Marketplace: Training from the horses mouth
March 8, 2011
Jimmy Smith grew up on a ranch at the foot of Mt. Timpanogos and is expert in the ancient skills of horsemanship. His career still involves horses, but is an focused on something at the cutting edge of the field.
"Natural horsemanship" is a term for a training philosophy that emerged 30 years ago and was made famous by Buck Brannaman subject of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival documentary, "Buck." Other celebrities in the field include Pat Parelli, Clinton Anderson, Chris Cox and Stacy Westfall, Smith said.
But the field has advanced a lot in just the last five years by these people. The innovations have gone so far beyond the original philosophy that new language is needed to describe it, he said.
Smith’s company, Horses Landing, teaches these new training techniques in weekly clinics offered in Wanship.
The basic premise is similar to the teachings of "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan: think like your animal.
For millennia, mankind has captured, domesticated and dominated the horse. To create a more intimate connection with an equine or to solve behavioral problems, one must get off the "high horse" and understand how they think.
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"Think of a relationship-type approach to a horse," he said. "Learn the language they speak within the herd."
For example, people train horses to respond to verbal commands. When they don’t obey, people speak louder or with consternation.
"The thing that advances training more dramatically than anything is to understand their view," he said. "We’ve brought them into our world and we treat them with arrogance."
But in the horse world, audible communication is reserved for announcing danger.
Horses primarily communicate with body language, he said. If we tell them what we want them to do with touch, they’re more willing to respond.
As herd animals, horses follow their leader. If you convince it that you are the leader, it is more willing to accept your command, he added.
"If you’re an effective leader and you communicate well, it’s amazing what they will do," Smith said.
Much of what Smith teaches is not necessarily new. Because he is immersed in these techniques, he can help people new to the sport get started with correct fundamentals. Or he can assist experts in achieving a higher level of respect, safety and enjoyment with their animals.
Horses Landing also privately trains animals for clients and sells trained horses. The clinics only teach about three students at a time so Smith can give adequate one-on-one attention.
At the ranch in Wanship, the clinics involve two days of intense training that some graduates have compared to a "boot camp."
There are three levels of clinics offered for different skill levels. And Smith can bring the clinic to the client under special circumstances.
Client Tom Smart said via email it was the most worthwhile investment in his horsemanship he’s ever made.
"I learned more in one day about resolving respect issues with my horse than in the 12 years riding him," Smart said.
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