Horses and horsemanship have always been interesting for me, since I was a young boy watching old cowboy movies. As a kid I took some English style riding lessons but never advanced beyond the basics of sitting a horse and jumping small hurdles.
As an adult, after my children were grown and living on their own, I found that the cost of participation was no longer prohibitive and I started to take riding lessons again, this time in the western discipline. Initially I just wanted to be able to sit a horse well enough to enjoy some Rock Mountain Dude Ranch Trail Rides. But over time I graduated from one lesson a week to two and then three and I quickly realized that buying my own horse made far more sense than paying hourly lesson rates.
My first horse, Darcy, was fairly green, a 15.3 performance bred Quarter Horse. I must confess, I was a lot greener than I thought I was – I had done pretty well on lessons horses with a coach always on hand. At first, I had no problems riding but it didn’t take long for my horse to figure out Ray Hunt’s maxim “the horse knows, he knows when you know and he knows when you don’t”. I certainly didn’t “know”.
Things started to go pear-shaped in a hurry, my five-year-old was rearing up, spooking and dumping me off. Some folks advised me to “get rid of him” and to get something more mature – maybe an old lesson horse. That was sage advice, but I have always had a stubborn steak. I blamed myself more than the horse and started to take some lessons with him. Gradually I developed a little more confidence and a lot more understanding of how this whole horse thing works.
Over the next couple of years, I watched training videos on YouTube and tried all sorts of weird things out – some I would never repeat nor recommend. But bit by bit, my understanding and communication skills improved and so did my horse’s. I kept believing that there must be a better way to communicate with horses than some of the brutal methods I had witnessed. I had seen people pulling on a horse’s mouth until their lips seemed to be up to their ears, others spurring the hair off them and another whacking them mindlessly with a carrot stick. I never knew what was right but it was darned sure obvious to me what was wrong.
Eventually I stumbled onto videos of Buckaroos (Vaqueros) training using a bosal and spade bit – “Jaquima a Freno”. I didn’t know what this was or how it worked but I just knew I had to have some of that! I started to follow Martin Black, Buck Brannaman, Cody Deering and some others on YouTube, learning little by little some of the tricks of the trade – most notably the efficacy of the release. If you never learn another thing about horsemanship be sure you learn to fully understand and appreciate what it means to give a horse a release and how and when that will help you communicate.
I do not profess to be a horseman with any particular talent or skill, but I do see myself as a beginner who has accumulated a few tools, tricks and tips that the average equestrian might find helpful – if they have a mind for something different. I love sharing the stuff that I have learned and have helped some friends to see things more from the horse’s point of view.
Along my journey I bought two more horses – that I started myself. I have a view to finishing them as bridle horses and eventually selling them to the right purchaser(s) who could appreciate this unique style of horsemanship. I still have Darcy, but unfortunately a few years ago he got injured in the pasture, probably playing with another horse, and pulled a stifle. Far from being useless he is limited in performance as some actions can aggravate his injury and leave him in pain for weeks at a time. Although he has been used on cows in team sorting and doing extreme cowboy events he is best suited to western pleasure or equitation events. Darcy has been going mostly in the Jaquima for the last few years.
I also have a 14.3 unregistered but purebred Canadian Horse, that one is about as close to being a finished bridle horse as I can get at the moment – with my skill level, she’ll go straight up in the bridle or work happily, and softly in the Jaquima. This one is special to me, being the first one I started, and while I might be persuaded to part with her she would be priced in accordance with the time and training she has on her which is substantial.
The third one in my string is a registered Canadian mare from Alberta. This one is going well on the Jaquima and has been started on the bridle. Still a Jaquima horse, she needs to be handled properly, softly, or she will shut down. No harsh hands will work on her, she works incredibly well off a light signal. This four year old mare has been trail ridden and worked cattle, in team sorting, enthusiastically and has done a little XC stuff around the barn. This one should be ready later this year to be going on the two rein or maybe even straight up in the bridle.
Starting and riding horses is great fun, but communicating with them in a soft and considerate manner is extremely rewarding. My goal is to promote the Vaquero style of horsemanship, making it more available for Canadians, especially in Ontario as well as training and possibly breeding horses for sale. I hope you enjoy this site and take the time to read the blogs and follow the links, check out events posted both near and far.