Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Road to the Horse and Richard Winters

First off, I haven't been near as active on my blog as I'd like to be. I've had several things pop into mind over the past few months that I've wanted to share, but then other things pop in and somehow I never make it here to write them down. (or would it be type them up?) I'd rather not turn this post into a novel, if I can avoid it, so maybe I'll try to be disciplined and type up some of those things over the next few days. But for now... I'm sipping my coffee and surfing the net and something has popped in.

The Road to the Horse event takes place in a few days. One of these years I'd like to go see that in person. I think it's an event that would be great to go to, just to say I had been there. Last year the Champion of the event was a trainer named Richard Winters. I'm not sure I had heard of him more than in passing before the event. After he won I remember there was a great deal of hype about the fact that he was the first competitor to win riding in a halter. I remember being surprised, over and over, when I'd see another mention of how extraordinary it was.

I have always started my horses in a halter. As a matter of fact, I don't even ride a horse with a bit and bridle until they've already had several rides in a halter. I also start my horses bareback. People have thought I'm crazy for that. But the way I look at it is that I think a saddle, a bit, AND a rider are a lot for a young horse to worry about all together on a first ride. Now of course I introduce my horses to the saddle, and the bit, well before I ever climb on their back, but when it comes time for the first few rides, it's just me, a halter, and leadrope on the horse. I don't want to jinx myself, but so far I've never been dumped during those first few rides. I think it's because I do a lot of ground work and preparation leading up to that first ride, but also because the minimal approach means there's just not much for the horse to get upset about.

I guess I'm still amazed at the widespread misconceptions that surround horses. Such as - you HAVE to have a bit in their mouth - and you HAVE to have shoes on their feet (but that's a whole 'nother blog entry I'll save for some other time). I just have to kinda shake my head when I see all the mentions of Richard Winters being "the first!" to win Road to the Horse without a bit in his horse's mouth. Please understand I'm not trying to take ANYTHING away from him. Actually I think it is FANTASTIC that he won in that fashion. I hope his victory has sparked some dialogue about how you don't HAVE to put a bit in a horse's mouth to start them - or even to win a prestigious competition like Road the the Horse. I hope he was the first of many to come.

I just saw a message about the event being in a few days and I was reminded that Richard Winters is competing again this year. I ended up seeing a link to his channel on YouTube this morning and then I wandered onto his site. I happened to notice that he has an article right on his homepage about handling stallions. I have to admit that when I clicked on the link, I had my hackles up a bit, because I am so used to the "big name" trainers taking about how horrible stallions are. (that's actually ANOTHER blog post I've been meaning to make) To my surprise, the Richard Winters article on handling stallions is just that: some tips on raising and handling stallions. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I'd say between his Road to the Horse win in a halter, and this article on stallions, I'm going to have to look into his methods. He has quite an extensive list of videos on his YouTube channel and I'm going to check them out!