We are here again this evening with Idaho author Brian Spaulding.
Thank you Mister Spaulding for being with us. Would you tell us about your journey with horses, you seam to have a lot of passion for them.
I have been in love with horses since I can first remember.
How old were you when you first started riding?
Seven, I was kinda old but that was when we bought our first horse.
You’re kidding about being ‘kinda old ‘aren’t you, I mean after all, 7 is rather young to be riding don’t you think.
Not at all. All of our children, my wife’s and mine were in the saddle before they could walk. They are all great riders and 4 out of 6 of our kids have rode professionally for well known trainers that are successes in the Reined Cow Horse World.
I remember waiting all day for Blaze to show up, he was 7 as well and we were great pals for the next 7 years.
What happened after 7 years?
I bought my first horse and basically out grew Blaze. He was a great horse and a good teacher. Buckskin in color and big. Dad would take him Elk hunting each fall and the only thing he required of me was that his horse was in good shape come Elk hunting. Outside of that I had a fairly free hand as long as I didn’t get hurt.
Did you get hurt?
Yes, you can’t be around horses and as wild as I was and not get banged up a bit. If I had been some Buckaroo kid on a ranch my dad would have tanned my hide for some of my shenanigans, but no one paid much attention to me and like I said as long as I didn’t get hurt too bad and or injure dad’s Elk hunting horse I was free to do what I wanted.
I was a shy kid and school terrified me until I was a sophomore in High School so Blaze was good company for me.
Wanted happened then?
I wrestled and had some talent with it so I gained a huge amount of self confidence and although I still didn’t like school or people I was okay with it. Red Halverson was my coach and a great guy and saw something in me that others didn’t. I was never a State Champion wrestler but it was good for me. Also I had a couple of girlfriends about that time and realized that I wasn’t as big a dork as I thought.
The solitude of the desert and a horse underneath me was where I was at peace though. Still am pretty much at peace when I’m on a horse and alone away from civilization.
I do remember one day when my dad caught me making my second pass around our farm at a gallop on Blaze. He stopped me and let me know that if I didn’t air my horse up he was going to chase me around the farm with a stick and every time I slowed to a walk he was going to swat my ass. I believed him.
What do you mean by ‘airing up a horse’?
If you run one until he is winded you need to air him up or let him catch his breath and recover before you continue to train. Most horses think they can run even if they weren’t bred to. It’s their nature as ‘flight’ is their first instinct.
Some trainers refer to it as interval training. Horses don’t think the way we do so if you understand what makes them tick then you can use that in your training.
Kind of like the natural instincts of dog’s and other animals. Use what they do naturally to set up your training.
You said horses don’t think as we do, how do they think?
I’m not a horse so I have no idea how they think.
You don’t like to add human qualities to horses then?
No, not at a all. I will use human terms to explain something about horses but as far as them thinking as we do, no I don’t believe they do.
No show of affection or bonding to a human or another horse then?
I didn’t say that. They just don’t do those things the way we do.
Okay I’m a bit confused, can you give us an example.
Yes, if a child does something wrong and you are a young house wife and you tell that child, ‘you just wait until your father comes home’, that child may have some concern as to what will happen when their father comes home. If a horse does something wrong and you choose to discipline him or her you have to do it right then. If you lose the moment it doesn’t make sense to them; they do not connect what they did wrong unless you correct or discipline immediately.
How you correct them if you choose to and how severely is up to you and the disposition of the horse. They are each individuals and even full siblings can react differently to correcting or discipline.
Reward is as effective as discipline with most horses. Sometimes the reward can be no more than stopping whatever it was you were doing to ask them for the correct response in the beginning. I prefer sensitive and ‘feely’ horses; even if they are a bit hot.
I don’t want to make this a horse training blog as the subject of horse training is too vast.
Okay then, why don’t you walk us through your journey with horses.
How much detail do you want?
That’s up to you; why don’t you start or continue and and I’ll ask an occasional question.
Fair enough. After I bought my first horse I started to ride a few outside horses. I don’t remember charging much to ride them I was just eager to gain experience. Dad bought some pretty nice horses from his brother Brent and I learned a lot from those horses. I also learned a lot from 3 different uncles. One was a Spaulding, the other a Walker and the 3rd was a Jacobsen. All good horseman in their own right but different as each individual is different. There are some common basics with all good horseman but the hand that touches the reins is that individuals hand. I also learned early in life with horses that how the hand touching the reins or the horse, uses their equipment is more important than the equipment itself.
After a year of college I served a 3 year commitment with the Marine Corps and then came home, got married, returned to college to finish my degree and rode colts whenever possible.
I would never say that I had a colt or two all the time but there wasn’t often that I didn’t have a colt around. Although I could start colts I was still learning and was leery of others as far as a mentor. The horse held the answer for me more than any one person. For the most part instead of running my mouth I would watch and listen and if something that an individual was doing worked for me great, and if it didn’t that was fine as well.
