Over the weekend I watched a DVD produced by Colorado horse trainer Jason Patrick. Although our philosophies and training techniques differ, I really enjoyed watching the DVD. He has a relaxed and easy going style, which seems to carry over to how he works with his horses. Jason Patrick is an innovator–willing to try new things, experiment, tinker around. I like horse trainers like this, people who are flexible and creative with their training.
Also, he seemed to be having a lot of fun. On many DVDs I watch, the trainers seem so serious! When we relax and enjoy ourselves, our horses pick up on the differences in our body language.
The DVD shows a session illustrating his colt starting technique, which he calls a free horse clinic. During the session, Jason Patrick and two of his training buddies worked with six horses inside a large arena. Three were riding horses and the other three were young colts who each had only a handful of rides on them. The film started with each of the three men working a colt from the back of one of the older horses, first at liberty and later online. Later on, each trainer rode his colt while the older horses stood ground tied around the arena.
At the beginning of the free horse clinic, the three colts are loose in the arena and have formed their own little herd. Each trainer picks off one of the colts and works him at liberty, getting the colt to move around and keeping him away from the other horses. This type of work is also good practice for the riding horses. By careful timing of pressure and release, Jason Patrick works his colt until it is (mostly) following him at liberty around the arena.
Later, with a rope around the colt’s neck, Jason Patrick rides his horse while working with the colt on many of the exercises we often teach on the ground. This includes backing, yields, ground tying, disengaging, and leading at the trot. He also makes sure the colt is comfortable with the rope all over his body and down around his legs.
Jason Patrick does the first handful of rides on a horse with a rope halter and one rein. I really liked the emphasis he puts on teaching the horse from the beginning to move off of seat and leg cues, rather than becoming overly dependent on rein aids. Another element I liked is that he had a handful of simple obstacles (a tarp, a pole, flags, noisemakers) that he introduces to his colts from the very beginning. By not making a big deal out of strange obstacles and distractions, the horse learns early on to be more confident and relaxed.
At the end, Jason Patrick introduces a bronc rider named Ed (a stuffed pair of pants and boots) who helps teach his horses to always immediately stop when a rider comes off. Overall, I enjoyed watching the Free Horse Clinic DVD and was able to pick up some horse training ideas to incorporate into my training. However, this DVD wouldn’t be one I would watch multiple times, so I’d recommend renting it or borrowing it from a friend, rather than buying it.