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What’s So Important About the Start of a Horse? Everything!

I have been loving and studying horses all my life. My first pony was given to me on my 6th birthday. The more I learn about horses the more I want to learn. One might think that after all this time, I am either slow in the mind or just really bad at what I do. The reality is that true horsemanship is a life long journey and I will not stop learning until the day I decide to get out of horses or, more likely, when I am put 6 feet under.
I am at a point in my horsemanship where I am searching for clarity and quality in everything I do. So when I am working with a horse I focus to understand what I am fully doing; that I work to build the quality of every movement and that I have the clarity of progressing forward in hopes to build confidence, respect and understanding in the horse to help maximize the horse’s potential. All of this in a way that they understand and we both enjoy.


I believe I am on the right path to finding these important answers. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of horses and with several professionals. I am thankful for each of them and what they have taught me. I am currently blessed to be studying with Glenn Stewart who I easily give the title as one of the best natural horsemanship trainers in the world. During the past 24 months, Glenn has been my horsemanship mentor and I have learned so much about true horsemanship and myself.

Over the past summer I had two amazing opportunities of working with some horses here at The Horse Ranch. The first was Lucy, a 13 year old who has lived her life as a brood mare. Last summer, Lucy was started by Renee, one of Glenn’s apprentices that has been working with him for three years. Lucy had one month training with Renee and was then turned back out for a year. My first day with Lucy, I followed Glenn’s program and I was amazed of the quality of everything Lucy was offering. I was amazed at what she retained and the quality of everything she was giving me. She was soft and confident. Lucy understood what I was asking and offered it willingly. I really expected things to be completely different from a horse with only one month training in her entire life and that training was a year ago. I was literally blown away about the session. As I moved through the training session, I decided to put my bareback pad on her to see how she would respond to carrying the pad on her back and the constricted feeling around her belly. She was fine, like she just did it yesterday. She was so fine I decided to get on and take her for a ride. I put her through some yields and it was effortless. She gave me nice figure 8’s at the walk and trot with nice easy transitions and I thought how could I possibly ask for more and decided to end the session.




My second opportunity was with Mystic, a 4 year-old filly that was started two summers ago by Glenn. We are not sure if she had two weeks or a full month of training. Either way, my session with her was again unbelievable to me. We started off as we always do by building the confidence with the horse. I easily went through rubbing her with the stick and string, tossing the stick and string around checking out carefully all 5 zones and then up into extreme use of stick and string. I bored her so much she thought that eating the string was way more exciting than actually being bothered by it or me. Onto the flag and, with equal success, I worked through the flag and then the same with the tarp. As we continued working through the program, I just thought to myself this is truly amazing. If we put the right stuff in we actually can get the right stuff out and that the time distance between sessions doesn’t really matter. It is the quality of each session that matters. As Glenn says: “When you are with a horse, you are either training or un-training him. You pick!”

I continued on asking her for all my yields and she nailed each one with the proper weight on the proper foot. I ended my session with Mystic by putting the bareback pad on her and quickly going through my preflight checklist. She passed with flying colors. Lola, one of our 3 month summer students, watched the entire session with the same amazement I was experiencing. We all work so hard to achieve the proper yield and build the confidence and understanding in our horses and this horse seemed to just offer it to me like a special gift. So how can a horse give you that quality with that limited amount of timing in her training from two years ago? The answer is simple, it is all in the quality of the start.

Having this incredible opportunity I have learned another horsemanship lesson, one that I am working on every day with every horse that I touch but a lesson that now has a bigger meaning to me. The quality of what you put in is, for sure, the quality of what you get in return. What’s So Important About the Start of a Horse? The answer really is EVERYTHING!

Donna Blem




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