Bringing wholeness to both horse and rider


And Then There Is Gambler

And Then There Is Gambler


In just about every clinic I do, there comes a moment when a frustrated rider gets an all-too-familiar “look” on his or her face. And, believe me, you don’t need a translator to figure out the thoughts behind that at-the-end-of-my-rope look.

“ I can’t figure this out. My horse always does this thing that sooo irritates me”.

Well, let’s just take a look at that. And I have the perfect horse that’ll help us do the job.

His name is Gambler. Now, at fifty paces, you could not image a nicer buckskin gelding living at the boarding facility where I live. Twenty two years old. Not a specialist at any one discipline. Just a good, all-around, steady mount for someone to ride.


Despite being 99% safe, Gambler does have this one little quirk that tends to melt the chips in almost everyone’s cookies. In the morning, when you take him out of his nighttime stall to turn him loose in the paddock with the other horses, Gambler will wheel away in a rather violent, powerful bolt and give you a loud squeal in the process.

Now, working with him to quit this silly routine, such as moving his feet around in some sort of “ground work,” at best has only produced that same studly squeal and bolt. Every time, he will stand for a brief moment as the halter is removed but then — party time!

No matter what handlers do, Gambler is poised, stuck thinking about the next card he is about to play. Frustrated with few options, the best distraction folks have figured out is to take a bit of hay, throw it on the ground, remove Gamble’s halter and then let him go after the hay (thus avoiding the violent bolt).

 I have been rather fortunate in the fact that  in the 900 plus times I have turned Gambler loose, he has only pulled his little shenanigans a half a dozen times.

Is it because he really, really loves me? Nah. I would wish that to be true, but alas I am not so egocentric to believe such rubbish. Truth be known, Gambler could probably care less whether I lived or died.  Or anyone else, for that matter.

Several of those time, because I was not fully engaged, and some for the simple reason that I was pushing the envelope to see how little it took to have him turn completely loose.

You would think, though, that despite this routine being pretty well ingrained in him prior to me working with him, that after “training,” Gambler would stop pulling these stunts. Nope.

The whole deal makes me smile. Although I do really like this guy, Gambler is very aptly named. He is an addicted, hardened, incurable gambler. What most riders do not realize is that horses, yes, even their own horse, are this way by nature.

What do I mean? It is this: horses are inveterate gamblers when it comes to getting what they want. Whether you like it or not, if a horse’s mind is not with you 100% of the time and gets “away” with something not to your liking, it sets up this “gambler’s dynamic” with you. He will start to calculate and think, “This is my chance to hit the jackpot.”

Meaning simply, “do what I want to do.”

That is called a “horse’s nature.” It’s not mean, malicious or bad. It simply is.

And the human can really be the one, at fault. You see if you are interacting with your horse in a way that does not help him – meaning teaching and enabling him to be with you with his thoughts – then he is probably going to be unsure and troubled because he is not at peace being with you.

Everything goes back to what the horse is thinking. When you lead or ride your horse, where are his thoughts? When something comes up that the horse is unfamiliar with or unsure of, what has he learned around you?

I can’t say this enough. A horse’s behavior is tied to his belief system. Where his mind is at, the feet will try to take the body there.

When you open the stall door to catch him, these incredibly smart, intuitive creatures are generally thinking about what they want to do, not you. Again, it’s not personal. It is simply horse!


Okay. I give.
After all this discourse, what you really want to know is how the heck do I turn Gambler loose without the shenanigans. The short answer is that I get him to let go of any thought save being there with me in the moment.

The better answer is; come to one of my clinics for a deeper, hands on understanding towards getting your horse with you.

You who know me are sure of one thing. On a deeper, more profound level, everything ultimately is this dance of life with being a child of God, even my work with horses. Before Jesus Christ finally ran me down, I was a cowboy who constantly gambled with Eternal Life. Getting away with this or that once in awhile. Most of the time towing the line, as I saw it, pretty well.

Then on that snowy night in the middle of nowhere Montana, I had an encounter with this incredible Savior, who has only goodness towards us on His mind. I have experienced the reality that salvation is not a gamble where we wonder whether we are going to win, lose or draw. No. Salvation is a sure gift from God. Our part is to receive and believe what Christ has already done for us. (He even gives us the ability to do that! What a deal.)

Our horses can and should experience a sureness around us. That no matter what, we have the bases covered and they do not have need to continually look out for their own well being.

