Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Father

Sunday was my father's birthday.  Why am I writing about this?  Well, because my father was an old time horseman.  So continuing with my thoughts from last week, I would like to honor my father for basic things he taught me about horses and some of the things I think about often:
     1) Be smarter than your horse.
     2) Try to see the world through your horse's eyes and think the way he would in any situation that  
     might arise.
     3) Give your horses your undivided attention when working with them.
     4) Be patient.
     5) Remember they are herd animals which means they have strong fear/flight instinct and need a leader.
     6) The leader must have earned respect.  Life depends on it in the wild.  There is respect first, then trust.
     7) Watch how horses relate to one another in a field or pasture.  The bigger the area, the more horses, 
     the better window into their world it is for you to observe.
     8) Don't lose your temper - then you accomplish nothing.
     9) Punish accordingly.  A misdemeanor deserves a small reprimand, a felony demands a more severe
     response.  Do it immediately then move on.
     10) Do not hold a grudge against your horse.  Horses live in the moment and so should you when
     you're working with them.
See you next week!  JD

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Basic Steps

     The best training regimen is developed around simple and easy steps for the horse to learn and absorb.  When I am teaching students and I cannot understand what my student is trying to get the horse to do, I assume the horse doesn't have a clue either and that they're making it impossible for the horse to respond correctly.  Every rider is a trainer, period.  A horse is trained every time it is ridden, for better or for worse.
     I like my training steps to start with basic of things, forward motion, moving away from your leg, following the rein, and whoa - sound simple?  Yes, but without solid basics things are never right. Even with the best trained horses, sometimes you need to go back and refresh those earlier lessons.  If you do these easy steps first and reinforce them in every ride, you should never have to "pull" on your horse (which only makes him brace against you and accomplishes nothing).
     You, as your horse's trainer, can easily interfere with what you are trying to get your horse to do.  Frequently I see people making easy things difficult.  Remember, training is part technique, part mechanics, part understanding conformation, part feel - all together it becomes the art of horsemanship.  See you next week!  JD

Sunday, October 16, 2011


     It's only been a couple of weeks since I finished the move to Eagle Mountain Ranch and how pleasant those weeks have been.  Among other things, I have really enjoyed talking to Mo and Dianne Morris.  They are wonderful horsemen and we enjoy exchanging stories.
     It has been my priviledge over the yeras to know some of the wonderful older horsemen.  These men and women are treasures to the community and should be sought out for their advice and wisdom.  It makes me sad when I observe that younger horsepeople seem to forget or neglect to seek their knowledge.  One generation lays the foundation for the next generation.
     Yes, the industry changes and is in constant flux, as it should be, or else it wouldn't improve.  Horses are now bred and perform their respective disciplines better than ever before but collectively, we must not forget how we've gotten here.  We need an enlarged vision, and we need to be cognizant that mistakes inevitably are made which will need correcting.  By not forgetting the wisdom of the recent past we can prevent unneccessary pitfalls.
     If you are lucky enough, as I have been, to learn from these old masters, take the time.  You will not regret it and your experience with your horse will be richer for it.  See you next week.  JD

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Schooling Shows

     Fall is a good time to consider attending a schooling show.  These shows are wonderful opportunities to practice and they're good places to get green or novice horses and novice people started.  Sometimes we take young horses and get them a stall just to let them hang out; letting them adjust to the show atmosphere without any pressure.  This is really helpful for them and I personally like to pair inexperienced horses with 'buddies' that have seen a bit of the world.
     Schooling shows help new riders learn to "read" traffic in the show ring and get comfortable in a show setting.  These shows are also good for riders and horses that have show ring expertise and savy but need to work on some problems - problems such as listening to the announcer, anticipating the line up, jigging at the walk, not standing quietly in line etc.
     It is my firm belief that these shows are not about winning.  That comes later.  Schooling shows in the Fall and Winter are to help you and your horse get ready for bigger things to come next Spring. Use these opportunities well and it will pay off!  JD

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Moving Day

     October has arrived and we have finished our move to Eagle Mountain Ranch in Arlington.  It is so nice to be so welcomed and warmly received.  Thank you to Kim, Alberto and all their family and staff for everything they have done.  I look forward to working out of their lovely facility.  You must see the view!  It makes me joyful to see the mountains, they're so beautiful, they make one serene and peaceful.
     Being peaceful in your heart is a great place to be when you're working with your horse.  The quieter and calmer you are, the more your horse will be also.  It sounds old and trite but it's also so true.  I always say that it's not your horse's responsibility to take care of you, but it it's your responsibilty to take care of him.  Working with your horse in a steady, calm and focused manner is part of that responsibility.
     And by the way, the picture in last week's blog is Joanne Salisbury and VP Midnitestranger+// ("Wes") carrying the U.S. Flag in the opening ceremonies at Canadian Nationals this year.  It was quite a privilege to be given that honor!  God bless America.