Taking Time for Miles: Part 1
Horseman and trainer Jeff Avaritte puts using-horse miles on young horses, even when they’re headed for the show ring.
By Jeff Avaritte with Christine Hamilton in The American Quarter Horse Journal | May 29, 2010
If you’ve ever seen Ask Me For Details (AKA “Houston”) compete, you know he looks like a pretty cool character. The big gray has earned multiple world championships in English events and twice won the AQHA World Championship Show all-around amateur title with owner Karen Evans Mundy of Cedar Hill, Tennessee.
Karen bought the appendix gelding as a long weanling, and she says he wasn’t always that composed.
“He was scared to death,” she says. “If someone had pushed that horse (when he was started), I don’t think he’d be the horse he is today.”
And that’s why she sent Houston to Jeff Avaritte for his start.
Formerly of Tennessee, Jeff now lives in Austin, Colorado. An accomplished roper, he’s also known by horse people from California to “back East” as a kind of “best-kept secret” for starting youngsters, regardless of their eventual show discipline.
According to Karen, when Jeff starts young stock, he includes two crucial things: time and miles.
“My horses tend to have a lot of Thoroughbred in them,” she says. “They’re really different as to how you have to treat them. You can’t force them into something; they have to trust you.
“For each individual, Jeff takes whatever time it takes. If one takes longer, it just takes longer.
“He doesn’t just ride them in an arena,” Karen says. “He rides them out in the hills and valleys and woods. They go over streams and see wild animals. Because he ropes, he has cattle, and they see that, too.
“They get to see so many different things with him that they learn nothing is a big deal. That’s important,” Karen says.
Although Jeff will tell you he doesn’t do anything different from the good horsemen he’s learned from in his 40 years of horsemanship, we thought you’d like a snapshot of his program.
Treat Them All the Same Way
I sack out all these colts. I rub them and play rope with them – anything to desensitize these horses and get them used to everything.
I pick up all of a horse’s feet with a rope around his pasterns and try to get him to give and follow. Just put a little pressure on with the rope and pull his leg out in front, and then, when he steps and gives to you, release. I just play with him.
Once a horse is giving to me with his feet and is comfortable with that, then I hobble him.
I also tie all these horses in the arena where we ride and rope so they see and get used to a lot of action. One of the men who taught me said, “If you can’t ride for some reason, at least go out there and tie those horses up.” There isn’t anything like it (for teaching patience).
Then, when you get to a horse show, he doesn’t paw and tear up your trailer. He has been tied at home, and it’s not something new to him.
Stay tuned for the last part of this series.
Follow clinician Curt Pate at AQHA Regional Experience clinics around the country, where he demonstrates his low-stress approach to horse training. Order your copy of the "Cross Country with Curt Pate" DVD today. AQHA members get a special discount!