So, my daily desire is to be continually looking to the One who stands in the round pen of life fixing it up, letting you and me find it, ever concerned for our well being while all the while extending to us Eternal Life through Him and Him only.

Would you like to do the very best for yourselves? Make your calling and election sure.

Would you like to do the very best by your horse?  Without bribery or coercion show him that you are a good one to hang around with. Teach him to let go of a thought that he might learn to trust you in all situations and work with you in peace and harmony.


Stop rolling the dice. Receive Jesus . Come to a clinic. Bet on the sure thing.

Blessings and Happy Trails,

Flat Bed Annie and Sweetie Pie

Flat Bed Annie and Sweetie PieIMG_5840

More than a few decades ago, while feeding livestock during an infamous Eastern Montana winter, I had a team of horses that taught me a thing or two about an animal’s stress.

Can’t remember when but somewhere along the way, I had purchased this black thirteen-year old draft mare that was very well broke. Although we never rode her, given that she was a very kind, gentle animal, I am pretty certain she would have doubled very nicely as a saddle horse. Around ‘bout that time, I also traded for a big, stout, gray, five-year old Percheron mare. Unlike the draft mare, though, this one had never been handled.

My kids, being very good at naming critters on the ranch, christened the black mare “Sweetie Pie” and the gray “Flat Bed Annie.” Very aptly named I might add.

After so many years, you might just wonder what brought these two horses back to my mind? Could it be the harsh winter we’re having here in Sisters, OR? And the memories that all this snow brings to me of Montana?

Perhaps. Regardless, sitting here at my kitchen table, I can’t help but be a little pregnant with stories, remembering those two horses – and what can happen when you team an inexperienced bronc with a mature, steady one.

For now, let’s go back to that winter – and stress.

Now, unbroken Flat Bed Annie arrived at our ranch prior to me meeting Ray Hunt and the start of my “true” education regarding the horse. So, what I did with her was not a whole lot. In fact, I worked with her just enough to get her somewhat halter broke. I did some ground driving and managed to harness her by tying up a hind foot. It wasn’t long before I hooked Flat Bed Annie to the sled with Sweetie Pie and put her right to work. A “real” job. Imagine that!

Mind you, that winter, we had snow that was “hip pocket deep to a tall Indian,” as the saying goes. The snow started in November and did not leave until April. So you can imagine the degree of physical labor involved for these two gals pulling a sled load of hay around acres of cattle and sheep.

Looking back, I see now how cowboy clueless I was to the stress this animal was under.
Within the first three weeks, Flat Bed Annie lost weight and drew up in the flanks like a disemboweled jaybird. All the while, Sweetie Pie stayed in the same physical condition save for some muscle toning even though at times she was handling more than her share of the load.

Then, as weeks passed, I began to notice something. Along about the middle of December, Flat Bed Annie began to fill up, even losing some of the gauntness in her flank. As the winter progressed, she put on more weight, rounding out like a good, healthy horse, and truly handled her share of the work.
What was even more evident was how Flat Bed Annie had learned to settle in without so much worry and stress.

Although I would like to take some credit here, not the case. You see, I did not yet know about how horses think, let alone that they could be taught to let go of a thought and take up another.

Yet, the facts were plain as day. Annie’s physical condition was directly related to her thought life. And so was Sweetie Pie’s.

Despite her co-worker being pretty troubled, Sweetie Pie operated out of a place of peace. She never once balked even though the work was hard and she had to put up with the fear and shenanigans of her troubled Annie.

Remembering those two mares so drives home my desire to share with people about how to teach a horse to let go of a thought — particularly a troubling one — and help the horse take up another thought that would better fit the situation and bring them peace.

My point in sharing this story with you is this. We, as human beings, are not unlike the horse with respect to our thoughts. Our thoughts determine whether we are operating out of stress or from a place of our peace and wholeness. Like the horse, if we want to get “settled in,” we actually have to “learn” to let go of one thought so that we might “take” up another that will be more beneficial.

Bottom line, we are not so much responsible for all the thoughts that come into our heads as we are for the ones we keep.

To a degree, so it is also the case our horses. They have a lot of thoughts, often stressful. As the human, it is our responsibility to help our horses learn how to keep the good ones so that they might accomplish their tasks in relative good humor and peacefulness. Yet how can we do that if our thoughts are spinning like a rollercoaster?

