“Instead of focusing on control and domination,
I focus on getting the horse’s trust”
Before I can remember, probably even before I could walk, my parents put me on the back of a horse and from then horses have been a part of my life. I guess with horses being such a close part of my life for some years I never quite appreciated the wonderful animal that they are and the animal that I have come to love. Throughout my childhood years and adolescence, I took it for granted that riding was a part of my life. I would just jump on a horse and ride, shod it if it needed it, but then turn them out in the back paddock.
At the age of about 24, after working in Scotland, England and America, I started to realize that there can be more to the relationship that we have with horses. It was at this point that I wanted to learn and develop myself into a better horse person.
Through my younger years, I had ridden different types of horses – good ones and tough ones – all bought from sales for cheap prices. I used to be one of the first ones to ride them to see if they would make it for long distance horse treks. I would run them in from over the mountain, often bareback, chasing a mob of horses down to the homestead. In those days, I used to think that it was simply riding them and putting miles on them that fixed their problems. I still believe that this is partly true; but there is so much more that is needed.
At the time that I met Jenny, I was working in a job in an industry that had nothing to do with horses. Though I enjoyed my work, I felt a big part of me was missing. An integral part of who I was and who I had yet to become. So we left. And Equine Ability was started.
Then the real learning began.
I began starting horses for locals in the area. I knew enough to get me by; to get return customers; and to approach my work in a way that built on trust. As each year went by, I kept trying new things. Sometimes I would get much better results, spurring me on to try other new things. It was the realization of how much there is to learn that kept me so excited about what I was doing. It was through these years that I began to appreciate that the animal which I had initially taken for granted, deserved so much more – and as my feelings for wanting to help them grew so did my methods. I have now started hundreds of horses (over 500) and we still take all horses, regardless of breed or age.
The approach I take to horsemanship has been granted to me by the horses which I have worked with, sheer hard work and a mixture of ideas from other horse people. I have started wild horses from different parts of Australia and many horses which have never seen a person before they were dropped off. Working with tough horses and highly nervous horses has perhaps taught me the most. Even though there are certain methods in what I do, it is more now a philosophy that I use as my guide with horses. One of my main beliefs is that no matter how hard the task seems, I am not here as a trainer, but as a helper. When things start to get really tough, look into yourself and then say to the horse “how can I help?”.
I think it is important to take a calm approach to every horse that I work with. I try not to make a horse feel trapped in either it’s mind or body. I try hard to take in the individual personality of each horse. I try and make the process of learning for them as smooth as possible. I aim to earn my leadership: not demand it. I have found, time and time again, that if you can work with your horse – work to its level and its needs – you will get a horse that not only responds quicker and is more attentive, but one that is more willing, softer and more open to learn.
Running horsemanship clinics is now starting to be a big part of what we do. It is great meeting everyone and their horses and I truly enjoy sharing my knowledge, my triumphs and my mishaps.