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Another Mile, Another Memory! 7/4/13

Where does the time go?  Its already nearly 3 months since I left Texas for a new opportunity in Maine.  Notice the date I started this article.  It is now October 3.  Guess I got busy. I'll use these next few articles to bring you guys up to speed.    

As always, it's been a wild ride!   For every closing door there is a new door opining. In June I packed up Carbon and headed to New England for some new opportunities. I am really going to miss Texas, everything really is bigger there!

Have you ever heard the old saying "Good Horsemanship is Good Horsemanship!" What does that phrase really mean?

To me that phrase is supposed to mean that "the truth is in the horse" and that ALL horse folks should recognize good horsemanship through the horse's behavior.  Many of us could dismiss this statement as truth and go on with our lives, but I have learned that this phrase has very little to do with proper horsemanship. Let me explain: 

Look at the picture to the left. This is a 12yr old Western Pleasure Morgan mare named Maidie. She is broke to death and has a wonderful disposition. On July 22-27 I had the pleasure of showing Maidie at The New England Morgan Horse Show held at the Tri-County Fairgrounds in Northampton, Massachusetts where I won a reserve regional championship in Western Dressage. So what is the issue? You would think that if a horse won a prize like this that folks would recognize good training or good horsemanship. Sadly that is not always the case. Two different people could look at this horse and say, that is NOT good horsemanship for completely different reasons.

Abuse1Abuse3For the last six months, I have been working at a 400 horse Western Pleasure Quarter Horse breeding farm in Hempstead Texas. My job was primarily to start (not finish) western pleasure QH. Many of the horses were around 3 and 4 years old that had never been ridden. I also had the opportunity to halter break more than 40 babies. Over the years I have incorporating methods from John Lyons, Clinton Anderson, Pat Parrelli, Jane Savoie as well as using styles like Spanish and Portuguese classical dressage.  I have learned from many people that practice "good horsemanship".  But what is "good horsemanship" to a Morgan Western Dressage or Western Pleasure judge was sure not "good horsesmanship"  to the Quarter Horse Western Pleasure trainer I was working for in Texas!  My "forward first" method of teaching self carriage was not appreciated there.  Over the six months that I was there, I witness many cases of horse abuse firsthand by the other resident WP trainer using twisted wire to the point of putting big bleeding sores in the corners of the horses mouths and tying them up overnight without food or water... all in the name of getting those noses in the dirt and the more on the forehand, the better. I was sadden only to learn the the owner turned a blind eye to the abuse after her staff repeatedly warnd her of the abuse. I heard hear saying, and I quote "you got to do what it takes to win." We did not see eye to eye and I could not tolerate anymore abuse by this mass Quarter Horse breeding farm.

TXsittingAfter I had started over 30 horses for this ranch, the owner started to worry that using classical principles would somehow interfere with the correct and proper stock horse pleasure training.  As you can see by the picture, a Morgan pleasure horse moves very different than a QH. It's my belief that you can start both breeds the same way (classical principles) and finish them in a different way and still have a blue ribbon hanging on the wall.   

The moral of the story is that birds of a feather flock together. "Good horsemanship" is only good with like minded people and does not transcend disciplines. What is "good horsemanship" for dressage folks does not give it a free pass for western folks.

Even though I loved Texas and loved the babies I was working with, I could see the writing on the wall. I will not compromise my integrity to what I believe "good horsemanship" is for the sake of someone's else's ego to win at all cost, so Carbon and I were off again searching for like-minded people.

After another 2,000 miles and countless telephone poles, we arrived in Lebanon Maine at a Morgan breeding farm (hence the championship picture). With me, change is always a good thing because it affords me new opportunities and new friendships. 

Stay tuned,  my next blog will tell the story of Maidie and our journey to Massachusettes Morgan regional competition.