Jesus Christ has given us the answer. “Come to Me,” He said, “all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Yes. The one true source of good thoughts originates with Jesus Christ, The King of Kings and The Prince of Peace. Whatever place you find yourself in – whether it is a bitter Eastern Montana winter or whatnot – may you find yourself going to Him who promises rest.

Blessings and Happy Trails,

Is Jesus Really the Reason for the Season ?


First of all, I want to wish everyone a warm Merry Christmas and blessings for the new year coming. With that said, I am also acutely aware that the Christmas holidays are not so merry for a lot of people. Which brings me to share a story with you that will open a door and be a spark of hope to someone in need.  It is a story about an experience that a good friend of mine had. As I think about it— well, let’s let him tell it as he told me, in his own words.

“Several decades ago, a few days before Christmas, I was doing my usual afternoon chores taking care of some livestock on the ranch. Along about dark I began to feel rather ill with a headache and just that ol’ general ‘I don’t feel so good’ feeling. It wasn’t long before this became so serious I could no longer continue my chores and retired to the couch in the house. It is rather difficult to accurately describe the pallor that came over me as I lay there. For several hours movement was extremely sluggish and sometimes impossible. My arms from the elbows to the tips of my fingers were ice cold. My legs from the knees to the bottom of my soles were also cold as ice. My thought process refused to function in any rational manner. Speech was nearly impossible. As I lay there trying to ‘figure out’ what was going wrong, my brain refusing to process, for whatever reason the word ‘Jesus’ came to mind and I managed to speak that word. Over and over I would say ‘Jesus’. Not in a cursing or profane way, just speaking that name. As I continued to speak the name of Jesus my symptoms began to abate. I began to think in a more coherent manner, my arms and legs began to return to normal temps and that deathly pallor began to lift. Eventually I was feeling rather normal but very rung out from the experience and wanting to sleep more than anything else. After a couple hours of sleep I awoke hungry and none the worse for wear. I am convinced that the Spirit of Death paid me a visit that afternoon so long ago and were it not for the name of Jesus it might have prevailed.”

I know this may seem a tall tale, but I have never known my friend to be untruthful. Needless to say, the story of this man’s trial has really caused me to think. Is ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ just a trite little phrase. Or—-

May the reality of who He is be yours this Christmas and in the year to come. And may you be able to see your horse through the eye of Truth.
Blessings and Happy Trails,


Deal Your Horse a Winning Hand



Could it be that you treating your horse like he’s a one-arm bandit — believing that if you keep on putting in quarters and pulling the lever that you will magically win the jackpot – and have your horse behave as you think he should?

Or, given your ongoing struggles, have you become convinced that your horse is a one-armed bandit, unpredictable and a little scary? Are you about to throw in the towel because you are frustrated or afraid of an injury?

Friends, I have been there myself and I see it working on a regular basis with others as they interact with their horses as if this animal were a slot machine — pulling on a rein or kicking with a leg bent on hitting the jackpot — namely a “positive” result (in their minds, not necessarily their horse’s) for all of their efforts.

For the most part, out of good intention, they are simply doing what they have been taught or learned through observing others. Unfortunately, mostly because of the generosity of the horse, many of these riders get by way too long with their repetitive merry-go-round ground work, bottom-line unfair and sometimes cruel acts of lunging or some other method until, to the complete surprise of the rider, something goes South and there is a wreck of some sort.

If this is something that you struggle with, here’s the good news. With a little help, new perspective and change of behavior, you can dump Vegas and create a win-win relationship with your horse.

From my perspective, here are some guidelines to help you on your way.

First, be committed to dealing your horse a winning hand. What do I mean? Doing what it takes as a rider to create as good of a tension/trouble-free relationship with your horse as you are able. This is what your horse wants from you more than anything else you can do for him.

This means that you are going to need to set aside your plans and or agenda for the moment. Try to take stock of what your horse is thinking about and feeling at any particular time when and while you are in his space trying to accomplish something. Remember it is your responsibility to provide a safe place for him to learn. It is quite fine to have an overall goal in mind, but that can only be realized by working in the moment.

Sound impossible? Not in the least. It begins by taking into account the fact that your horse is truly a living decision-making animal with a belief system. Said another way, your horse is not a machine. Or the child. Or the villain. No. Your horse is a created thing, an animal, that has the God-given capacity to make decisions that will preserve his life (when he perceives it threatened) and allow him to live in peace.

