I’ve just returned from southern California and a fabulous weekend at Equine Affaire. We had beautiful weather, good crowds and I met and talked to tons of really nice people. I was busy all weekend with presentations, so the weekend went by fast—just the way I like it!
When we left for the airport last Wednesday, it was 32 degrees below zero in South Park (yes, that really is a place; a really cold place) and a few hours later when we landed in Ontario CA, it was a balmy 63 degrees—a 95 degree shift in temperature in about three hours! It was a lovely warm weekend in SoCal and I managed to miss all the travel headaches that the rest of the country was experiencing, but returned home just in time for the next arctic blast. I guess there is a reason why so many people live in CA.
I did presentations all weekend long, with a few extras thrown in because a few of the presenters were unable to be there as expected. I had a great little cutting mare for myself to ride for the weekend; she belongs to a local rancher, Kelly Baker, and was an easy and reliable ride. People often think I am riding my own horse when I do expos, but that is rarely the case, because I fly most everywhere I go and I don’t take my horses on the road—it’s my career choice not theirs. Instead, I ask the expo producers to find me a well-trained, experienced Western horse, preferably a reiner or a cowhorse and surprisingly, most of the time this works. People often ask me if I’ve ever had a problem hopping up on a horse I’ve never ridden before and going straight into the arena for a presentation. Although I’ve had a couple horses that were unsuitable and had to be fired, for the most part I get some really nice horses to ride and I really enjoy the opportunity to ride different horses (although it would really be a luxury to ride my own horse). If I just had someone to carry my saddle through the airport, life would be really good.
Due to the schedule changes at the expo and making up for presenters that weren’t there, I ended up doing three demos in a row on horse behavior, one on judging temperament, one on communicative behavior and one on herd dynamics. Somehow I managed to talk for three hours and never repeat anything. Actually, I probably could talk for an entire day and not be redundant when it comes to horse behavior. It is truly my passion in this business and I’ll never grow tired of studying it and learning more. Much of what I have learned about horse behavior comes from a life-time of observation, starting at a very young age, although I did not know then that I was studying and learning. Simply watching horses in their pens as they interact with each other will teach you a lot about their hierarchy, their communicative behaviors and their motivations. If you combine with that the didactic study of horse behavior by reading veterinary textbooks on the subject and all the various research papers, you’ll be able to fill in the gaps from your observations with scientific based knowledge and have a good understanding of horses.
Have you learned anything enlightening about horse behavior and how has that shaped your interactions with them? Do you have a favorite book you’ve read or a favorite researcher that you follow? I could fill a page just on these questions. Two of my favorite books are “Horse Behaviour” by Daniel Mills and “Equine Behavior” by George Waring. The latter book is long out of print but can still be found through Amazon. Although it is somewhat outdated, it is still a often-referenced “bible” on horse behavior. Warning: both books are veterinary text books, so it is not particularly light reading, but you’ll learn a lot. I’d love to hear your favorites. Some of my favorite researcher are Dr. Katherine Houpt, Dr. Jim Heird and Dr. Temple Grandin. Now you know some of my favorite sources, what’s yours?
Enjoy the ride!