to make your colt’s first saddling and ride much less traumatic for both of you. Neubert says that depending on your horse, you could get to bridling and saddling in minutes, while other horses might take days.

Rigged Out

I’ve taught the horse to move his hindquarters away from me and give to pressure from the lead rope. After we work on some of those lessons, I’ll let him have a recess and a chance to relax while I get my saddle and blanket ready.

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First, I just run my hand over his back, down his sides and around his belly. Then, gradually, I’ll introduce the blanket to him. I rub the blanket along his shoulder and work my way across his back and hindquarters. If it bothers him and he moves away from me, I don’t jerk back and try to hold him with the lead rope. In fact, if he’s bothered so much that he has to leave, I let him leave. I might go back to the earlier lesson of letting him work around the pen.

If he just pulls back, I’ll ask him gently with the lead rope to yield his head and neck and yield his hindquarters away from me. Eventually, he’ll accept the blanket and allow me to place it on him.

When I place my saddle on, I do it as smoothly as possible. I’ll have my cinches tied up so they don’t hit him on the legs and throw it on so the stirrup doesn’t hit him on the shoulder. I want to be careful not to hurt him or scare him. I want to cinch him up tight enough to keep my saddle in place if he has to buck. Also, using a breast collar will allow you to not have to cinch up so tight. You can leave him unattended – he could roll if he wants to and not get the saddle turned under his belly.

After I’m cinched up, I’ll take off my halter and let him walk off as soft as he will. Some horses are going to try to outrun the saddle or try to buck it off. I’ll just let them move around until they can speed up and slow down or until they take on a more natural appearance, as if they weren’t wearing a saddle. Once he feels comfortable changing speeds and directions, he is ready for the next step.


Working from the ground, I’ll begin introducing principles the horse will need to know when I’m in the saddle.

The pictures illustrate several ways I can get the horse to soften his neck and yield away from the lead rope.

I’ll sometimes begin by running the rope around his hindquarters, put some pressure on the lead rope and allow him to relieve that pressure by turning his head away from me. I’ll get him good at this on both sides before progressing to something else.

I increase the degree of challenge by running the lead rope behind the cantle of my saddle.

Finally, by running the lead behind the horn, I can present a feel that is similar to what he will experience with me in the saddle.

Stay tuned next week for the last part of this series.

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