As I have learned over the decades, the “training” of a horse is relatively easy thing. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repeat something enough and you can “train” a horse to do just about anything – but you might never gain his trust or give him a moment’s peace.

Here is an example of what I mean by dealing your horse a winning hand.

The other day, as I was riding a horse that I have been working with, Pistol, out through a field looking through a small bunch of cows and calves, his thoughts turned towards, “home,” which happened to be out his right eye. As I asked him to swing off to the left to look at a certain cow, he held onto that “right eye” thought.

Physically he was making the left turn, mostly a wide arc, but, with his mind to the right, it was like pushing a board through the water from behind — and with his mind to the right and not right, 🙂 🙂 , his body was not right. His nose was tipped ever so slightly to the right. His left jaw was pointing slightly to his left. His left shoulder and ribs were pushing against my left leg — not much, but, if you were aware of what was going on inside his head, it was obvious.

Again, although Pistol was complying physically, what I was asking of him set up some angst within — a tug-of-war, if you will, in which he did not feel good about the situation. To remedy the situation, though, was a relatively easy task. First, I asked him to let go of the right thought and then prepared him for the left turn by having him think (look) that way. As his eye (mind) looked left, I used my hands and legs to help him follow through straight and soft on the desired path that I had chosen.

Mission accomplished – – for the moment. Because of the nature of the life in the horse this may need repeated many times over for the horse and rider to truly get together.

Now, this is just one simple scenario of what we are seeking to accomplish with our horses. Ultimately, we would like our horses to believe in us enough to trust us to make competent decisions on their behalf when trouble shows up.

Now, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I am always amazed to discover some parallel in my interactions with the horse and my relationship with Him. How often do I treat Him like a slot machine — praying, petitioning and hoping to hit the jackpot? Or are we seeking to find Him where He is “at” – letting go of our thoughts in order to hear His mind and thoughts.

The first ride or two with a colt you basically go with him wherever he wants to go for as long as it takes for him to learn to go with us. In this light, Jesus is already going with us, but the question we need to ask ourselves is whether we learning to go with Him so that together we might accomplish something useful in the Kingdom.

Jesus has dealt us a winning hand at Calvary. May I encourage you to deal your horse a winning hand that he might learn to believe in you and live in peace.


Blessings and Happy Trails,

Pig Pig Strikes Again

Some of you might remember that about a year ago, a little piglet arrived in our neck of the woods. Pig Pig is his name. From the very start, Pig Pig seemed to immensely enjoy his new surroundings and neighbors, even though the twenty­plus horses had another mind about that altogether. As the months have passed, once Little Pig Pig has grown into now Big Pig Pig with a full­fledged hog curiosity and personality. He has become rather fearless around the horses.

Which I can’t say the same for them. In particular, Cruizer.

A couple of weeks ago, I started working with Cruizer, a 10­year appendix registered gelding. The other day, early in the afternoon, I tied Cruizer to a drop from a tree limb. A drop is a rope or light chain with a ring attached to a swivel to tie a horse to. It allows the horse to freely turn in both directions and can facilitate him learning to bend and follow a feel. Unbeknownst to me, Pig Pig was out of his pen and that dang hog decided to check things with the brown gelding. He even chose to do some rooting directly under the drop where Cruizer was standing. When I came to check on Cruizer, that industrious pig had dug a mammoth crater four feet wide and about a foot and a half deep right where Cruizer would have comfortably stood.

Although Cruizer could have given Pig Pig a good swift kick, instead, he was having a meltdown. Standing as far back from the tree and that pig as his lead would allow, the gelding was terrified. He wanted nothing to do with me, Pig Pig or anything within 50 yards of the tree.

In fact, Cruizer’s only thought was to bolt as far and fast as possible. Out of panic, he was willing to run over me to save his life. Having never being taught to let go of a thought and take another, he was too fearful to draw support, direction and comfort from me.

I have to tell you. The situation was pretty dicey. A number of times, I had to do what was necessary to keep from harmed by Cruizer. Finally, after twenty minutes of the most physical and stressful exercise one could imagine between man and horse, to my relief, poor Cruizer finally began to let go of his fearful thoughts about Pig Pig.

In those moments, as I sought to stay connected to Cruizer and give him support, the thought came to me: “This is so similar to walking with the Lord.”

