Where to start? A couple of my good friends have asked me some of the following questions:
Do you plan to train Rain yourself?
Will you start him yourself?
Do you want to jump him?
What do you hope to do with him?
What are your ultimate goals for him?
Is he a project or do you plan on keeping him?
When will you start riding him?
These are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. I realized that I should sit down and write it out - In hopes that in 5 years I can look back and giggle or say "Wow, well at least that part went according to plan."
Rain is currently 21 months old - He is technically 2 on January 1st according to the Jockey Club, but he will actually be turning 2 on April 6th. I do not plan to get on him until he is at least 3 years old, and we won't be doing any true work until he is at least 4 years old. So, what will we be doing in the meantime?
I feel that preparing him to have a successful life as a horse starts now. I do plan on keeping him for the entirety of his life, but if something were to happen to me, I want to make sure that he has all of the knowledge and handling he needs to never end up in the wrong hands. Or at least to minimize that risk as much as possible.
Rain was minimally handled before I adopted him. Like - Has been haltered and had his feet trimmed and that's about it. I think one of the greatest things I want to nurture is his confidence. It is already there - He is a very confident youngster, but I want that to continue to flourish so that when we do start riding, I have a brave partner. To do that? I plan to take him on a lot of walks together. That sounds silly, but I really think it will greatly benefit both of us. I think taking him on long walks will be great for him physically and mentally, and also allow for our relationship to grow. I think encouraging positive interactions with his surroundings will also help to boost his confidence.
I also need to teach him how to tie (we have started the process), pick up his hooves nicely for hoof picking and for the farrier (he isn't the best about it), and eventually I will teach him how to lunge and work in the round pen.
Fast-forwarding to his 3-4 year old years - Prior to riding him, I want to make sure that he is ready to be backed. I want him to be comfortable with his tack, comfortable working in the round pen, yielding to pressure, and in tune with my voice commands. I also want to make sure he is physically ready to carry a rider.
So, next set of questions: Will I be starting him, "breaking" him, myself?
Tentatively, yes. To be perfectly honest, no, I have never been the first person to sit on a young horse's back. But I want that to change. Why not get the experience with my very own horse? I have had so many experiences in the realm of horse training - Teaching young horses to lunge, tie, load in trailers, bridle, etc. - I finally want to do the whole process with one horse, and I am lucky I am getting that opportunity with Rain. Now I just hope I can do right by him. I feel that if I want to become a successful and skilled horse trainer, this is something that I should have experience with. Not saying that I need to become a colt starter by any means, but I just think it will be invaluable to my list of experiences.
I plan on contracting outside help for Rain as needed, as I am very aware that there may be times where I do not have the 'answer' and need some help. I hope to have the help of some educated horsemen & women along the way so I can make sure Rain gets the best possible jump start on his life as a riding horse. I would absolutely love if I could work with Dave Hillman when Rain is 3 or 4 years old.
Once Rain is started, I am confident that I can bring him along the rest of the way, and will most definitely be taking regular lessons with a trainer that I trust (hopefully the same one that I take lessons with on Archer - She is fabulous and experienced with young horses!). I hope that he will eventually be a lovely lower level dressage horse for me (I would love to do second level - maaaaybe third), and that we can show in the hunters. But that won't be for years - When Rain is much older and completely done growing.
But to be perfectly honest, if Rain told me he wanted to be a trail horse, I would probably be okay with that too.