I love starting colts. They tend to be open minded like small children who are eager to learn and they don’t have preconceived ideas about what is wanted from them. To make things even more exciting the progress is easy to measure; one day they have never been saddled, the next day they have…never been ridden, now they have been.
Finishing a horse is a much slower process. The changes are so small that they are hard to measure. Training a horse to respond consistently to a subtle shift or slight hand movement is often such a refined process that watching the training happen is like watching paint dry. Gone are the large leaps in training replaced by nearly undetectable changes. Sometimes to the uneducated eye it even appears that nothing is changing, but it is. Just ask the marketplace, the value of a well trained horse is often five to twenty five times the value of an untrained or poorly trained one.
This is why it is so valuable to have a well trained lesson horse around. The fastest way to improve a rider is to have them ride a horse that is responsive and well trained. This not only gives the rider confidence but allows them to ‘feel’ the end result of good training. Having this experience greatly increases the likelihood that in the future this rider will pass this ‘feel’ on to another horse.
Contrast this with the idea of a rider who has never ridden a well trained horse. Do you think they will improve each horse they ride? Are they as likely to reward the good quickly if they have never clearly felt the difference? At the least we can all admit that the process would be much faster if this rider had the opportunity to, at some point, ride a well trained horse.
The more I improve as a rider the better I am at starting colts. Knowing the process through to the end gives me the ability to look back to the beginning and see what I could have improved. My subtle releases that I have practiced on the aged horse pay off even more on the young horse…but they are much harder to recognize on a colt.