Let me explain. First, one thing we must understand to the core—God is good, period. It begins and ends with His goodness. Were this not so, we would self­-destruct in a heartbeat due to the stupid, ignorant, selfish and sinful things we do. It is God’s vast goodness that leads us into that place of repentance and His love.

It is the clash of that goodness and our Pig Pig thoughts that so much stress and disharmony plays in our lives.

Take me, for example. The Lord Jesus has spoken to me audibly very few times in my walk with Him, for which I am grateful. However, that is not the norm. It is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that I know when I am in the Spirit or living out of my soul. And, if I choose not to yield to His Spirit but, instead, stubbornly hold on to my own way, then the “stressful exercise” begins on my part, not His part, because my fleshly will left to its own devices is at odds with His Spirit.

However, when I come to grips with what terrifies, bothers or sets off my stubbornness, when I yield (i.e. take up another thought) to His Presence, then the attributes of the Holy Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, and Self­Control) flood my entire being.

So it is with our horses.

When they let go thoughts that are troubling them and, instead, take up another thought of a more peaceful and productive nature, they can come in a harmonious relationship with us humans – one that is so much talked about in the horse world but which is actually pretty elusive to many, both horse and human alike. The good news is that a life without trouble is attainable if we will “think again” and allow ourselves to be changed.

Although this way of working with the horse and his thoughts can be very exasperating with many of those confusing, “what am I doing here” moments, the joy and satisfaction of helping a horse come to that place of peace in his thoughts far outweighs the investment involved. If you would walk down this road with your horse, you will soon come to the conviction that, “Yes. This is the right path.”

With Cruizer, his encounter with Pig Pig is by no means the end of the story and dealing with his belief system. Like countless other “trained” horses, he has become very well learned in how to “do” all the round pen and ground work “stuff” – but has never learned the core essentials of letting go of his troubling thoughts and learning how to believe in the human and get connected.

However, as I stay faithful and consistent with helping him, I know that he will soon become a believer.

Blessings and Happy Trails,



Inductory & Testimonial Videos

For those who don’t know me here are some videos.



both videos – played in a loop

by Samuel Pyke DP


~also found~
Introductory & Testimonial Videos –

Is the Stove Turned Off?

DSC06364When your horse is troubled, a good question to ask yourself is this: “Is what you are doing ‘keeping the pot from boiling over?’ Or have you successfully turned off the stove?”

The primary way that a horse relates to trouble (and reacts to trouble in the natural) is by moving his feet. Along this line, the bigger the “BOO,” the faster and further a horse is likely to run. Depending on the circumstance and temperament of the horse, after a short run, he might become curious about what startled him and take another look at what caused the hubbub in the first place.

Understanding how a horse responds is pivotal to alleviating the trouble brewing in your horse’s mind. Think about it. What does your horse do when frightened, uneasy or distracted? When he is not “with you,” his mind is somewhere else.

Generally, one classic method to help your horse how to let go of the thought that is troubling him is to get his feet moving, not in any ol’ way, such as endless circles, but in a precise and planned manner as possible. In this light, the more accurately you can move his feet, the more your horse will need to think about what he is doing – which will require him letting go of his troubling thought. His feet moving, the horse “may” believe that he is escaping the source of the trouble.

Said another way, moving a horse’s feet “keeps the pot from boiling over.” It doesn’t, however, turn off the heat.

So I discovered.

For years, I used the “moving feet” approach but, truth be told, I was not being successful in helping the horse to learn that it was okay to let go of the thoughts that were troubling him and take up another thought. Time after time, I ended up with a horse that was still troubled.

To this day, I can still hear the words of Ray Hunt ringing in my ears, “Charley, get the trouble out!” As I kept seeking to “get that trouble out,” I learned through experience that when a horse is not troubled (and I mean NO TROUBLE, as in none ), a horse’s mind is at peace and his feet will follow naturally.

When we help the horse do this, to “turn loose” of his thoughts, we turn the stove off.

A horse that is turned loose will be attentive to what you are doing and asking of him. Most generally, he will respond with some curiosity and interest regarding where you want to go and do because there is something in it for him. When the stove is turned off, he is at peace which is something your horse loves and will hunt up (if we are aware and give him the chance to find it). Again, peace gives the horse something tangible and enjoyable. If you offer your horse the opportunity to have a peace-filled relationship with you, believe me, life will be so much sweeter and easy for the both of you.

