Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     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 his potential.
     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 says...
“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 own horse.

                         --Michael Johnson

 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.




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