I will leave you this weekend with my Ahh-Haa moment. The weather is going to be beautiful and I have 3 yards to mow, branches to haul, horses to ride and the most important thing...my honey is coming 2 days early!!! Yay for me. Unless of course Big Momma foals and then I will be posting pictures like crazy ;)
Ron Rocklitz spent several days with us on our broke horses teaching us things like bend and flex, moving off of our legs and general horsemanship tests. I think he was determining who knew what and who didn't.
Now all of this stuff was not totally new to me. My dad's last wife(he had 5 total) came with a lot of really nice show horses. This woman wasn't new to the horse thing. Among her string was a stallion who went to the QH World in Halter(Woofer's sire), a mare that had done very well at the QH Congress-in halter a couple of years and then went back in Western Pleasure and Trail and the 1978 World Champion Halter Mare. She knew her stuff and was willing to teach me a lot of new things.
With what she taught me-I took the Grand Champion in Showmanship and Trail and Horsemanship/Equitation at the local 4-H show the last 2 years I showed and also Purpled at the State level in Showmanship and Horsemanship/Equitation. Considering those were the only 2 shows I ever got to go to-I was happy. The best thing about it, I did it with horses I trained. The Showmanship and Trail I won while using the mare that is about to foal. Yes, poor Woofer has had to put up with me for 22 years. One year the Horsemanship/Equitation was won with my mom's one-eyed Doc Bar gelding and the next year was with the a gelding out of the mare that went to the Congress.
Now part of the riding lesson time was spent on our broke horses and part of the time was spent with Ron teaching us how to work a horse in the round pen. I was impressed with how his filly worked for him. She was soft and round while she moved around the round pen and would stop and look at him when he asked her to. I couldn't really see how he was getting her to do it. But I was paying attention because I could see that this was a much nicer approach than what I knew how to do. As I watched, I could see him move in toward her and out away, he would step toward her hip when he asked her to move out or speed up and he would step toward her shoulder when he asked her to slow down or stop. Always she had an ear cocked toward him. It looked aweful pretty. Over the next few days he worked her, then started saddling and finally stepped on-with a halter only on her head. I thought we was going to get to see a wreck. Nope that little filly just moved off nice and easy and Ron just let her move around. Pretty soon he started flipping his lead rope back and forth over her head and asking her to trot out around the round pen. That was without a doubt the prettiest first ride I had ever seen on a colt. Man did I want to learn how to do that.
The 3rd ride Ron brought his little filly out into the arena with us and moved her around. She was a little goosy, but he just kept moving her around and never got excited. She already moved off of his leg and he wasn't "plow-reining" her. She stayed nice and balanced. In three rides he had that filly moving like a something that I had been riding for 60-90 days. I was so impressed.
Now we had all spent time talking to Ron and I can remember asking him how he learned how to do all of that and he told me the same thing that 20 Meter Circle of Life's grandpa told her...if you listen that horse is gonna tell you everything you need to know! I didn't fully understand it then but time and experience has taught me that that statement should be in the gospel. I asked him who had taught him how to do all of that. His answer was Ray Hunt. I had never even heard of the guy.
Over the next couple of days, we continued to work in the arena and I honestly tried to imitate Ron. Finally Ron brought us all into a circle in the middle of the arena and tried to explain that it was more about "feel" rather than pulling on the reins. At which point-the "know-it-all" jackass(you know there is one in every crowd) told Ron that that is what reins were for...
Ron proceeded to reach up, pull the bridle OFF of his filly(on her 5th ride) and with one rein around her neck walk off. He then picked up a lope, in the correct lead and loped a circle around us. He slid her to a stop, rolled her back over her hocks and loped off, in the correct lead, in a circle around us again. He slid her to a stop again and backed her up. A swear we all about swooned.
In that moment Ron became my hero and I understood!!
That was my introduction to natural horsemanship and it is a far cry from the Natural Horsemanship that is touted today. Yes, these clinicians are good at reading horses but they are even better at reading people. They have figured out that most people aren't going to take the initiative to learn much beyond what they tell them to learn. As they get more popular, they have to keep coming up with more games, new tricks and some are resorting to gimmicks.
Can you learn from them-ABSOLUTELY. I have learned a lot over the years from watching clinicians. I may have understood what Ron was showing me, but I still had to learn how to do it correctly and meld it to suit me and the horse I am working on at the moment.
Mikey believes the future of horsemanship is going to go to a lot more bridless and bareback work. That is good. Because it is going to be hard to "fake" anything when you don't have the usual aids. However you will not find me barrel racing bareback and bridleless anytime soon, so some of us are going to have to just try and keep it as natural as possible even with our saddles and bridles-LOL.
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend-enjoy those ponies if you can :)