Sunday, November 11, 2007

Harry Whitney and Mark Rashid - part 2

I didn’t really do Harry Whitney justice in my last post about him.
Putting together the two weeks of clinic that we did, and seeing it in terms of where we were at with our horsemanship just before we left for the States, it has actually been near perfect for us.

So where were we at when we left. Well, I’ll try to explain. For some time now I have been uncertain about just how far I should go to get what I want from my horses. You know that old chestnut, ‘use as little as possible, but as much as it takes’. Well, on the ground I’m pretty ok with that, and that shows in the success I have there. I now realise that I have been seriously losing out on my riding simply because I have imposed all sorts of limitations on what I can and can’t do while I ride my horse.

I never ever want to forget that moment when Mark said to me, ‘Do what you have to do – it’s not about what it looks like, you have to get the job done’. Even after he’d said it about four times it still took me three days to get it done – boy was that horse glad when I did get round to it. Suddenly the horse was free and off we went.
So then it was off to Harry’s.

I was quite nervous waiting to meet him, and so relieved when I realised what a nice bloke he is. I can tell you now 100%, anyone, just anyone, could talk to Harry – he is one of the most approachable, humble, kind and knowledgeable about horses people I have ever met. Another worry I took to Harry’s was, I have been very careful about watching trainers – since I realised that I liked the way Mark works I have not seriously looked at other trainers. Sarah has looked at loads and she often comes back worrying because she doesn’t like what they are doing, or she thinks we should be doing more. She often comes back and says ‘I think we should be doing such and such’, which we try for a while and then we just go back to what we do best. Actually I do admit that we add in stuff from here and there, and of course we work out our own stuff as we go too.

It didn’t take me long of watching Harry to see that his horsemanship is very much along the lines of Mark’s (or the other way round!). As Harry said to me, the horse is the common factor, and if you come at it from a certain direction you will end up at a similar place. So that’s interesting isn’t it – which direction are you coming from. To put it bluntly, what is your purpose? Is it to win, to look good, to make money, to be better than anyone else, to prove to yourself you can do it, to improve your life, or is it…..nah, it's not for me to say.

No, that’s a cop out there by me isn’t it – so is your purpose to be the best you can be for your horse all the time, and anything else that happens is a bonus or not. That is the purpose I am aiming to find in all my work.

I am not going to get into summing up Mark and Harry’s work, or as someone asked me when I got home, ‘so who is best then?’ It was just so good to have what we are doing here kind of confirmed and pushed on by watching these two guys work. Would I recommend a trip out there to work with either of them? For sure I would. When Sarah and I were discussing the utter irresponsibility of what we had just done to our finances by going on this trip, I asked her would she be happy to not know what we have just learned. ‘No way’, she replied, and neither would I be either. Of course I know there is more and more still to learn, but that’s horses isn’t it. It’s fun!


  1. I wish I understood what it is that you have learned when you know so much alrady. Is it just a different way of doing the same thing, a better way, a quicker way, a kinder way, a more effective way???? I know life is a learning game whatever you're into and doesn't stop till you're pushing up daisies but I find it hard to understand what you're seeking. I know that I can't communicate effectively with mine and that try as they might they don't always know what I want, I know I have to gain their trust much more and I need more confidence in what I do, in short I know I don't know what I'm doing - but you don't have these issues, do you?

  2. Just for me I needed some clarity on a specific issue, a sort of half philosophical and half practical training issue.

    I can sort of explain it like this. When the horse says 'no', then as long as I am asking something reasonable of him, then is it 100% ok and correct for me to say, 'actually the answer we're looking for is yes'.
    What I was actually doing was saying 'actually the answer is yes, but right now you don't want to say yes do you, so maybe for now I'll take no, ok, I'll try again later, no problem'. I was not hanging in there to get a change of thought, I was teaching my horse it's ok to do the opposite to what I wanted.
    I was avoiding confrontation and thinking I could sort it out some other way - maybe by schooling, or in smaller bites or whatever, but crucially I was confusing the horse by not being 100% in charge. I was making a simple job harder.
    So Ziggi, hope that helps. It doesn't mean you're no good. For God's sakes I been running clinics for about 6 years now - just think - people thought I was good then, but look at all the stuff I didn't know along the years. It all just rolls along.

  3. One of the best descriptions I've found for horsemanship is that it's a lot like like climbing a mountain and every time you reach the brow of the path you can see so much more of where you have been but you also see that there is another stretch of path leading on up ahead of you. You look like you're a long way up to most people, but from where you're standing there is always further you could be going. Maybe as you get further on those stretches of path look pretty small to the people further down the path because they can't make out the differences that easily over the distance, but they are big changes in you.

    Not that there is only one path up the mountain, everyone gets to make their own one of those, but as you get higher up the paths converge increasingly.

    And maybe to extend that analogy maybe one of the problems with how people get on with their horses a lot of the time is that they are looking for a cablecar.

  4. Wow Tommy, it sounds like the way you need to deal with teenagers (I'm still open to the idea of sending mine off to you)

    It sounds as though your trip was a success and that's a good thing.

  5. Hi there-

    Just found your blog. My husband and I have been longtime followers of Harry's ways. In fact my husband used to sponsor his clinics for several years here. Harry chagned the way I look at things with horses. I have done enough clinics with him now that when I work horses, I can almost hear him his voice saying something like, "hang in there Jonna, he'll get there!

    I just got a blog of my own going and have his webstie linked up. Feel free to ride on over!

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