I wanted ‘feely’ sensitive horses and was learning how to make all of my horses that way. Speed, cow, athletic ability and conformation were all qualities of great importance to me and breeding for, or buying that in horses has always been a challenge.
Which of those four qualities is the most important?
They are all important, no one more than another. The best looking horse in the world, with athletic ability and conformation oozing from every cell of his body is no good to you without a good mind.
What do you mean by a good mind?
One that will submit his or her will to yours. There are horseman that can break and train just about anything but occasionally you come across a horse that is not a good investment. There are people that believe all horses can be rode but in reality some shouldn’t. I’m content to let folks believe what they want.
After college I went to work for Loosli Land and Cattle in Ashton Idaho. It was a registered Hereford outfit. Along with having an annual production sale each winter we would spend 60 days each spring Artificially Inseminating cows. That required being in the saddle 3 or 4 hours twice a day every day morning and night. The cows were the most active bulling during those hours and we would separate them and run them into a chute to AI. Being well mounted was a must.
Lynn Loosli the owner only had one decent horse at the time and I needed more horse flesh so I rode a few colts each spring during the breeding season. Lynn didn’t like it though as he thought I wouldn’t be as handy as on his horse but he was never horseman or cattlemen enough to see that I was better mounted on my colts than some soured ranch horse. We eventually got cross ways with each other over it and I moved on. I wasn’t in the full time colt starting business but it was part of what I did.
It was about that time that I picked up my saddle from Dale and he told me about a colt starting clinician by the name of Ray Hunt. I never made it to any of Ray’s clinics but he was awesome at what he did.
Dale Harwood. I wanted a custom made saddle as I was going to make a living from a horse and a custom saddle made sense. Dale didn’t make my saddle but it was built in his shop under his watchful eye. This was when he owned a retail store and before he became famous as a saddle maker.
I picked it up the fall of 1977 and am still using it. Its in great shape and as comfortable as anything you will ever sit in.
From Ashton we went to Mount Pleasant Utah and worked there for a short time for a family that we had known in college. That is where I picked up the title of ‘Idaho Kid’. I rode a lot of colts there for a veterinary named Doc Nichols and some of his friends. That’s actually told in detail in another blog.
From there we wandered up to Melrose Montana and were there for about 4 years. We stopped at my folks’ place out of Rupert Idaho on our way to Montana and worked the spring and also rode colts for a few folks.
The 4 years we were in Montana I was never without a colt to start and ride, how many I don’t know, I wasn’t keeping track. I had no idea I would be writing about it someday.
When we left Montana I headed out to Battle Mountain Nevada for a job interview with the TS Ranch. I turned the job down but it would have been a great job. Lots of colts to ride and cows to chase. The ranch manager was a neat guy by the name of Dale Robertson, same name as the actor, I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed the job and working for him as well. I turned the job down due to the housing situation but we were thinking about leaving the ranching industry and going into flying for a living with the hopes that someday we would be able to run a small bunch of cows on our own.
That was huge turn in my life and maybe this is a good place to stop and we can do more horses later on.
That sounds very good mister Spaulding and we look forward to ‘more horses’ at a later date. I do have a couple of questions for you though before singing off, do any horses stick in your mind from those years and you said you were wild, can you give us an example.
Certainly; a couple of horses I had as a teenager were from Jack Zundall’s ‘Rowdy Beaver’ horse. He was an AQHA stud and sired some great colt’s. I had 2 half brother’s from a mare that my uncle Brent owned and they were both good horses but polar opposites in disposition. There are seriously too many horses to list but being ‘well mounted’ has always been important to me.
As a farm kid in a big family and owning 4 horses and one saddle I didn’t get to use a saddle much as a youngster, riding bareback and learning to ride like a Comanche was a huge part of growing up. I learned to drop from the back of a running horse and scoop something off of the ground, being small I was usually hanging from a string tied to the horses mane. I also learned to jump from one running horse to another, bareback.
It use to freak my wife out when I would do it; I was 35 the last time I did. We were at a family reunion at Thompson Flats near Pomerelle ski area and I was getting ready to load horses. I was on my old Smokey Appy and leading Champs. Champs would run shoulder to shoulder with Smokey so all I had to do was be there, over his back, when I landed. He wouldn’t shy off and was solid. Actually they were both solid. As I swung up on Smokey my ‘crazy side’ over came common sense and I made a loop around the meadow. I was clipping along at a good pace but when I landed in the middle of Champs, the show off in him surfaced and we hit high gear. I actually had quite an audience but I’m not sure how many remember it; although my son was talking about it just the other day.
That’s quite a story, I’m not really sure how credible it is.
Like I said before, I’m content to let people believe what they want.