Here at Unique Horsemanship, Sabrina believes allowing a horse to take different routes to the same finish line of success and safety is perfectly acceptable. Like people, all horses benefit with one-on-one learning experiences tailored to their individual needs. However this doesn't mean there aren't standards that need to be met and knowledge they are required to acquire.
This is where the Unique Horsemanship Training Levels come in handy. They are the root of the training method, that your horse will go through while in training, to make a dependable riding mount, free of any of those "holes" in their training that get people hurt, or just cause struggles in the every day ride. Specified Levels also give you the unique opportunity to receive updates that keep you up to speed on where exactly your horse is in the program.
If you're sending your 2 year old for the Colt Starting package, he or she will begin with level 1, and work their way up at a rate dependent on their learning capabilities. Most 60 day colt starts reach level 4 by the end of the 60 days, while already broke horses that are required to go through the motions to check for holes in their training typically make it through the first 4 levels in 2 weeks. But what are these "training levels"??? We will explain below!
Level One: Ground Work
Starting with the basics regardless of age and experience, level one consists of a wide range of ground work exercises, working towards a horse that's both easy and safe to handle on the ground, along with being respectful and responsive.
In this level, they will learn how to yield their hind quarters and forequarters, back up smoothly, lunge, do C Patterns, swift direction changes, and have early stages of desensitizing with ground work training tools such as a 16 foot lead rope and a carrot stick.
The majority of horses take 1 week to get through this stage, even ones with moderate to severe attitude issues. However some horses take longer. In this case, extra time is gladly put into them to help them catch up or at least get as close as possible.
Level Two: Desensitizing
Fear is a huge hang up in both every day riding and training... Not to mention, it's a safety hazard. Which is why desensitizing begins so early in their training. Unfortunately desensitizing is commonly a mostly or even completely missed stage in a lot of training programs which limits the horse in many ways.
Along with respect work, your horse will touch on this through their entire stay at Unique Horsemanship, but will focus primarily on the desensitizing in the early stage, Level Two.
If it's scary, we got it! Your horse will be exposed to tarps, plastic bags, spray bottles, leaf blowers, clippers, dragging objects, beach balls, pool noodles, etc. This stage takes anywhere from 3 days to 7 before they have a good understanding of how to use the thinking side of their brain, rather than the reactive side. Horses who struggle in this stage will recap on certain objects they struggled with, throughout their stay.
Level Three: Pre-Ride Essentials
The key to a thorough handle on a broke horse is not skipping steps, and locating and eliminating any holes in their training. The same for colts - if they're started right, you set them up for a lifetime of success. In level 3, these horses will learn to ground drive, for their start at learning how to steer and stop, or just improve it. They will also be saddled, work on cinchiness, tight back cinches, breast collars, etc.
And lastly, the safety tests. Each horse, young or old, broke or not, will first ride with leg simulators to relieve stress of leg pressure, followed by a dummy rider, and our famous "Drag Test" where the dummy rider will be put in a position on the horse's saddle to fall off and simulate a rider getting stuck in the stirrup - where they will learn to stop when the rider comes off and wait for assistance rather than bolting in fear. Colts will then learn to be ponied to see an actual rider above them before they move on to level 4.
Level Four: Fundamentals
Level Four focuses on the very important foundation needed for higher level performance and safe riding horses. Here the horse will learn how to flex vertically and laterally from the saddle with light pressure. They will learn the 1 rein stop also known as the emergency break. They'll learn how to stop with responsiveness and back up with light rein pressure, go where they're told, and begin working on their "cruise control" holding their gates. Horses who advance quickly will learn these things from all gaits, and begin working on better circles and faster stops.
Level Five: Fine Tuning
In this level, your horse will work on perfecting upper level riding skills such as holding their gaits, sliding stops, pivot and side pass, flying lead changes, perfect circles, fast back ups, and riding collected. In most cases, horses will start taking their knowledge out on pasture rides and ranch work towards the end of level 5.
Level Six: Experienced Traveler
Once Fine Tuning is complete, Unique Horsemanship will gladly test your horse to the next level by hauling horses to events and trying them out in other stressful environments. They will also go ride the trails, go through water and brush and push cows for added exposure.
Level Seven: Competitor Training
So your horse has gone through the levels but you're not right ready to take back the reins... Not a problem! It's always nice to truly finish out a horse by actually physically competing on them! In level 7 your horse will be hauled to events and compete in the show, speed event, etc. with Sabrina her self. This is a great opportunity to get some live action training at a show for your horse and has nothing but positive reviews! Just pay the entry fees and diesel and watch your horse compete with the trainer herself!