What would Tom do?

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Equine Training, Traditions | Comments Off on What would Tom do?

I count my lucky stars to have studied with many fine horsemen and women, some well-known, and some not so.  I’ve also studied the written and digital works of many more, living and long-ago passed.

When potential clients ask me what “style” I train in, that’s a bit of a difficult question to answer for me since I’ve very often been labeled “eclectic.”  You see, even though my foundation is in what is known as the Spanish California/Nevada Tradition of horsemanship, I have adopted many things taught and used by many others.  From traditional methods through so-called “natural horsemanship” and positive reinforcement (marker) training, each horse presents a new challenge which requires me to reach into my bag of “tricks” to make it through a problem area or sticky issue.

I’m not averse to using food to motivate a horse, but I will never try to bribe them into a behavior.  I also don’t object to using varying levels of pressure to try and communicate in the clearest way possible what I’m asking at the moment.

But, when I’m really stuck on something, the first question I ask myself is, “What would Tom do?”

I never met him, but his life and abilities with horses is legendary.  Tom Dorrance was a friend to the horse.  I think he was probably the first person to really address the three aspects of the horse, physical, mental, and spiritual in print.  I could be wrong, but it’s the first time I’ve read anyone really addressing it.

Tom had patience with the horse.  His greatest ability, as far as I can see, was the ability to wait and observe, and find that perfect place of “feel” with just about any horse as far as I can tell.

I am only sorry that I didn’t have the chance to meet Tom in person and learn from him during his more active days.  But, there are many folks who have, and they carry on the tradition he and others imparted to us.  I think the most important thing Tom taught us all, whether in person or through his writings, was that the horse is our teacher.  Ray Hunt knew this, as did Tom’s brother Bill.  Buck Brannaman knows this, Peter Campbell, Martin Black, and a whole host of others.  So, there must be something to this “horse as teacher.”

Sure, you can learn the techniques of any “style.”  But, I DEFY you to think that technique alone will serve you and the horse.  It takes heart, “feel,” a certain amount of patience, and keen observation skills.

So, when I have a sticky problem with my path alongside the horse, I always ask, “What would Tom do?”  I can almost hear him say, “Bill, now let’s just sit here and look at this horse and see what he’s trying to tell us.”

Tom reminds me to look to the horse, not to the next book, video, clinic, or workshop.

If you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of Tom’s book, “True Unity” while it’s still in print.  I think you’ll find yourself opening it up many times for inspiration in your path with the horse.

May you always ride a good horse.