When I was in college, I worked for a summer at a TB farm. Mostly, it was daily horse care. Sometimes I was in the breeding shed, sometimes helping the riders with their breakers or schooling the gate, you know...everything.
There was a groom who had worked at the farm for years. James had this easy way about him. Everyone liked him, people and horses. Nervous mares calmed down a bit, stupid colts danced a little bit less. When he turned out the stallion, there was slack in the lead.
James was quick with a smile, slow to speak in frustration. He never hurried, but would work circles around all of us. When he brought a tomato sandwich for lunch, he brought a whole tomato, not cutting it until it was time to eat. "Don't want the bread to get soggy," he told someone who tried to tease him.
I didn't know him well enough to do him the justice he deserves. But I think he taught me a lot about the kind of person I want to be. I found out today that he has left this world. I am sad for those who were closest to him, but immensely grateful that I got to meet him at all.
*And I use the term horsemen generically, for any person who is to be admired in how they handle horses.
"In the beginning, the universe was created. This made a lot of people angry and has widely been considered as a bad move." -Douglas Adams
When I got my first horse at the age of 11, we had a neighbor who was a real old timey horse guy. He was a blacksmith with a bunch of kids and also kind of a dealer. The kind of guy you don't see these days in horses too much. He helped me with my horse in so many ways - and was a super nice guy even if he was a little rough around the edges. The thing I remember most about him is that he was an amazing problem solver. Can't get the horse on the stock truck? Back it up to a ridge and walk the horse on. Horse learned to flip over the bit? Put the curb strap on the top of his nose. Not sophisticated things but they worked.
His son is a jockey and owner on the QH circuit I think - and pretty successful. I'm sorry to this day that I never got to tell him as an adult how much I appreciated his help.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, our 4H leader was a well known hunter jumper rider in these parts. A wonderful woman and exposed us to so many interesting things in 4H - head and shoulders above any other 4H leader I've ever known. I did run into her at a local horse show and was able to tell her how much I appreciated her. She also got to meet my sons and was just as nice to them as I remember her being with us.
It was a privilege to know both these folks and they certainly gave me something to aspire to in my youth.
Last edited by oldernewbie; Dec. 27, 2012 at 04:35 PM.
Reason: spelling error
I got to meet and was friends with Tom Ryder as much as a small child could be friends with Mr. Tom Ryder.
And George Bowman and his family. I grew up in CDE land and George Bowman is God to me and my mom. I had the great fortune to be able to summer with him and his lovely family in 2006. For my mom's birthday I had him ring her up (it was like 5am EST) and sing her happy birthday. She was floored!!
I was incredibly lucky in college to have sessions with Vladimir Littauer, Gordon Wright, and Col. Lundquist, as well as Dave Kelly and Patty Heuckeroth. Among others!
There are many others who come to mind- the Zimmermans in Houston (Conrad Homfeld was a student of theirs before heading east), several different managers/trainers at the barn where I boarded growing up in Texas (including a retired British jockey who taught me how to gallop racehorses by giving me a leg up on a 2 yo and not allowing me to lengthen the stirrups from 'his' 5 inch shorter exercise position, so geez, I was pretty close to racing stirrup length!). And even a few horse show judges- then as now, judges do run the spectrum, but one that sticks in my mind not only placed horses appropriately, but at open and especially 4-H shows, went to the announcer's stand to announce the placings himself, and explained WHY he made those placings for the benefit of the exhibitors. Incredibly instructive.
I will add that 'my' list is folks most haven't heard of (other than the obvious legends above). And some, just seen in passing, I don't even know their names, but you can just see that they have that knowledge and understanding by the horse's body language, whether on the ground or in the saddle.
My childhood trainer and his wife. 23 years later, I still help out at horse shows. I consider them family. I won't use their names, but anyone who is FB friend with them or me knows. Most influential people in my life.
Lots of great horsemen & women I've been privileged to meet but of them all, Mickey Walsh stands out the most. I met him in the early 90s a year & change before he passed away. He suffered from what might have been dementia but there were some things he was VERY clear about - one of which was his love of American TBs (especially when the world around him seemed to be going WB crazy). We talked about Little Squire and other events in his horse-life. Sometimes we'd have the same conversation 3-4 times a day 4-5 days of the week but I never got tired of listening to him. He was a very interesting guy...one of the greats.
From 1970-1972 I was a groom at the USET in Gladstone for the 3 day team. I had the privilege to meet and know Jack LeGoff, Bert DeNemethy, Bill Steinkraus, Frank Chapot, Neil Shapiro, Kathy Kusner, Carol Thompson, and Mike Plumb. What an amazing cast of horsemen to have watched and learned from!
