Key Word: Flexibility – susceptible to modification or adaptation; adaptable, willing or disposed to yield
Craig Cameron, “Some people have a natural way with horses and seem to be able to communicate with them easily. If those people use that gift correctly, they might be successful. But for the most part, good horsemanship can be learned. If you are willing to put in the time and effort that takes, then there’s a good chance you can find success.”
Your age doesn’t matter. Neither does where you came from, nor how tall or short you are, or how physically agile you are. Great horsemanship starts from the inside. It comes from the desire to be a true horseman.
Good horsemanship stems from good communication. How well can you get the horse to understand what you want? How well can you get the horse to understand what you don’t want? You don’t have to do things exactly the way I do them, or use exactly the same equipment that I do, to get the result you want. And the result is what is important—a horse with a willing and want-to attitude.
It takes time to make a great horse. You cannot mass-produce such horses. You have to start at the beginning, and also remember that every day is a new beginning. You must be willing to work on yourself. You have to be willing to live the life of a horseman, even if you have another job during the day. You can think about becoming a horseman, visualize doing that, read about horsemanship, and watch videos. But you also have to get out there in the dirt and be willing to work and learn from your mistakes, because you are going to make them, and that’s okay. That’s how you learn. You’re going to have to sweat a little to accomplish your goals.
I have found that there are five keys to becoming a true horseman: an open mind, willingness to learn and change, patience, slow hands, and the ability to read the horse. If you start with an open mind, the rest falls into place.
An Open Mind
Having an open mind is necessary in life, but especially in horsemanship. One reason is that every horse is different. What works on one doesn’t necessarily work on another. You have to be willing to stop, analyze and evaluate what works on each horse, no matter where you are in his training. It might be the very beginning, when you are just teaching him to carry a saddle. It might be while you are working on a finished horse. Things change from day to day, from minute to minute. Every moment, you must be willing to look for the best way to accomplish your goal with that particular horse.
Open-mindedness keeps us willing to adapt to fit any horse’s situation and circumstance. We can never get to that point of thinking we know it all and not listen to advice that might help us. One piece of wisdom from another horseman, or one thing we learn while working with our own horses, could make the difference between success and failure.
Willing to Learn and Change
One thing I know for certain is that I can never know it all! Consequently, I never want to lose my willingness to learn, to change and to grow with my horses. I have to laugh when people say to me, “You’re not doing things like I saw you do them 10 years ago.” Well, I hope not! I hope that I’m changing, because then I’m growing. If I can’t change, I can’t grow. If I can’t grow, I can’t be my best. If I can’t be my best, then what else is there? So I am always willing to change and always looking for a better way to accomplish my goals.
I don’t want to forget, too, that sometimes I have to change from horse to horse. What works on one isn’t necessarily good for another one. A bit that works on one horse might not get the same response on another horse I’m riding.
That’s one of the things that keep it exciting for me to get out there and work with horses. I have to keep thinking, use my skills, and hone those skills every day.
Most people who come to my clinics want to learn more, and want to get better than they are now. I can’t help but admire that. A few come to clinics with egotistical ways, and some even seem to want to show me how much they know. That type of person isn’t willing to learn or change, and that is the hardest person to help.
However, the horse isn’t interested in your pride or ego. All he’s interested in is how you treat him and what you have to offer him. You must be willing to change in order to grow and improve yourself, and improve your relationship with your horse. Don’t change for me. Do it for yourself and for your horse.
A Native Texan Craig Cameron, one of the original clinicians, is on the road more than 44 weeks a year covering 80,000 miles demonstrating the style of horsemanship he has perfected in the last 23 years. Called the “public defender of the horse,” Craig dedicates himself to those who educate their horses by first educating themselves. At an age where most have long since retired the thought of starting colts, Craig Cameron, known as “The Cowboy’s Clinician,” starts hundreds of horses each year. Learn more about Craig Cameron at www.CraigCameron.com
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 4