Oft times, our walk with the Lord Jesus can be just like this. Our hearts and minds can be troubled but, instead of encountering the Prince of Peace (and giving Him our troubled thoughts), we “do” just enough keep our lives from being a total wreck. Because we don’t turn off the stove, we end of being in a constant state of unrest, agitation and distraction, ready to bolt when the heat gets too hot. The Kingdom of God, though, is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Jesus has promised to fill us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. If we try to produce this fruit of the Spirit on our own, we are acting just like the horse that is moving his feet, running in circles. The good is that Jesus has turned off the stove that is pressuring our lives. We can have a life continually of peace and rest as we abide in Him, taking up His thoughts. May we so learn to yield, let go of our trouble and become curious about what His is up to in our lives.



Blessings and Happy Trails,


   Most of the time, I share with you about horses but, today, I want to talk a bit about art, artistry and being an artist — which I consider myself to be.

   But let me explain a little bit. Some artists, like my cinematographer friend, Samuel Pyke, create beauty with images, light and expression. Others, like western writer and rancher, John L. Moore, have perfected the art of combining words, emotions and memories into stories that are poignant and unforgettable.

   My artistic medium is horseflesh and nature is my canvas. To some, this might be a new concept since we usually think and talk about the horse in regards to competition or pleasure, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, very rarely do we consider that what we do with the horse can become truly an art form, something that far transcends technique and basic skill.

DSC04965 - Version 2

   Having given my life to this work, this artistry with the horse, it is natural for me to think, whenever I start with a horse, of the long term, big picture and the potential glorious transformation that might occur in this living creature – and myself. For to positively change a horse one must also undergo some changes in themselves.



   So I ask myself, “How can I develop and mold this animal into an object of beauty in movement and softness? What are we doing together that will enable this animal in character and presentation to have a good, healthy, peace-filled life mentally and physically? What healing can I help bring about in this animal and its rider that reflects and represents the redemptive, life-giving relationship that the Lord Jesus has with us and all of His creation?”


   As the Master’s artisan, my work with the horse and the human is an ever- growing extension of my relationship with Jesus Christ, the One who willingly went to Calvary to free us from a dead way of thinking and a lifestyle that is not very glorious. On that cross, He birthed in us a new creation, one that is truly beautiful.

   So in this round pen of life, Jesus is the Potter and I am the clay that He enjoys so very much. As He works to bring beauty into my life, I, as the clay, get to enjoy all the challenges and frustration that go along with being molded into His image. In this process, I also get to partake of the joy of being in relationship with the Lord, who is always abundant with purpose, patience, love and creativity.

   In the decades I have lived in this direction, I think that as He is with us, we should seek to be with our horses.


   In my experience, though, the vast majority of riders only want to “train” their horses. Get some result. Scratch the surface. And, truth be told, when I was younger, these were my objectives, too. I simply did not know that there was so much more available and possible.

   Yet, as I got older and thought more deeply about what Ray Hunt tried to show me during the years that I knew and worked with him, my perception and goals with the horse significantly evolved. Now, what I desire and look for today is much deeper and significant than “training.”

   Such is often that case in our walk with God. When one is born anew, you can start thinking that Jesus’ only desire is to “train” us for service. But, as I have come to see and walk it out, there is an objective much deeper and higher possible from His perspective.

   And it is this. To transform us into a true work of art if you will— namely to become like Him.

   Jesus does His work not with rules, wrath or criticism. Instead, He accomplishes everything relationally — with kindness, gentleness, and firmness when necessary, ever making us into a vessel of beauty that can be of great service. The vessel only prepared for a job may not show the presence of beauty for which it was intended.

   It is my belief that anyone who rides can achieve beauty with his or her horse. Yes. Through having a good attitude, learning some basics of function and exercising due diligence, even the youngest among us can create this artistry.

   The well conformed horse of body and mind is relatively easy. As Ray, a master artist used to say, one of those that enable us to say “I are a horse trainer.”

   What of the poorly conformed, insecure, troubled and defensive animal. Is it possible? Yes. In the hands of those who have developed their ability into an art they can become sound in body and mind. They are the horses that the change is so noticeable, dramatic and rewarding.

   So it is with the indwelling Christ. Those of us that appear most unworthy, unlovely, outcast and having no value are the ones that He can change the most dramatically.