But the one stand out influence I had was the head groom for the jumping team. His name was Dennis and I sure do wish I could remember his last name. He taught me an wealth of skills and I will be forever grateful for his mentoring. Very sadly, he died at a very young 36 from a heart attack.
Gary Zook, Gary Kunsman, my "TX trainer" who is now sadly in England, Lurena Bell, Lisa Payne-Hyslop, Molly and Patty at Arcadia, Judy Richter, Lendon Gray, CKD, Kathy Wood-Copa, Kate Wilson who is not a pro rider but who let me shadow her on saddle fitting appointments, Anne Rawle who taught me my first dressage lesson (on a GP horse no less), Eddo Hoekstra, David Guy, Jen Alfano, and the one who stole my sale horses but still taught me a lot so I just consider them very expensive lessons, and Maren Dietze in Germany.
Wouldn't be the same rider today if any names on that list were missing.
Peg Whitehurst, Wendy Morris Ely, Major Bella Buttykay, Lynn Klisavage, Sandy Sharkey, Cathy Wieschhoff and Marci Von Lenzner Plopper have been my greatest teachers from the time that I started working with them at age 14, until now at 60.
Favorite clinicians: Jimmy Wofford, Denny Emerson, Jim Graham, Sinead Halpin and Robin Walker.
I was a part time working student in my twenties and learned so much from the trainer who ran the barn. She also got me interested in alternative therapies, which I believe has led me to my career as a massage therapist. She could get on a 3-legged donkey while dressed in shorts, a tube top and flip flops and make it look like a dressage horse. Sadly she died unexpectedly a few years ago. I swear I can still hear her screaming "Where's your outside rein!" in my head when I'm riding.
I've also ridden with Jean Claude Racinet and am thrilled to have learned so much from auditing Mary Wanless clinics.
I've been privileged enough to meet plenty of "famous" horsemen, but the ones who've changed my life live in relative obscurity:
1. The owner of the farm I learner to ride at- she was like a mother to me, and we fought like mother/daughter when I was a teenager. But she instilled such good basic horsemanship in me that it set me ahead of the curve for life.
2. Riding director at a summer camp I worked at- I can't even remember her name. She was crude and mean, but she was an excellent horse woman (which I later learned is often an anomaly in camp programs). This was pre- the resurgence of "natural horsemanship", yet when all those clinicians started going mainstream, all I thought was, "well that's what the director told us at that camp years ago."
3. A fellow boarder at the barn I worked/boarded at as a kid: never famous or successful, just an average rider with 2 average horses, but such a good and knowledgeable horse owner. She took me under her wing and made a point to share her experience with me. Honestly, I've "grown up" to be just like her.
Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO
I've worked with a lot of trainers, farriers, vets, and other horse people who have impacted me greatly in one way or another. But for me there have been two people who really stand out as influencing my horsemanship in more ways than I can count.
1. The trainer I grew up riding with. The man was was a genius with horses. One of those who could still a crazed horse with a touch of his hand and could make ANY horse look good under saddle through something I always thought of as cowboy "magic." He was also a farrier and thoroughly understood all aspects of horsekeeping. In addition to teaching me that the foot is at the root of most horse issues, he also taught me how to address the entire horse regardless of what was in vogue (which included chiropractic back in the late 80s when it was definitely not a common or even normal idea). Out of everything I learned from him, I would say the most influential [offhand] comment he made was when he told me that "some trainers are good at building the confidence of the rider and some trainers are good at building the confidence of the horse. The really, really good ones are able to simultaneously build both." I didn't have the perspective to understand what he meant at the time nor the wisdom to understand the implication of each type, but after taking lessons and clinics from dozens of trainers since, I feel like I finally understand how true those words are. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to ride with him for 25 years, though I feel like I really only learned a tiny sliver of what he had to offer.
2. Greg Best. He's had a bigger influence on my riding life than I'm sure he knows, and is the only other trainer I've ever ridden with who has had an eye on (and been effective with) building the confidence of horse and rider simultaneously. He is a true "teacher" in every sense of the word. His consistency and emphasis on never making excuses has taken my riding and my horses to a new level. It's not just what he teaches in his clinics (I only get to ride with him a handful of times a year, after all), but it's the big picture of what he stands for and how that's influenced every decision I make on horseback and off. I am bound and determined to learn a bigger percentage of what he has to offer than what I learned from my trainer (mentioned above).
__________________________________ Forever exiled in the NW.