If you’re new to the Wild Card concept, check out the Road to the Horse website. Basically, Wild Cards are up-and-coming natural horsemanship trainers who have the chance to compete against the world’s best trainers in a three-day colt-starting event.
It’s big, believe me.
James drove all the way to Texas to pick up Gus at the 6666 Ranch three weeks ago. He and a friend made the 2700-mile round trip in 72 hours, passing through seven states along the way.
The journey was well worthwhile.
Gus has turned out to be a quick study: confident, smart, quick to learn, steady. He enjoys walking over tarps as well as nibbling them; when the blue plastic wraps around his legs, he steps out of the tangle with elegant nonchalance.
Flags, plastic bags, ropes—nothing particularly rattles Gus. He did, however, take exception to a saddle on his back for the first time, as seen in this video of his first week of training. Since a saddle approximates the feeling of a mountain lion dropping on a horse’s back, it’s not surprising when a little bucking happens.
First, the clinic participants admired Gus up close.
Kate Cooler set up her camera to film the session for the Cooler Horsemanship video library.
Dillon, son of Shangrila owners Gary and Julie Holmes, set up his camera as well.
James started with the basics: lateral flexing, disengaging hindquarters, moving shoulders, backing up. On to some tarp work, then time to saddle up.
We got a little show of bucking, but smart Gus decided not to pursue that path for long.
His humped-up posture shifted to a relaxed stride.
Next James prepped Gus for riding, flapping the stirrups, putting his weight on one side and then the other.
And then the riding began. James and Gus moved in sync as if they’d been together forever—hard to believe it was only their sixth ride. They did a slow trot, extended trot, and canter.
Gus took a while to pick up the correct lead on one side, but once he did, he was sailing.
Like Deuce, James’ other 6666 Quarter horse, Gus has the muscly ease and power of a natural athlete. His confidence makes him an even quicker study than Deuce; James estimates that he’s made as much progress with Gus in three weeks as he made in the first four months with Deuce.
“It’s going so well, I keep waiting for the catch,” says James. “But I think he’s just a good-minded, super-talented guy.”