Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
STARTING YOUR OWN HORSE
Dr. Harry Anderson has a
television show on the RFD-TV network. The show is called “The
Advice Barn,” and it consists of a wholesome few minutes
(and don’t we need that on TV these days) driven by viewer
call-ins. Dr. Harry handles questions about nutrition, and
on occasion, I discuss topics viewers present regarding
colts, horsemanship, and questions relating to “problems” a
horse (could type “owners” here) might be displaying. Dr.
Harry is a good man, and certainly kind to let me appear
with him, so naturally the last thing I would ever want to
do is cause a controversy…but recently, I did.
Here was the question. Dr. Harry says, “Michael, we
have a question from someone who has been roping for a time
– a year or so - and she writes, ‘I have been roping – and
learning – on someone else’s horse, and I have five-year old
mare that is very calm with many good qualities, and I
really would like to rope on her. Do you think I could
start training my own mare – help her learn how?’
Then Dr. H says, “What do you think, Michael? Can we – or
should we – start our own horse?”
I said, “Absolutely.”
Apparently, some people disagreed with that.
I received at least a half-dozen calls that evening
with comments ranging from, “I disagree strongly with that,”
to “Worst advice I ever heard.” One friend – sorry,
ex-friend – said, “I have been roping twenty years, and I
would never start my own horse!” Hmmmm.
(I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s why this fellow
has had a dozen horses in the last ten years.) By his own
admission, he says, “I don’t know what’s the matter with
horses these days. When they come here, they’re fine. In a
couple of months, they go south on me.”
Hmmm. Wonder what on earth could be causing that?
What I meant when I said we should start our own
horse was that then we will understand in a new way what Ray
Hunt meant when he said, “If you would choose to work on
your horse, you will learn you must work on your self.”
I did not intend for people to think I meant we should
take our horse to some remote location and run fast cows all
day – on our green horse – all alone. Not what I had in
mind at all.
What I meant was this…
I took our Australian Shepherd, Rowdy, to a herding dog
clinic once taught by the master, Orin Barnes. “I’ve never
sent Rowdy to a trainer,” I said. “I know I should have.”
Mr. Barnes replied, “If you didn’t go with Rowdy to the
trainer, two weeks after he came home, Rowdy would be
just like he was before he left.”
Orin Barnes was teaching me to take responsibility
for my dog.
I remember something my friend and good horseman,
Oklahoman Kenneth Colson, said to a student once. The
fellow was complaining about all the things his horse was
doing wrong – and how unlucky he was to have such a stupid
horse. Kenneth said, “The day you start taking
responsibility for your horse’s behavior – all his behavior
– your horsemanship will improve overnight.”
So my intentions were good. (Isn’t that always the
case? Our intentions are always good.) I was trying to
convey the idea that we should not send our horse to someone
else like we send our four-wheeler to a mechanic. We must
invest our time and our selves if we want our horse to reach
On the other hand…
While I will never put this in a column or even tell
another human being ( you can bet on that, buddy) the
thought has crossed my mind that my detractors might just
have a point. There are some people that even I agree
should never start their own horse. One is my neighbor…Mad
Dog. Everybody has someone in their family like Mad Dog.
Mad’s favorite activity is to sit in the coffee shop
every morning with the old guys and tell anyone who will
listen what a great horse trainer he is. His conversation
goes something like this…
“I know their mine, but the horses I’ve trained are as
good as any National Finals Roping horse you’re gonna’
find. I’ve trained every one of them myself, and while they
ain’t all neon lights and silver saddles, they’ll do
anything – and more – than them “candy-fancy” ones will do.
Yessir, I’ve trained them right.”
That sounds really good until you actually see Mad
Dog’s horses rope. It is an ordeal to get any of them to go
in the arena, and when it comes his turn to rope, everybody
takes a break – ‘cause we know it’s going to be a while
before Mad Dog gets his horse in the box. Once finally in,
the horse shakes and trembles, and his head is usually the
exact same height as the Eiffel Tower. If the horse moves,
Mad nearly jerks his head off and spurs him as hard as he
can – and then he yells really loud. When he leaves the
box, the horse always rears ‘cause Mad’s pulling on him so
hard, the horse can’t breath. Then because Mad has
made the horse late, he hits him with the rope. Once
Mad throws his loop, his left hand jerks violently and the
horse – trying to help – goes left. Mad then hits him
for going left too early. After all that - with his
horse right on the verge of a nervous breakdown - Mad
“Yep, I can train’em as good as anybody goin’ down the road."
I’ve always wanted to hit Mad, but you know, I can’t.
He’s my neighbor and I like his wife and kids. (I feel sorry
for them ‘cause they cry all the time – his dog does too.)
And besides – if I ever did hit him, I couldn’t stop…‘cause
Mad’s the kind of guy you couldn’t hit just once.
So after all that, I still think you should start your
own horse. After all, who do you think is “starting” him
every time you swing your leg over him? How effective would
it be if we dropped our kid off at the school and said,
“Here…you make a good person out of him.” If we take
responsibility for our marriage, our children, and our
horse’s behavior…well, all that makes for a stronger world.
But I must admit – I have to agree with my detractors
on one point…
There are some people who shouldn’t start their
Ed. Note: In January of 2012,
RFD-TV’s All Around Performance Horse TV, and Roping and
Riding with Tyler Magnus, will broadcast the first embedded
segment of The Advice Barn, a viewer call-in show hosted by
Dr. Harry Anderson, with featured guests, Dr. Michael
Johnson, and Dr. J. D. Norris.
The Advice Barn is sponsored by Total Feeds, Inc. maker of
Total Equine, Dr. Harry Anderson’s creation of an
all-purpose feed designed for the horse. Total Feeds, Inc.
sold thousands of tons of Total Equine last year.