Stepping off of “Old Faithful”

Posted in: Horse Care, Horse Training

Do you remember as a kid how frightening it was transitioning from your trusty old pony to a BIG horse? Not only were you several hands taller sitting on your horse, but the horse didn’t act like your pony, didn’t look like your pony and dangit – just wasn’t the same as your pony! You eventually got over the initial fear of riding a different horse and forgot about what was hindering you to make the switch in the first place.

We as adults can often face similar situations. We all have our “go-to” horse; that one good son of a gun that is as honest as the day is long, or the one that you know will be the same every time you saddle him up.

Looking back through the years of all the different horses I have rode I certainly have my favorites. Maybe for you it’s one that you have been riding a long time and Old Faithful is getting a little long in the tooth and maybe a little lame in his old age. You do what you can to keep him going, through supplements or vet work, but let’s face it friends, they aren’t going to last forever. And I’m here to tell you, it’s time to get on something else!

“Why is stepping off of Old Faithful so challenging?!” you may ask, or “I spent all this money on this new horse to be a replacement for my old one and I can’t win anything, what’s wrong with me?!”  Here’s the long and the short of it: Because when you have rode one horse for so long, getting on a new one will NEVER feel the same. That’s when you as the jockey may have to adapt your riding style to fit your new horse. Perhaps your timing is off with your new partner or perhaps you and that horse haven’t developed the same bond that you had with your old horse. Be patient my friends, it takes TIME! Don’t get frustrated just because you jumped on your new horse for the first time at a rodeo and didn’t win a check. I’m here to tell you, there are very few – I repeat – VERY FEW people that are gifted with the ability to just jump on a horse and jockey it to win. Timing is everything in speed events and unfortunately, timing can be one of the hardest obstacles to master when you’re trying to click with a new horse. Often times it takes you donating an excessive amount of entry fee’s before you see any ROI!

There are a few steps you can follow to hopefully make your transition smoother. First of all, don’t go out and buy Old Sorrely’s full brother just because they have identical bloodlines. Remember, no two horses are the same, even if they are biologically full siblings. About all you can bet on in that situation is that they will most likely look similar. Their attitudes and demeanor can be total opposite, not always, but in some cases. I am not saying that full siblings don’t have a higher percentage of performing the same, I am saying don’t buy based solely on bloodlines, buy based on what horse best suites you. Define what your favorite traits were about your good horse and then start your search there. If you are not looking to buy a replacement, but instead have a young horse coming up, take a leap of faith by leaving Old Faithful home for the night when you go to the local jackpot. It’s much easier to force yourself to ride the young one when your good one isn’t in the trailer. When you first step on a new horse, whether it is roping or barrel racing, you can’t expect magic to happen and to start winning instantly. Be patient and don’t get frustrated. Be consistent with your new mount and ride him consistently. Horses learn by repetition – they do not learn by a frustrated rider caving a rib in on them with their spurs. Look at the long term picture if you are starting a prospect that you plan on keeping or eventually selling down the road – you want that horse to last and enjoy his job. When training my barrel horses, I want them to work out of desire to perform. I do not want them to work out of fear.

Good luck and remember, stepping off of Old Faithful and performing well on various horses will only make you a better hand and make you appreciate the good ones that you’ve rode! 🙂

*Photos courtesy of Bailee Murnion*

Posted in: Horse Care, Horse Training

About Bailee Murnion

I was raised on the back of a horse on my families ranch in rural northwestern South Dakota. I grew up roping, tying goats and traning barrel horses, which I still enjoy doing today. I have a deep appreciation for a good horse, a cup...

View all posts by Bailee Murnion