   These momentary glimpses of glory I experience in the arena or round pen give me inspiration and desire to continue to create and enhance something beautiful in the horse and those that work with them. Although the biggest drawback personally is that these four-footed masterpieces of mine do not live forever for future generations to see, these horses live on eternally in my memory and in my hope of seeing them yet once again in the new heaven and new earth to come.

   Looks like we did talk about horses after all.

                                                               Blessings and Happy Trails,

DSC06364                                                                            Charley

Teaching Them How To Let Go Of a Thought

After sixty years in the saddle, the process of teaching a horse to let go of a thought and take up another one comes fairly naturally to me. Like most things that are so profound for the horse and seem to be difficult for the human to grasp, this is not much different. However, like anything worthy of good effort, the rewards for horse and human alike are pretty nice and will give your horse a great amount of peace. That being said, I believe that this is something within the grasp of anyone serious about their horsemanship. Observation and practice will be your greatest ally.

As I mentioned last time, the kindest thing we can offer the horse is to help him feel good inside. This can happen when we teach them to let go of a thought and take up another, thus alleviating the worry and trouble that they are feeling inside. So, in my perspective, this whole deal is fundamental to having a harmonious relationship with your horse.

What I am after here is for my horse to be mentally present, physically relaxed and aware of what is going on around me. I am not, as some folks want, asking my horse to be focused acutely on me. No, as long as he is aware of me, not going to sleep and is relaxed about anything I ask him to do, even willing to do it without me having to bring up a lot of energy, then that’s good. For me, and the horse, that is the sweet place.

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In this, my horses know that I don’t deprive them of the freedom to look around– as long as they are still mentally present with me. I will often ask them to look again, changing from one side to the other, mentally, in the process of learning to let go of a thought.

In addition, let me say that it isn’t good enough to teach them to let go of a thought: they have to also take up another one. These go hand-in-hand.

So how to do it? I am sure there are infinite ways to go about this, but I will just open the door a tiny bit. First (and it might sound obvious), learn to recognize when your horse is having a thought other than being mentally present with you.

You can tell what is going on by observing their body language and where they are looking because their eyes are the primary window or indicator of where the horse’s mind is at. The ears are secondary. A lot of times people think that because the horse has an ear cocked on them, that he has his mind on them. Not necessarily.


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Again, observe. Where are they looking? If a horse is thinking about other things, he will be like a little kid that can’t sit still. He will have his head up, looking off here and there. If he ignores you, the reason is usually because they are having a thought that is more appealing to them than being with you — like a kid who would rather go out and play instead of staying in the house to do chores.

Many horses that I work with, spend a lot of time with Peter Pan in Neverland. Instead of being with me mentally, they quickly go to the place mentally, as Tom Dorrance would say, where he is “sucking it’s thumb.”

This is a direct result of how this horse has been treated and “trained on” throughout his entire life. Because he was never given the freedom to make a choice, when he gets around people, although he might appear peaceful and compliant, he escapes as fast as he can to Neverland. Being compliant and obedient, it is as though this type of horse has no soul.

However, when he learns that he has the freedom to look and make a choice, hopefully he will develop an interest in what the rider and him are doing.

This process can work on a lead rope.


In a pen, when the horse is not mentally with me, I simply create a disturbance such as kick a little dirt or slap my rope on my leg, wiggle or slap my flag on the ground, any action that causes the horse to think, “What was that?” I am not doing any of this to the horse to scare or drive them. No. Just a noise or movement. Anything that would be a distraction. I might even have my back to them. Some little thing to get them to drop the thought they are having.









Now, you would not treat a very sensitive horse the same way you treat one who is not naturally sensitive or who has been made dull by people. If I am working with a very sensitive horse, I might just stand there in the round pen with my thumbs in my pocket. One little movement, such as scratching my ear, and a sensitive horse will think, “What was that?” On the other hand, you might have to throw a stick of dynamite under a dull horse.

Overall, I try to see how I subtle I can be for the horse to become aware.


Doing these little disturbances, pretty quick, the horse will go, “Every time I get lost out there, something happens. I don’t know what but something happens. But when I hang around with this guy, even though he smells funny, everything is all right.”


The beautiful thing here is that I am not making the horse be with me. Instead, I let him decide. In fact, I encourage him to have other thoughts until he freely decides that it is a good deal being with me.

