An interview with Joel Lybbert of Bar JL Horse Training
Joel trains horses full-time and does farrier work, always looking for new clients. He specializes in the beginnings of a colt – “I believe the first few months are crucial for the finished product of a horse. I use natural horsemanship methods and put a light mouth on a horse. My finished products have gone on to be successful for kids, in the rodeo circuit, and on the ranch” – He competed for the first time in a colt staring competition this past summer, taking 1st place in the 30-day Chautaqua Colt Challenge. Recently, Joel trained a texas longhorn steer named “Jasper” to ride under saddle.
Before he broke Jasper the steer…
The last name Lybbert has a great history, known for its expertise in horsemanship. I was born into the cowboy life, riding when I was only two weeks old. My dad trained horses, and as I grew he would buy ponies and break them out with me. That led to me starting colts on my own. Through high school I kept a steady supply of colts to break. I have always wanted to live in southern Alberta because the west is still alive. I was born in Lethbridge, but after a couple years we moved to BC till I was 16. I served a mission for our church in New Zealand, while out there my family moved to Valleyview, Alberta. So upon returning I was on the look out for the girls my age while trying to get back on my feet with the horse industry. The first time I saw Ella Jarvis was while I was on a date with one of her good friends, that’s probably not a great way to start but none the less that’s where it began. It was a whole lot easier for me to hop aboard a salty bronc than go up and talk to girls. On our first date I took Ella horse back riding and the rest is history. In the beginning she told me only one horse maybe two, but now she wants cows, horses, dogs, and more. We got married in the Calgary, Alberta temple on February 17, 2017.
I was fortunate enough to have learned the value of work from a young age. Taking that determination I was able manage my own small horse training business – Bar JL Horse Training. I have learned that if you want to do something that you can’t just sit and wait for it, you have to make it happen. Which has lead me to today, I’m a southern Alberta cowboy working hard to live the dream.
Why train a steer?
My dream to train a steer began when I was younger. In a western magazine I saw a picture of a cowboy on a steer dragging a calf to the branding fire. I knew that one day I would have to do the same thing. That dream was then stored on the shelf with my many other fantasized ambitions until recently when one of the neighbors said he had a steer I could rope if I wanted because he was too big to put through the chutes. As I thought about this, my dream resurfaced and I asked the neighbor if he would sell it to me. He asked why and I explained that I was wanting to saddle break him. That’s where it began. I wanted Ella to name him, so she gave me the choice between two names and I picked ‘Jasper’ at random.
How long did it take you to saddle break Jasper?
The first day I worked with him I tied him to the edge of a shed and got a lariat to work with his feet. And with about 20 minutes of arguing I was able to get the first foot trimmed. And the rest followed suit. That same day I saddled him up. He surprisingly didn’t react to much. By the third day I had him kinda leading and was able to saddle him alright, so I tied him to the back of the tractor and had some friends start driving down the road. While he was leading behind the tractor I decided then was as good as any to have my first ride. He wasn’t quite sure what to think of it at first, I remember patting his rump while we were going and he would cow kick out as to say he was watching me. Then it was fairly easy from there. I started in a 10×10 pen, then a 30 foot round pen, and then a quarter section hay-field.
What was more or less difficult in training a steer vs. a horse?
I would say one of the biggest differences between Jasper and most horses I have trained is that he is quite coarse. When riding a colt you can teach them to pick up on the slightest move, to spin off of the smallest touch of the reins, or to change leads on the run. Where as he is a lot slower and pushy. If there is something Jasper really doesn’t want to do like lope for example, there isn’t much a person can do to get him to do it. I have really learned to pick my battles because some are going to leave the situation worse in the end. When I was first riding him he liked to duck his head down and take off into the bosal. All I had to do was pull his head around and he was fine. But as time has gone on he has gotten much lighter to my cues. It really helps giving him a task with a purpose, rather than just riding him back and forth in the arena. One of the nice things about him being so quiet is that almost anyone can ride him.
What has been the most rewarding part of your experience with training Jasper?
I think the most rewarding part of training Jasper has been involving my grandpa. My grandpa has been a cowboy all his life and in the last ten years his health has declined to the point where he needs a scooter to get most places. And getting to see him smile is probably the most rewarding part of it all. The first time I showed up in public with Jasper was in Cardston at the mini chuckwagons event. I was unannounced, just showing up to see how Jasper would handle the crowds. Well when I rode up, one of the teamsters told me, “Get in there it’s half-time. Do a lap while the water truck does a round.” So, I seized the opportunity and went out waving at the crowd. When I went out I was talking with one of the teamsters, then I heard my grandpa hollering “Joel, where’s Joel, has anyone seen Joel?“ One person tried to talk with him, but he wasn’t distracted in the least. Soon he was sent in my direction. He was surprised and excited. I loved it when he would proudly introduce me as his grandson.
What’s next for Jasper the steer and yourself?
Because of Jasper’s athletic restraints, I have had to get fairly creative with my program. But it also has let me develop my talents in other areas. I was talking with a clown from Calgary and he was telling me I should start doing some cowboy poetry, playing guitar, rope tricks and so on. As he was saying each one I was checking them off the list of things I already do! I’m not perfect at any of them but I have always had an interest in those kinds of things. So I have been trying to practice and get better at each. Jasper is great at standing still, so if I can do it on him, generally he is fine with it.
I want to start organizing events more regular. I think as I organize more events of my own, that I will get my name out there for performing at bigger events. One day hoping to get into the CFR or the Calgary Stampede. I figure the better I can do on Jasper during the summer, the less problems I will have booking horses in for training over the winter. This next year will be a year of growth I think. The more I can get Jasper out there, the better.
Big THANK YOU to Joel Lybbert for sharing his story!
You can get in contact with Joel of Bar JL Horse Training via:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/barjlhorsetraining/