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Making of a ‘Keeper’ takes time Trainer Tips

by sheryl lynde | horsetrader columnist I

n preparation for my upcoming demon- strations at the Norco Horse Affair Oct. 6-8, I sent out a request for a fear-

ful horse to use. Immediately, I received responses and videos. I selected the first one I received, but another horse that came in later reminded me of an 18-month-old colt that once was sent to me to start. Starlight Sam I Am was his name, and he

had a common link to the horse recently off ered to me for my demo—they had a level of fear that would not be fi xed in an hour’s time. Sam’s fear was unpredictable and explo-

sive. He was a danger to himself and anyone handling him. He lacked self-preservation, meaning if he put himself through a fence during one of his episodes—so be it. This wasn’t due to anything the owner had caused. Sam arrived with his baggage. An at empt to touch his hind legs would elicit a rapid-fi re kick. One day he would accept the saddle, but the very next day while repeating the identical steps, he would fl ip over back- ward multiple times. As soon as he got to his feet, he would launch into a 20-minute bucking spree with me on the other end of the lead rope, trying to keep him contained in the round pen. I really wasn’t sure whether I could—or

even wanted to—fi x this. His eyes mirrored fear and chaos. But since the only other option at this point would have been to be put down, I decided I would give him my best eff ort. I saw some progress aſt er a couple of

months of ground work, but he was still unpredictable. We made the decision to lay

Sheryl Lynde gives her view on problem-solving and more

Horsetrader columnist Sheryl Lynde is a John Lyons Certified Trainer who specializes in foundation training, colt- starting and problem-solving. She is based in Temecula.

him down. People seem to think that laying down a horse is about submission, but I disagree. A horse’s thought process is black or white. They don’t fear the possibility of injury; they fear they are going to die. By laying a horse down properly, they are

able to realize their worst fear—which is death—and live through it. Once Sam was down, I laid across his rib cage and rubbed everywhere that had previously been off lim- its which were his girth, fl ank, and hind legs. I continued until he was relaxed and had a soſt eye. Once he was calm I stood and leſt

geldings. They would teach him what he needed to know about being a horse. Aſt er about four months, they accepted him into the herd and he was running freely among them. He had a new confi dence about him. It was time to start his training again. I put about four months of ground work

on Sam, consisting of saddling, dragging tarps, trailering off site, ponying and pack- ing. His episodes still occurred, but with less frequency. It was then time to ride outside the round pen. We have an area contiguous to our

It took a few years for ‘Sam’ (left, at 18 months) to turn into the ‘Keeper’ he is today.

the round pen. Sam stayed down for about 30 minutes. When he came to his feet he let out the widest yawn that came from deep inside, fi nally releasing stress. I haltered him and turned him out in the arena where he continued to lay down on his own. Finally, I see real progress. At this point we turned him out with our

A horse’s thought process is black or white. They don’t fear the possibility of injury; they fear they are going to die.

training facility that is great for colts with hills, uneven ground and lots of brush to navigate around. I was able to lope him safely on more level areas where the footing was soſt er deeper sand. What really built his confi dence was having him track cows both at our place and off site. Aſt er eight months of riding, I turned

him over to Rick Hoff man who continued his training on cows and put a great handle on him. Both Rick and I took some hits off of Sam, but we got back in the saddle and stuck it out. Sam just competed in his fi rst Versatility Ranch Horse event and he came home with ribbons. He is trusting now, which enables him to think instead of react. Good training takes time—years, in fact. Sam belongs to Rick now, and his name is “Keeper”—and that he is.


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