Becoming an Expert With Horses

Look at the horse's eye

They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano

I've often wondered just what it takes to become a horse expert, one of those folks who can walk into a small arena with a half-wild, half-frightened, highly spirited horse and within a minute or so have the horse standing gently by my side. Yes I'm talking about the someone like Hunt, Dorrance, Roberts, Hempfling, etc..

Do they have something the rest of us don't? Certainly. Can we get some of that? Maybe. But does there also have to be a little gift we were born with to get us on our way? We're not all natural athletes and many of us could practice the piano for years and they would still laugh when we sit down to play.

Obviously becoming an expert on horses takes a combination of time, patience, perserverance, years of study, practice, passion, and of course some horses. If you're lacking in just one of these you probably won't get there.

Now that does not make you a slacker or a loser. Don't get me wrong. Most of us are pretty happy just being able to be comfortable around horses, enjoy being with them, and able to handle them safely and without an abnormal amount of difficulty.

Most of us are in the "intermediate" range where we're well within our comfort zone and doing just fine. As much as we love horses we don't really want to take those extra steps that would make us true experts in the art of horsemanship. Still when I read books and articles either by or about the better known trainers and horse gentlers I at times wish I could find myself in that select group but always wonder how to get there.

Grandmasters and Horse Gentlers

There's a very interesting article in the August 2006 issue of Scientific American. It's titled The Expert Mind, and addresses what it takes to become an expert at anything. The subjects chosen are chess grandmasters so if chess is a game you enjoy you'll surely enjoy the article.

Chess is chosen because it's a straightforward game lending itself to study and experiment and yet requires years of study and practice to attain the grandmaster level of expertise. The question posed is whether what these chess players have in common can carry over into other fields as well. Is there a special gift you must have from birth or is it all just plain hard work?

If you're born with a certain gift that enables you to mingle with the elite of the chess playing community do you need to be born with a special gift to place you amongst the great equine handlers and trainers?

Consider the chess grandmaster who can look at the situation on the chess board at most stages of the game and make the appropriate move within a very few seconds.

Now consider the horse trainer who can get a frightened or angry animal under control is an amazingly (to the casual oberver) short time as well - one of those folks who can glance at our horse and tell us what the problem is (usually us) without running an extensive series of tests.

Each one us of is blessed with certain gifts that allow us to do well and sometimes excel at different things. We are fortunate indeed if we recognize these gifts and can do something about developing them. So there may be something rather unique about those who excel in the art of horsemanship.

But the bottom line suggests it is primarily things within our control -
study, perserverance, practice, and passion
( and yes, having some horses) that can take us to the top of the profession. So there is good reason to hope. But there are years of hard work involved as well.

Read What the Experts Have Done

I think you'd enjoy the article if you get a chance to read it. And if you, or your horse lover want to know more about what it takes to significantly advance or rise to the top in the world of horse experts, trainers, and gentlers, see what the experts themselves have to say.

Some excellent books are:

  • Pat Parelli's Natural Horse-Man-Ship

  • "True Unity" by Tom Dorrance

  • Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling's Dancing With Horses and What Horse Reveal, the latter will tell you a great deal.

  • Buck Brannaman's "The Faraway Horses" and "BELIEVE - A Horseman's Journey"

All are reviewed on the page on Books on Horsemanship.

Copyright © 2006 W. Savage. All Rights Reserved.

William "Bill" Savage, a retired, engineer lives on the Goose Bay Ranch in Montana where he spends time with family, horses, and his web site. You can read other articles of his including those on horsemanship on his web site

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