The act or art of riding and of the training and managing horses; so goes Webster’s definition of horsemanship.  On this page I’d like to share some of my personal feelings about the art and act of riding, based on the learning I’ve done from great horsemen and women I admire, and from the horse itself.  These can be distilled into a few simple, but not easy, concepts that I will share with you—here on the web site as you inquire about our program and as a participant at Cowboy School or one of my clinics.

Bob riding Amigo. This is at a walk notice the left hind leaving, right hind landing, left front in support and right front in flight. This is one of those instances in the walk, where there is only two feet on the ground.

This young mare is being restarted, She had a bad experience
  with the first trainer and when she gets troubled, she breaks into (goes to bucking), we are helping her get past this.

The above phrase aptly expresses the intent of the true horseman, to become one with the horse, to achieve a perfection of movement, speed and grace that neither can achieve alone. Two are one, becomes our goal, our mission, if you will, as we become aware of the possibilities it opens up for us.

Dan working his colt in the round pen. Observe the troubled mind by how the colt carries and moves.

Dan disengaging the hindquarters.

Bob on Amigo disengaging the colt from horseback.

Notice how much this colt has softened.

This is a mare from a local Guest Ranch here in Arizona. I am getting her ready to ride.
At this time she had never been ridden.


Moving Dan's colt with a flag.


These three components are: the rider, the horse, and horse and rider together.  Let’s briefly consider the conditions that make learning easiest for each of these components.


The human learns best when he or she is calm, unstressed and relaxed.  To stay in this emotional state requires confidence in the instructor’s judgment and trust in his or her concern for the welfare of the student.  This condition of trust and confidence can only happen when the instructor has respect for the worth of the individual and is able to communicate that respect.  It is also necessary to be confident about our ability to stay in the middle of the horse while we are teaching it, to have good balance and a secure seat. Only after we have learned well can we perform under stress.


The horse also needs to learn in a calm, stress free environment.  If fear is present in the horse, then self preservation will take over.  The opposite emotion of fear is curiosity.  A curious horse wants, is even eager to learn, and will retain that learning.  Often horses are accused of being too stupid to learn when actually they are too upset to learn.


The horse and rider will become one as they work together in a state of calmness, trust and confidence in themselves and each other.  


Here Dan’s colt lost his forward movement and is really braced up.
 He needs to step his right hind underneath his belly and in front of the left hind leg.


The rear end is looking much better, but you can see a brace in the head and neck.


Phil working Dandy’s tail, helping her let down.
 (this I learned from Tom Dorrance on a horse I rode in one of Tom’s clinics.)

I first heard these terms from the great horseman, Ray Hunt, and they summarize vast amounts of written and oral teachings about what it takes to achieve oneness with our horse.  In order to get there we must first ride with nature—gravity—in such a way to be aligned in a position that does not impede the locomotion and balance of the horse.  We must learn how to breathe for optimum softness and security in our seat and to aid the movement of the horse.  As we learn the patterns of the foot fall of our mounts at the different gaits we can know where each foot is at any given moment and the relationship of that foot to the other three feet at any instant.  This knowledge, practiced and perfected, allows us to influence a particular foot at the best possible time so we do not upset the natural rhythm, timing and balance of the horse while it performs, efficiently, gracefully and smoothly, the maneuver we want.


As riders, as we gain a better understanding of the anatomy of the horse and our own bodies, and the optimum position for security and balance, our feel, timing and balance improve and it becomes easier to keep the horse relaxed, calm and curious.

Karol getting San Juan to lead up better.

flagging Katie on her good mare Stella.

Elaine getting cowboy hooked on.


Bob and Banjo nice ground covering trot.When working with the horse there are two primary ways to get a change. We can use a physical movement to produce a mental change, or we can work through the mind to get a physical change.  If applied properly, both ways work well and produce a better trained horse.  We will use both techniques at different times, depending on the kind of change we want to get.


When helping people learn better horsemanship it is so rewarding to see the “Ah Ha” moments and witness the excitement and enthusiasm in the rider and horse when these changes occur.


I will have a monthly column here on our web site, and also on the Face Book page “Bob Kings Cowboy School” to present some of the specific techniques you will learn as you work with me.  These will be a good refresher course for those who have attended one of my classes, and give any inquiring person some ideas to experiment with. 


Bob getting this horse use to being touched all over.

Using the rope to rub him. He is making nice changes.

Bob at a ranch roping clinic in Iowa, getting ropers started on their swings and loops.


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