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Collaborative Horsemanship - A Mosaic Of The Horsemanship Greats

Over the years, I had received help from many individuals with upping my riding game and horsemanship, but it was a trip to Southern Montana for a Buck Brannaman clinic that changed my life forever. I realized, as someone who had ridden their entire life, just how much I didn’t know. But I was ready and eager to learn! This realization was very humbling and started me on the path I’m still on to this day.

At the clinic, I learnt that the information was out there, and I was inspired to find it. I read all of the books on horsemanship I could get my hands on. I watched VHS & then DVD instructionals daily, (this was long before membership and streaming sites, heck, it was long before YouTube).

I attended clinics with Ray Hunt, Martin Black, Bryan Neubert, Joe Wolters, Peter Campbell, Curt & Tammy Pate and others. Every one became my teacher, not just the horsemanship greats. I picked up tricks and new insights from the hands I rode with at brandings and learnt new skills from other trainers in the area.

I have become a student of the horse and have had many mentors who have helped me with the journey. But rather than commit to one mentor or one school of thought, I’ve learned from many. Learning to make my personal program a sort of horsemanship collage of all of the best insights I learnt from my many mentors, teachers and horses. This is the first reason I call my program collaborative horsemanship. Because it’s truly been a collaboration of all of the incredible horsemen that have paved the path I’m on today topped off with some of my own horsemanship discoveries.

"If I have been able to see further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." - Isaac Newton

One of those concepts that paved the way was the natural horsemanship movement. The term “natural horsemanship” became popular many years ago and I can remember that to start with that term got some people confused. What could be natural about one animal riding around on the back of another? Not much, many would say!

The term was and is best understood when it was presented as a method of communication with the horse in a manner that accounted for how a horse naturally thinks and responds to pressure. Horses are in a constant search for a release of pressure, understanding this fundamental principle is the basic building block in training any horse.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this concept I’ll quickly explain it now. In order for pressure to be effective there has to be a release of such pressure. And so then, of course, in order for the release to mean anything then pressure needs to be applied. Applying pressure to your horse means very little when they don’t get a break from that pressure. It’s the release of pressure that leads your horse to the thought, “oh! When I do XYZ they release the pressure. That must be the right answer.”

And in this way you’re working with your horse, not against them, to create positive change. That’s the second reason I refer to my program as “collaborative horsemanship”. For me, horsemanship is all about working with your horse, not against them. Not training on your horse but teaching your horse. In this way, you'll both be better off for the experience, and you'll both have grown. I've said many times that the best thing you can do for a horse is to train them well. Well-trained horses are safe horses, and they live long happy lives, being valued wherever the road takes them.

Within collaborative horsemanship, we work with the horse in a manner that takes into account that your horse is a flight animal and is constantly searching for a release from pressure. While also understanding that if we can make what we are asking the horse to do its idea then achieving that goal becomes much easier. By using the principle of making the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult the horse will always take the path of least resistance. So as Ray Hunt used to say, set it up and let them find it.

"Set it up and let the horse find it." - Ray Hunt

So what we are striving to do at Cowboy Campus University is to make our goals the horses' goals by collaborating with the horse. One of many ways we can do this is by setting up what we’d like for them to do and then let them search for the right answer. A collaboration between the human and the horse. We think that this term does a good job of describing our interaction with the horse. Our collaboration is a little different than many trainers but it works for us and our horses. After all, our most important critic is the horse and they will tell us when we’re on the right trail.

"The application is way more important than the method." - Buster Welch

Buster Welch used to say that the application was way more important than the method and I believe this to be very true. It is more important to the horse how you do something than what you do! Collaborate with your horse and allow him the opportunity to search for the answer you are looking for. Give him the opportunity to be wrong and let him find the right answer himself. And most importantly, give him the opportunity to teach you something as well. This is a true collaboration and meeting of minds.

Happy trails,


You can take my Key Ranch College Training Program horsemanship online-clinic inside the Cowboy Campus Club Group Coaching Program and learn how to transform your horsemanship with collaborative horsemanship! Join the waitlist and be notified when enrollment to the club opens on July 1st 2023 here →

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