I also use a process when I ride in small area having quite a bit of fun with my imagination to make the ride interesting for both me and my horse – so much so that if you could hear what is going on inside my head you might be tempted to call the guys with the straight jacket to get me hauled off. If you allow yourself to have the imagination of a six year old, you would have more harmony with your horse than thinking you have to have circles, leads and stops.

My horses don’t have problem riding in the arena where others get sour because, when I ride, I make up games, hunt out things and have fun. With me, it is a constantly fresh and ever- changing game with my horses. They get used to saying, “Oh the knothead has changed his mind again.”
Riding out in the big open, whether just a “trail ride” or an actual job, I keep track of my horse to keep him with me by asking him to let go of a thought or maybe just take another to check in with me.

I never indiscriminately pick up a lead or a bridle rein. It is always done with a purpose and the first thing that should take place for the horse when I ask, can he take a thought and take me somewhere.


When your horse is relaxed, mentally with you with their mind is in neutral, they are like butter on a plate on a warm day. Everything becomes pretty easy. It is not so much of repetition, repetition, repetition, to get the horse to learn something as it is giving him the confidence to be with you and respond to your requests in any given situation as his education progresses.

I hope this sparks some interest and encourages folks to take a deeper look within their horses. Who knows, it just may ruin some people in a life of Que sera, sera to search more deeply with their horse.

Blessings and Happy Trails,

The Kindest Thing You Can Do

How many of you have been riding your horse down a trail or in the arena when suddenly you discover that your horse is going a different direction than you are? Without much warning, you found yourself giving a piece of real estate closer scrutiny — and, if not too badly damaged, discovering various interesting things in that scrutinizing.


Will James — “Drifting Cowboy”

Believe me. I have seen such wrecks happen on horses of all temperaments and stages of being “broke.” The one that is always the biggest surprise is when it happens with the “gentle” horse or the one that is “well broke” and “great out on the trail.”

After dusting themselves off, most riders wonder, “What made my horse do that?” Others just give their horse a good tongue lashing for being “such a bad boy” or “naughty girl.” Then, on they go, getting right back on, forgetting quickly about the incident until it occurs again.

Sound familiar?

From my experience, the vast majority of riders never give much thought as to why these wrecks occur. Well, let me fill in the blanks here.

It is the horse’s divine right in a fallen world to protect and preserve itself. Moreover, when they become part of our lives, we are the one who have the responsibility to do the protecting. If we fall short in this regard, well, then….don’t be too surprised.

The reason that your horse shies, bolts, or dances sideways for no apparent reason is because he is packing trouble. Now a mad momma bear or a horse eating chipmunk in the trail can certainly be more of a reason, but still, he is worried. Unbeknownst to most folks a horse can be in a complete runaway mentality even at the walk because he is worried – only the bit restraining him physically keeps him from taking off.


Will James — “Cow Country”

Like it or not, when the horse packs trouble, his emotional bank account can go bankrupt quickly. Unlike us humans, an emotionally bankrupt horse cannot hire a psychiatrist to help him cope and, being an animal endowed with highly protective instincts, he will take matters into his own hands, leaving you to get closely acquainted once again with the wonders of dirt and grass.

Folks, there is a very good way to help your horse. To alleviate the trouble our horses carry, we need to teach him or her how to let go of a thought.

No amount of “training” or “desensitizing” will ever alleviate the worry that your horse carries nor will it create an animal that might be able to “think” its way out of a predicament. However, if we teach our horses, hopefully from the earliest contact with us, to let go of a thought and take up another, we begin to establish a “search and think” process that can allow him to make better choices – ones that will serve our frail interests much better.

So how do we do this? How do we get our horses to let go of a thought?

Well, I ain’t telling any top-secret stuff. (Just kidding.)

In my next post, I promise to put into writing some of the tangible ways that I help a horse to learn how to let go of a thought and take up another. (Hint: I do this mostly by feel – but it is something you can learn.)

Now, what does teaching your horse to “let go of a thought” have to do with kindness? Simply this. The very best kindness that we can offer the horse is to help him feel good inside.

As humans, we have the faculties to let go of what is troubling us and think a different thought, if we so choose. However, from my years of observing horses, I do not believe they have that same ability without some direct intervention from us.

The important thing to realize here is that teaching a horse to “let go” of a thought and getting the horse to “let go” of trouble are directly related.

Again, more to come.


Will James–“Drifting Cowboy”

Blessings and Happy Trails,

Charley Snell


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