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MICHELLE NOTERMAN  -  STARTING IN THE ROUND PEN

Horse Trainer


Hi my name is Michelle Noterman.  I grew up in Southeastern Minnesota.  My parents are Roger and Ethel Noterman.  I grew up a farmers’ daughter and loved it.  Growing up on the family farm we raised 2000 acres of corn and soybeans.  We also had a 1000 head hog operation, from farrowing to finishing.  So, hard work never scared me. 

The ups and downs of the horse business is very similar to the world of farming.  I got involved in horses through the local 4H club.  Then I got involved in local saddle club shows, and my love of competing and training horses was on...   

…I would start winning on a horse and felt like I had it to its potential.  I got bored and wanted a new project.  So, I sold the one horse and moved on to the next.

However, I felt like Minnesota was not where I wanted to be or needed to be in the horse industry.  I got tired of the 20 below zero winter weather.  So, I left Minnesota, traveled to Texas to chase my dreams as a barrel racing trainer. 

I started out in Texas and worked for a vet doing embryo transfer.  Then I got the opportunity to ride with Joyce Loomis and I jumped at it.  I was only going to stay for a month and stayed 4 years.   After this, I went to the Jud Little Ranch in Ardmore, Ok.  I filled my WPRA permit while working for Jud. I then went and worked for the James Ranch in Purcell, OK.  I spent most of my time working with the late Buckie James in the cutting pen and went to many shows with her.  Her work ethnic and drive was amazing.  Later, I had the opportunity to go back to the barrel racing world and train with Kendal Owen. 

Enough about the past....It’s the first of the year and is the start of a new season of colts.  I am behind because I am breaking my 3 year olds right now.  Some other trainers have their 3 year olds loping the pattern and hauling them already. 


​ROUND PEN

In my opinion, the most important thing on starting colts is forward movement.  Once a colt learns to go forward with ease and will change directions in the round pen you are on your way. 

I like to use a pony horse on a lot of my colts because they get used to someone above them.  They will bend their face and move off their hock.  When the colts are used to the sacks and the pony horse, I usually have someone help push the colts forward in the round pen.   If they will not go forward, the person in the middle will make sure they do.

When I feel comfortable in the round pen I will go to the arena to continue their basic training.  

LEAVING THE ROUND PEN

When you have a colt confident in the round pen, my next step is to go in a larger arena.  I first get them tired out.  I never hurry one.  I want them to get comfortable with their surroundings.  When I get on, all I do is trot.  My main goal is to get them to stay in between my legs and reins.  I trot them for about a week so they don’t think they can run off.  My theory is trot until they are comfortable then I move on to a lope.  I always want a colt to follow their nose.  Body position is key!

Starting colts on the barrels can be fun and flustering all in the same day.  My theory is ‘round’.  I want my colts broke in the ribcage and following their nose by the use of my rein.  I use a direct and indirect rein along with my legs.  A direct rein is the right rein, when you turn right. An indirect rein is your left rein.  I don’t want my indirect rein so tight that is puts a horse in a bind. With no relief, it can make him mad.  So, I keep my indirect rein as a balance rein.

When I start a colt on the barrels, I will start at a trot.  It keeps a colts mind more focused at a trot rather than at  a walk.  I pick up my inside rein, when trotting to the first barrel.   I want the colt to tip his nose to the inside with my outside rein touching his neck.  I want his rib cage bent and his back feet in the same tracks as his front feet.  If they are not, the horse is stiff some where in his body.

         
If he drifts out of the circle, I use my outside leg and outside rein. However, I continue to keep his body bent and round.

         
If he cuts in on the circle, I use my direct rein to push him out and use my inside foot to bump him. This helps push him out and breaks his rib cage loose.

I spend hours trotting circles around barrels.  Some days I just go around one barrel but I go different directions frequently. This is a very hard drill.  When I give lessons, riders have a hard time grasping a circle.  Most of the time they make eggs around the barrels and don’t realize they are drifting out.  It’s easier to notice when a horse cuts in because you will hit a barrel or rub your leg on it. My circle is 2 feet away from the barrel.

I will never start to lope a colt through the barrels until I have trotted perfect circles on a loose rein.  I am always using my feet and hands because I want a horse to stay between my legs and reins. The smaller the circle the more difficult it is for the horse. So when I trot and lope a big circle and then go to a smaller circle, you can find your training holes.

That is why I am so serious on my small circles before I speed up.

 By Michelle Noterman
© Reprint BHHLLC 2015​