14 November 2015

glenatron: (Iris)
There are relatively few horse trainers I am interested in learning from that I haven't ridden with by this point, but until this autumn Harry Whitney topped that list. I was first introduced to him by reading some of Tom Moates' articles in Eclectic Horseman and later his books about learning with Harry, which are well worth reading. At the same time I was reading Ross Jacobs' work and that also referenced Harry on a fairly routine basis. Sari and I rode with Ross in Australia a few years back and he strongly recommended that we visit with Harry if possible. Last winter was supposed to be the last time Harry was teaching at his place in Arizona, but ( luckily for us ) the sale they had lined up fell through and he is teaching there for one more season. As we have worked hard this year I thought we qualified for a bit of travel.

Consequently we found ourselves with a five day clinic at Harry's gorgeous Arizona set-up with some charming borrowed horses for us to ride and a couple of mules taking part as well. An excellent proposition.

If you want an introduction to Harry's approach, which looks more similar to what other trainers do than it is, you could read this article on round pen work (pdf) and this book. In essence Harry's work starts from a single point- learning to direct the horse's thought. When you are directing the horse's mind rather than their body, there is no resistance and they will work as well as they possibly can. Most problems we run into come from trying to make the horse physically do something rather than asking them to act mentally.

Day-by-day write-up. Illustrated, of course )

It was a really good clinic. Really good. Harry is as good as people say he is- he has a depth of knowledge and an aptitude for explanation that make him an excellent teacher and by the end of the clinic I felt as though I had so much more understanding of the reasoning behind a lot of techniques that I was already using or that I knew to work but had never seriously thought through why they worked. That underpinning is probably the biggest part of what I will be bringing home with me from this clinic and I can't wait to begin introducing it to my horses and seeing where it will take us. I can already see numerous ways that I think it will help Iris to feel more confident in me and in the world. It feels to me that this was a thing I was ready for in my horsemanship and also something I needed. If you ever get the chance to see or ride with Harry, you should take it. You will be pleased that you did.

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