One of the most common questions I get asked is how long do I give a horse before I decide to move on to another one. Is it 6 months? Is it a year? And when will I know that I have gotten all that I can out of one with my own personal riding skill and it might be time for them to go live somewhere else. Though this is definitely a million dollar question with no clear cut perfect answer, perhaps I can shed some light on the subject to at least help you make a decision. The timelines displayed here are a minimum of what I expect from a horse and usually most quality animals will be farther along then this.
I have 4 timelines for horses that come into my program. They are 2 weeks, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year. But first allow me to start with a couple disclaimers. First, these timelines are for horses that are already well broke and very close to being started roping or horses that have been started on cows but possibly blown up. If your horse has only had 90 days of riding I would recommend giving them more time then is allotted here. The second disclaimer is that I am a horse trainer and I make my living through 3 ways, all of which involve a timeline. The ways are, horses that improve in value for resale, horses that I’m being paid to ride by customers and horses that allow me to practice or compete at a high level. Therefore, all horses in my program have to be providing value in some way or I will need to start looking in a different direction. I bring this up because certain people who are retired or do not train for a living might not have the economic restrains that I have, are going to be able to take longer then I might be able to but at the end of the, horses still need to get somewhere cool eventually.
With disclaimers out of the way let start with the first timeline of 2 weeks. 2 weeks after I get a horse in, I expect them to start to see the light. At this point I just want to see them give to me in some way. I know they won’t be very far along but I just need to see that they have started to release to me in some way. If they are just getting started, I just want to see that they will let me swing a rope and follow the donkey just a little bit. If they are blown up in the box I just want to see that I can walk them in there quietly and let then stand with no steer or banging the gates. I just need some kind of softening at this point or I’m going to start looking in a different direction.
The second timeline that I have is at 3 months. At three months a horse should be getting the program pretty good. If it is a green horse, I should be able to rope slow to medium steers and do it pretty consistently at low pressure. At this stage I am still helping them a little bit but they should be going really well to cattle at a minimum. If they are blown up, I want to see some serious improvement. I should be able to walk them around in the box with steers in there. If they are strong in the corner, should be able to rope some slow to medium steers while maintaining control. This is my biggest timeline, if I haven’t seen substantial improvement by this time, I will definitely start to move on to other horses, because at the end of the day there really are a lot of good ones out there and the time spent on one that is not meeting these timelines is taking the place of one that potentially could.
The third timeline is six months. At six months I want to be a long ways into a horses career. I’m not expecting them to be a world beater at this point but they need to be going really well. It is here where I may start to evaluate how good they are going to be and how much time it is worth spending on them. If they are a little fractious at this point but I think they could be really high level, I will slow down and give them more time because of their top end value either for roping or sale. If the horse is just going to be a nice middle of the road horse, at this point they should be getting really confident at their job. I expect a blown up horse’s issues to be almost completely fixed and a greener horse to be roping most all steers with some quality and consistency.
My forth and final timeline is one year. At one year I think a horse should be doing just about everything you want them to do. I’m not saying they have to be a starter just yet, as in the horse you are riding at the rodeos or at really big ropings, but they should be a finished horse and ready to go as a backup horse to most ropings. This is where I still feel the fractious horse should be as well or atleast decently close to it, because I have personally gotten in trouble holding on to those horses too long and after 2 or 3 years they are still not where they needed to be. I think these timelines are pretty generous for most horses and as I said I think most horses are going to meet these timelines with ease, but ultimately if they are not even close to these timelines, that might be your answer right there. Hope this was helpful, as always have fun and God Bless.