Why snub a horse? Good question, glad you asked! When many people hear the phrase “snubbing horse” it conjures up images of a 1915 era cowboy climbing on a blindfolded bronc. That bronc is snorting fire and fear while the “snub horse” is laying into the halter rope. With this image burned into their minds eye, a person may be quick to associate a snubbing horse to treating a horse roughly and without any concern for him.
Contrary to the image of rough handling, I think the snub horse is a great asset to starting colts smoothly and quickly and they also help the colt process information. A good snub horse can handle the pull of the halter rope. They can also rate colts and put up with all the pressure of flags, ropes, tarps and colts banging into them. This sounds like a lot and it can be…but amazingly many green horses really do well with this task. There are many benefits to starting colts this way but here are three big positives to focus on.
The first one is the snub horse provides a kind of equine moral support. Horses being herd animals are happier and become quickly more confident in the presence of other horses. Simply being in the pen with another horse can accelerate the colt’s education. Generally, a colt in the pen by himself with a human is not as comfortable as he is with another horse in there with him. The colt is drawn to be by that horse naturally, despite the pressure of flags or a rope. That draw of the snub horse will help your colt gain the confidence he needs to proceed to the next level of training.
The second positive of the snub horse is everything you do to your colt whether petting him or swinging a rope will be done above him. Doing work above him where you get both eyes is very important in preparing him to be ridden. He sees and hears the rope being swung in an almost identical way that it will be done when you are on him. Consequently the step is logical and a small one once you are physically on him and swinging the rope yourself. I try to do as much as I can off of that snub horse before I climb on the colt.
The third positive is that the colt learns to give to his nose at all times. The great J.S. Rarey made the statement, “A horse’s knowledge of his strength is limited to his past experiences.” If we can lunge or drive him from our snub horse letting him hit the end of the lead rope he learns to give to that pressure instantly and always. His experience will be that the pull of the rope is strong and he learns to get soft. Usually this happens quickly. You can vary the speed and the pull by sliding the halter rope around your horn. Again, the step is small when I do step on him and ask for some directional pull. He knows that when the lead rope pulls him to the left he will go to the left.
There isn’t any tug of war, he simply follows his nose. He has learned to yield his strength to the direction of the lead rope.
There are many other benefits to snubbing your colts as well as what it does for the horse doing the snubbing. The main thought I have in snubbing, is to prepare that colt in as logical, safe and fast way possible.