Wednesday, October 31, 2007


When I see this photo of me the first time I was on a horse, probably at age 2, I am reminded that horses are in my blood, at least as the legend goes.

My father’s father was a horseman; a Cossack. He was highly trained as a soldier on horseback. In 1916 he was in some sort of equestrian accident and broke his leg. His leg healed right when things were gearing up for the Russian Revolution. He saw the writing on the wall and fled to the closest sea port where he got on a freighter to the United States.

I never heard any stories of his continuing any horsecapades after his arrival here. My mother tells me of her horse riding adventures when she was a girl with a barn sour horse that would do all it could to run back to the barn.

The horse in the photo above was put to death because it killed someone. I see hints as to why in the photograph. The bit they used on him is a mechanical hackamore. No doubt he was broke using methods of cruelty. Yes, these and even more severe bits are still used today, but people are coming around with their understanding of the gentle way of horsemanship.

As I train my horses in the round pen I think about how different horsemanship is these days. In the times of my grandfather they would break horses with physical pain, but in these days we take advantage of psychology of the horse and their herd mentality. We have learned to train our horses the way horses train each other in the wild.

What was accomplished in the old days with a whip can now be accomplished with eye contact. Encouraging and discouraging behavior can be done with simple movements and establishing yourself as the leader of the herd. Once you gain the respect of the horse they will look to you as a leader and trust that you will not put them in harms way. This helps in making each training or riding event a safe one for the horse and the rider.

It takes several months to a year before I feel like I know a new horse. I learn what they like and what they don't. I know where they like to be touched and where not to. I do exercises desensitize them to things they don't like, but the whole time I show them respect and never push them past what they are able to do in one session. I know they get it when I see them lick their lips, it's called licking their brains. That's the way they process.

It is so good when you take a horse that didn't trust you and always turned their hind end towards you into a horse that faces you and lowers its head to greet you when you walk into its space.


Blogger Syd said...

I am so with you on this, Guy. There are folks that I refuse to ride with, simply for the way they discipline their horses.

I attended a John Lyons clinic, 20 yrs ago, and have used his methods ever since.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Auntie said...

I love that photo of you.!

8:39 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Auntie, thank you. What happened since is another question.

Syd, RFD-TV features equestrian shows every day, and I use a little from each. Some horses respond better to Clinton Anderson methods, and some respond to Lyons, and some to Parrelli. My new horse was green broke when I got him and now he does just about everything through the Anderson technique, but my wife's horse is dense and we have to mix techniques from all methods of training.

I didn't know you still rode.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

Not very often, but my favorite thing has always been doing the groundwork with colts. Truthfully, I haven't had a chance to do much of that lately.

9:26 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Because you've driving at 85mph while taking pictures of your dash board. Like I wouldn't notice...Sis.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

The two horses I have now have given me some of the most rewarding moments in my life. If it hadn't been for Mark Rashid and his books, I wouldn't have had any success with them at all. Hats off to all the good people who brought in a better way to deal with horses.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous walter richards said...

Now ya brought up my own horse memories. One of which involved my family staying at a working horse ranch/RV campground on one of our trips across the USA. To make it more interesting, the ranch/camp was playing host to a real, honest-to-goodness, bring-a-picnic-lunch, holy-roller, tent revival. And most of the people attending rode horses (and a couple mules) in.

The hilarious moment was when the preacher invited people to come forward and accept Christ as their savior ... and a mule wandered in, and walked down the aisle to the stage. Being a mule, nobody could make it leave. Finally, out of desperation I think, the preacher blessed it ... and as soon as he said "Amen", it wandered out the back entrance.

During our stay, horses were constantly poking their noses in the tents - but that mule was the only equine that took the message to heart. LOL!

3:13 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Donna, It is so rewarding when you can see they get it.

Walt, so that day, instead of being religion for the masses it was religion for the asses...

5:24 AM  
Anonymous Columbiacontrolfreak said...

I had for a time in my care a quarter horse clydesdale cross. I don't know what happened to him early in life but he had some nasty scars in his mouth. It looked like someone had made a bit of barbed wire.

The gal I got him from said he was almost impossible to ride and it took two strong people to get a bridle on him. Being very young and untrained I had no idea how to convince him to take a bridle so I rode him all over the countryside for two years with nothing but a hackamore on. The day I needed to bridle him he let me slip the lightest bit they made into his mouth without a hassle. He trusted me not to hurt him.

8:19 PM  

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