Tuesday October 7 2014
You'd be forgiven if you mistook him for a rock star: a polished costume (brand name jeans, a clean starched shirt with his logo on it, brand name boots), a polished show, announcer, sound system, and a cult-like following of screaming fans. But if you can overlook all that (or enjoy it, if you like it), you can always learn something from watching these natural horsemanship trainers with horses, particularly problem horses which are used to demonstrate their training methods in the clinics.
Nampa Idaho was natural horsemanship trainer Clinton Anderson's 8th of 9 scheduled Walkbout Tour stops this year - a two-day tour described on his website as "the most inspirational two days any horse lover can have. Whether you ride English, Western or just love to hit the trails, learn how the man behind the Method uses his techniques every single day to develop respectful and fun horses. Watch in awe as Clinton puts one of his standout horses through their paces during a spectacular demonstration." An Australian, Clinton now has a spread in Texas where he trains horses and people, in addition to traveling the country and the world on tours like this one.
We Owyhee Crick Women fit into one corner of the arena of Clinton Anderson's followers: females. But being primarily Arabian horse endurance riders we were rather to the far left of his normal fan profile of females who mostly ride Quarter horses in arenas.
I've come a long way in learning not just riding, but horsemanship over the years, and I know I still have plenty more to learn, which is why I really enjoy watching the pros, the real horsemen who know how to get the best out of a horse without bucking him out, or beating him into temporary submission. By teaching the horse to choose the right behavior, and building on basic lessons of respect, the end result is a 4-legged partner - not just a slave - you can come to trust to share your adventures with.
It is inspirational and awesome to watch Clinton or one of his certified clinicians bring a rogue horse around to showing respect and willingness within 5 minutes of the horse's normal often-outrageous behavior, to see the transformation of the horse as the light bulbs of understanding turn on in his head.
And there's absolutely nothing wrong with expecting a thousand pound animal to respect you, give you space, accept you as his leader in your relationship; and in fact it's downright insane to let your horse wear the pants in your family. I'm always astounded by the people who bring their problem horses to the clinics for the trainer to 'fix' - a horse who is dragging them into the arena, shoving them around, running over them. As Clinton Anderson repeated over and over, if you don't have a horse who respects you, it's not a matter of *if* you're going to get hurt, but *when.*
Clinton did sound a bit worn out and a bit jaded at times (albeit with a sense of humor)… tired of the ladies in particular (a majority of his clientele) who let their horses run all over them because they love them (one lady answered Clinton when he asked "Why do you let him do this?" "Because he loves me") … the same things over and over...
Clinton probably does enjoy the attention, the fame, the work of teaching horses and people safe ways of handling and riding; but after seeing the same problems over and over and over, year after year, the same ignorant owners with dangerous, disrespectful horses over and over and over, year after year, and after hammering the same message over and over and over, year after year, I bet there are times he just wishes he could go saddle up his old pony, put on a plain ol' Tshirt, and go on a fun, relaxing 20-mile trail ride in some scenic country.