Tuesday, May 31, 2011

National Cavalry Competition

Imagine throwing eventing, cowboy mounted shooting, and re-enacting into a big pot and mixing in riders from the military, law enforcement, and the general public. What you'd have is the tenth National Cavalry Competition, held at the Annual Bivouac this September 28-30 at Fort Reno, Oklahoma.

Learn all about it, plus some startling stats on the popularity of re-enacting, in this week's radio interview with Jeff Maahs from the United States Cavalry Association.

Listen to radio show

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Situation

One of my favorite bits of horsemanship advice comes from the late Ray Hunt, who said, “Adjust to fit the situation.” Let’s drill down a bit on this simple prescription.

Every moment with a horse is a “situation” with a unique character to it. The first order of business is recognizing the situation for what it is. Second is having an alternative course of action that you can adjust to. And third is making the adjustment at the right moment.

An example that comes to mind is teaching a foal to lead. Since horses have an “opposition reflex” (a.k.a. positive thigmotaxis), foals tend to pull back when we apply forward pressure on a lead rope. That is a common situation. An alternative when they resist forward pressure is to immediately pull more to one side. Foals have less power to resist lateral pressure and are likely to take a step to the side, which can be rewarded and parlayed into movement on a curve and eventually straight, forward movement.

One of the reasons a good horseman adjusts to fit the situation is that he is always looking for behaviors that can be rewarded, and he is always looking for a good note to end the day on.

For more information on Ray Hunt, visit www.RayHunt.com.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Vaquero

There is much we can learn from studying horsemen of the past, and the first thing to note is that there is a context for everything. For example, the vaqueros of colonial California lived in a time when getting a job done with a horse was essential. Some of the techniques used were crude and heavy handed by modern standards. Others were sophisticated and light, perfectly in tune with the highest principles of natural horsemanship. This is why the vaquero will get special attention next week at the Light Hands Horsemanship clinic in Santa Ynez, California.

In attendance will be the last of the genuine working vaqueros, artist Ernie Morris. His grandfather and mentor, Jesse Wilkinson, is pictured. Also joining us this year will be Arabian horse icon, Sheila Varian. Returning presenters include Dr. Bob Miller, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Jon Ensign, Lester Buckley, Jack Brainard, and Richard Winters. I’ll be emceeing as usual and will kick off the event with the TV episode I did years back on the vaquero.

I hope you can join us for a truly unique and intimate event in a breathtakingly beautiful setting, where just a few decades ago, vaqueros perfected their system of cattle-based horsemanship. Special thanks to sponsor Spalding Laboratories and host facility Intrepid Farms.

To learn more about the event: Lighthandshorsemanship.com
To learn more about Ernie Morris: ElVaquero.com

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Inspirational Jockeys

Even though horse racing doesn’t exactly float my boat, I find some real inspiration in the history of the sport. For example, Eddie Arcaro lost his first 250 races before going on to become the winningest jockey of all time, with five Kentucky Derby wins. This week on radio, I interview author Rick Maturi about his book on another famous jockey, Triple Crown Winner, Earl Sande (pictured), an American sports icon during the 1920s.

Sande’s stats are impressive but it was his unorthodox way of getting a winning performance from a horse – even one he was riding for the first time – that got my attention. While other jockeys were whipping their horses toward the finish line, Sande sang opera to his, rarely going to the whip. Now get this: Sande was actually a good singer and performed professionally at New York’s Stork Club in later years.

Radio interview with author Rick Maturi

Triple Crown Winner: the Earl Sande Saga