Monday, September 9, 2013

How's your horsemanship?

Greetings from the epicenter of the Bakken Oil formation!

It is true!  Ranchers need CE (continuing education).  We need it frequently as the animal scientists of the world are constantly bringing us new and exciting research results that when applied properly, improve our livestock's quality of life.  These things vary from nutrition to vaccines to low stress handling tools and methods to grazing systems to genetic data and the information systems that manage it all.

With ALL of the changes that exist in animal science and the persuit of improving livestock husbandry, my last CE experience was an intriguing encounter and a display of fundamental cowboy culture - a contrast from the sharing of scientific rooted results that make up most CE experiences.  It all started with an email from a RLND friend informing me of an event coming up.  Her family hosts a horse clinician each summer at the Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch -  The clinicians name is Bryan Neubert -

Unlike many other horse clinicians (many of them have shows on RFD-TV (Rural Free Delivery - TV)) I had never heard of Bryan.  That being said, knowing my RLND friend, when she said something was 'worth it', it was.  It appeared as though there was going to be a little break in haying the last week of July between first and second cuttings so Brad and I loaded up our horses and headed down to Medora for the 4 day CE horsemanship clinic.

Each of the four mornings, under Bryan's guidance 14 colts who had never been ridden were worked.  They were all halter broke, but some barely.  Never before had I witnessed someone build trust and confidence in young horses so quickly and efficiently.  His nonverbal communication with them was pure, concise, direct, firm and fair.

How does a person get that good at reading nonverbal communication and communicating back in such an effective way?  My thoughts on this after watching Bryan 'work' and listen to him tell his 'life' stories:

(1) the cowboy way of life is his passion and unlike many who were born in to it, he chose it knowing full well it is a demanding lifestyle and one that doesn't typically come with a high performing 401 K... you do it for the love of it, not for what it allows you to buy...

(2) he was first an excellent student before he was an excellent teacher and he also knows he will always be a student as there is always more that can and should be learned...

(3) this exhibit in horsemanship was an accumulation of his life's work and it reveled the Mona Lisa, Cannon in D or Mt. Rushmore...

(4) he was fair and a good listener and the horses knew it and respected him for it and would follow him ANYWHERE and do ANYTHING for him...

I have not used the term 'horse whisperer'.  I have no specific problem with the term, but the term makes it sound like a gift freely given.  There was more to this display by this incredibly meek, balanced, humble cowboy and horsemen than that of a freely given gift.  There were no whispers being sent to these man fearing animals and it was a life time of skill honing and not simply the exercise of the 'gift of a horse whisper'.  There was however lots of communicating - lots of listening - lots of respect... NO whispering.

I brought dad's horse 'Oops' to ride in the afternoon horsemanship clinic.  He is Kim's horse now and although we both want him to be a good member of the equine society, he is struggling.  Perfectly talented, he has anxiety issues both in the trailer when being hauled and in the sorting pen.  He seems to lack patience's which can snowball quickly and ruin to his day and the day of the person paired with him.  We both have the goal of easing his anxiety, which in most horses has to do with confidence issues (the lack of) and/or trust issues (again, the lack of).  Oops has plenty of confidence AND trust in the humans in his life so this case has been unique and complicated and is taking a great deal of critical thinking on the 'people's' part.

Anyway, Bryan offered to demonstrate a couple items on a 'first time' student.  I offered up Oops to him.  Oops followed Bryan's lead quickly, was a good demonstration, and displayed the calm domineer in his eyes, softness in his face and feet that I often saw when dad was riding him.

In many ways, Bryan reminded me of my dad and possibly that was part of the connection with me.  This horse communicator provided me with one of the best and most memorable 'CE' experiences which totally and completely exceeded my expectations.

From the 'Best Cavy' and the cowboys at Elkhorn Creek Ranch, Thank you Bryan!

Bryan telling stories in the round pen.

Bryan warming up the colts.

The first ride on the colts.

Soooo, if you haven't thought about it lately, it is a good time to ask yourself, "How's my horsemanship?"