“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.” - Epictetus
For as long as I can remember, horses have always played a large part in my life. As a little guy, my family used horses to get around in the backcountry of Banff and Riding Mountian National Park. My dad was a park warden, and that was how you got around in those days. At the beginning of my life, horses were a beautiful tool that I enjoyed using.
My father, Ed Stewart
As I got older, my brothers and I attended horse shows and rodeos. The horses we used were, for the most part, self-trained by the three of us. We got them as trained and as handy as our limited skillset allowed, but we were proud of our horses and the time and effort we put into them. The more I travelled, the more I learned about horsemanship and the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I learnt that there was so much more to riding than just pulling and kicking.
Don’t get me wrong, as a kid, we didn't get into trouble very often with our horses, so my early instruction from my mother and father must have been adequate, but I was slowly learning that my relationship with my horse could be so much more than it was then.
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, and I attended clinics with Ray Hunt, Martin Black, Bryan Neubert, Joe Wolters, Peter Campbell, Curt & Tammy Pate and others. Everyone 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.
Working a horse in the first arena I built at my ranch, sometime in the 90's.
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 took in 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. I like to refer to my program as “collaborative horsemanship,” where you communicate with and speak the language of your horse so that the two of you together can create something bigger than the both of you.
In my program, you may recognize elements of Ray Hunt, Mark Rashid & Tom Dorrance but also some of the invaluable insights I picked up from the rodeo trail pick-up men who had wonderful relationships with their big reliable horses and the cow hands in Texas who got every job done in a calm, and quiet fashion.
Taken at an OH Ranch branding by John McQuarrie
I’ve learnt to be a student of life and the horse and that it's what you discover after you think you know it all that really counts. So whether you are a new rider or someone who has ridden their whole life, believe me, Cowboy Campus has something to offer you. And remember, it might not be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.
So I invite you to join me on your journey to better communication with your horse. And who knows, you might learn to enjoy something that you already love even more. I know I have!
My course, The Fundamental Horsemanship Course - Mastering The Principles For a Solid Foundation (formerly called Course #1), is 25 lessons that I wish I had when I was starting my horsemanship journey. These are the principles that need to be mastered in order to create a connection based in leadership and a partnership you'll enjoy for years.
Enroll here and begin the journey to a solid, trustworthy horse, improved communication and a lasting partnership. I'll see you in the members-only Facebook group, where I'll be replying to your questions and learning more about you and your horse!