"What is lightness? It is the
absence of resistance of weight and strength to the riders hand and
resistances of inertia to his legs. In other words , and to be very
simple, if the rider, in order to obtain what he wants from his horse,
has to afford any physical effort, the horse is not light."
- Jean-Claude Racinet
on Riding in Lightness
In the 1940's my father studied the art and science of horsemanship
through J. King Ross's School of Applied Horsemanship to expand his
knowledge of horses. The horsemanship techniques that I use originate
from my father from the over 70 years of his life around horses. My
father used horses for work and companionship. He used draft teams for
feeding livestock and other ranch work until the tractors, and vehicles
took over the jobs. He also herded the family's band of sheep on the
mountain ranges starting as a little boy. This required a good saddle
horse, one that would not become nerved at anything.
Since the horses were going to be his best friends, he treated the
horses like a best friend. He taught them to be best friends. To bomb
proof the horse he sacked them out starting small and lead up to the
more scary things, led them behind the feed wagon, taught the horse to
walk when a rope was around one of their feet and taught them to lie
down. When out on the range there were no night corals to stick the
horses in so the horse had to learn about ground tying on long ropes so
the horse could feed freely.
The first ride I had on a horse was before I could walk. And ever
since it was my passion to be around horses. And did so every chance I
could on the ranch. My favorite discipline was and still is working cow
horse / cutting.
My training since I was young was the concept let the horse perform
the task that the horse was asked to do, freely with lightness, without
becoming dependant on the rider/handlers maintenance of aids. And only
give an aid when a different task was asked. Even though the proper
phrase or origin of the type of horsemanship that was applied was not
known until my college years, and that origin French Classical method of
I attended and graduated from Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming in
the early 1990's, under the direction of Barbara Horton and Debbie
Martin along with Sue Sherry as a visiting clinician . Collectively they
taught the riding techniques of Sally Swift who created Centered Riding,
Mary Wanless , Linda Tellington Jones, and the French and Baroque school
masters in the art of dressage/horsemanship. Most all disciplines were
taught including; reining, trail, western pleasure, English equitation,
hunter jumper, dressage, horsemanship, showmanship, young horse
training, and judging, all of which had the foundation of dressage. Most
all the horses I was taught on and trained were of Stock Horse breeding
- Quarter Horses, Paint, and Appaloosa. I Received 2nd place
with a young horse that I had only put 6 rides in a walk trot class,
being the only student with a young horse project that was ready to
participate in the show. I received 2nd thru 4th
places in English and Western classes in the NWC Commencement Horse
In the fall after graduating in Equine
Science I continued another year to gain my Agri-business degree and to
be the head Equine instructor's teacher's aid/student teacher. It was an
opportunity to teach the freshman riders alongside my instructor, which
I gained further awareness in instructing the rider. I also trained
horses on the ground and in the saddle during that time period for a
local farm. I gave some clinics, with another student teacher, to a
local group of 4H children in Powell that varied in ages from 8 to 18,
and another clinic for NWC college of agriculture students on
showmanship. In the summer months on the ranch I gave lessons to a
select few of the guest's children.
No mater what type of saddle you prefer or what breed of horse you
like, a solid foundation of horsemanship training will let your horse
strive in all disciplines. Reining can be performed in an English saddle
as can a dressage test be achieved in a western saddle. Each need good
horsemanship and balance not only for the horse but more importantly the
rider. If the rider is not balanced and centered the horse cannot
develop balance and movement required even for fundamental horsemanship
I taught 45 Holsteiner and Holsteiner cross warmblood weanlings up to
five year old's until the Montana herd was moved to the main Oregon
Farm. Knowledge of different personalities of each horse deepened my
understanding of how the horse reacted to different aids. Most of the
training was focused on exceptional ground education. When it was time
for the horse to go under saddle, it would become undemanding. I believe
that anything that a rider executes on the horses back should first be
taught and experienced on the ground.
When we were fortunate enough to get the
Internet in late 1997, I began conducting online instruction with people
that needed help with various problems and questions with their horses
and/or the riders own body position. I started my own Website to share
with everyone the techniques I utilize.
There have also been standards that I have stuck with after dealing
with some not so good horse people. My piece of mind knowing a horse was
given a chance exceeds the quick buck (money).
Such standards are:
Training for the benefit of the
horse, not competition/showing or the rapid progression to have a quick
thrown together so called finished horse.
Give the horse time and development for what is being taught with common
No use of a lunge whip while lunging.
Not cantering a horse while lunging or riding until the horse is
balanced in the walk and trot.
Quality not quantity in a task. If the horse does the lesson correctly
in 5 minutes or if it takes 1 hour then the lesson is done.
Will not ride a horse until at least age 3, in short intervals at a walk
and periodic trot situations to minimize the stress on the
underdeveloped back and legs. But preferably not until age 5
to 6. Some horses are not mentally or physically ready to ride until
older. The skeletal and muscle systems do not fully mature in a horse
until age 8.
Gadgets such as martingales, tie downs and draw reins only puts the
horse in to a stiff premature fixed position that allows the rider to
have unfair leverage to accomplish a false head set.
The owner/handler is required to learn what the horse has learned. If
the horse learns the new communication, but the owner/handler did not
the horse would be confused and the teaching would have been a waste.
Example: someone from earth trying to talk to an alien from mars.
Neither knows what the other wants. All of the basic three rules would
be broke with the foundation training.