After thirty years of full time horsemanship, I believe I am the product of many great horsemen and women I’ve had the privilege of learning from. Performance Horsemanship withRichard Winters
Some trainers proclaim they are “self-taught.” Others credit one particular mentor who shaped their horsemanship philosophy and
techniques. After thirty years of full time horsemanship, I believe I am the product of many great horsemen and women I’ve had the
privilege of learning from. I have had the opportunity to work extensively with numerous amazing individuals. Some trainers only once
or twice, while others it was through their training videos, DVD’s, or articles in which I gleaned training nuggets. The following is a
glimpse of many who have been so generous with their horsemanship knowledge.
When I was just a boy, every Saturday morning I would help Clay, the resident wrangler, saddle twenty-five dude horses at the local
rental stable. He taught me to do up my latigo when unsaddling so that it would hang straight, and pull smooth, when I saddled my
next horse. I’ve been pleased to continue the routine for over thirty-five years.
While still in High School, Troy Henry taught me how to use a lariat rope as a nerve line. (What others might call a war bridle), I still
recall how he would step up and loosen the rope to release the pressure when a horse attempted to yield rather than resist against the pressure.
Pat Parelli showed me how a round pen should be so much more than the place where you first stepped on broncs or just run horses
around to get them tired. He demonstrated how the round pen could be a place to have a conversation with a horse and establish a relationship built on trust and respect.
Twenty-five years ago, I observed Joe Wolter at a clinic with a young horse to be saddled for the first time. Joe held the saddle with
his left hand and had it propped on his left hip. When he put it up on the colt’s back, it was the smoothest technique I had ever
observed. I vowed to go home and master that same method. I’m glad I was there that day!
Many years ago Tom Dorrance showed many of us how we could help a horse execute a flying lead change, using a pole on the
ground. This is a great exercise for horses and riders, who have a pretty good foundation, yet lack the refinement of ultimate body control. I use this same exercise with students at many of my clinics today.
Observing Ray Hunt, in numerous Colt Starting clinics, convinced me that getting out of a colt’s way, and not pulling on them, would
be the best policy for getting along and staying out of trouble. The objective is not “how I would get them stopped,” but rather, “how can I help them move out.”
Buck Branaman came to the Thacher School to conduct a clinic a few years ago. He demonstrated a simple yet meaningful technique
for softening a horse on the ground, while backing. With his left hand at the base of the halter, thumb down, he firmly worked the
halter laterally back and forth. As the horse softened his face and backed up, he softened his hold on the halter. This exercise removes
a lot of braciness in a horse and helps the handler develop a lot of feel. I do this with all of my colts before I step on them for the first time.
I attended a Les Vogt clinic in Klamath Falls, Oregon, about ten years ago. That was a turning point in my own personal
horsemanship journey. He showed us exercises and a plan to obtain control of each of our horses’ body parts. This body control
opened doors for me to advance my own performance horsemanship. What I learned that weekend was invaluable.
Doug Williamson has shown me the advantage of shortening my stirrups when riding performance horses. If I want to be comfortable,
on a long trail ride, I can let them down. Yet, if I want to help my horse do something athletic, I need to raise them up.
Ted Robinson suggested I might like the feel and results of a Billy Allen curb bit, versus a Tom Thumb or Argentine Snaffle. He was
right! It was also Ted who helped me understand a horse’s proper body position when counter cantering. Without that guidance, I would just be loping around on the wrong lead!
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just a few instances and individuals who have added value to my training
program. As I’ve recounted a few of my “learning moments,” I hope it has reminded you of the teachers and mentors who have given
you so much as well. Remember, the list is not all-inclusive and the learning is unending.
For more information about Richard Winters Horsemanship please go to wintersranch.com.
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