More Than One Way


With a new year and resolutions it’s time for new thinking which is what led me to my post this time. Sit down and think a spell….

Recently I had the wonderful privilege of being called the “Idiot Of The Day” when I responded to a post on Facebook about how selfish and cruel it was to clip the muzzle on your horse because they needed their whiskers to feel the wind and find water. My post stated that I clipped only for shows and in over twenty years I’d never had one that seemed harmed by it, nor had I had any accidents.

With a little research, I quickly found out that the arrogant person behind the community promoting “common sense with horses” is affectionately known as the “Jerry Springer” of the horse world. With narcissistic videos on YouTube and an open deep hatred for women, it’s clear he lives for conflict and he’s managed to sensationalize himself into a cult following.

Quite frankly, after seeing his posts and doing a little research it’s extremely clear the man has severe anger issues and I’m thoroughly convinced he’s got a few “Barn Witches”, as he likes to call them, buried under his basement somewhere!

At any rate, it’s obvious he would never even remotely entertain the idea that he might be wrong. The funny thing is that a lot of times the initial premise in what he posts has a small nugget of truth. But he goes in a totally different extreme direction and that direction is the only way and all others are selfish and stupid.

While I’ve always said the horse industry is like a soap opera and full of crazies, after the post experience I was still shocked at just how many there are on so many levels.

One thing that I noticed is that there are some people who are dogmatic when it comes to taking what someone says as pure gold. The mind-set that if “So and So” said it then it HAS to be true! They have lost their ability, if they ever had it in the first place, to think for themselves and try something to see if it’s actually true for them.

Another thing I noticed was that these same people usually think they have to be extremely hateful to get their point across. If they’re right why do they have to be so hateful? Maybe they’ve just been in the cult too long?

Why does the horse industry get so locked down into it having to be one certain way?

We all know people like that and we’ve all seen them. We all may have been them at one in point in time until we knew better — The clinician follower, the trainer groupie.  There’s a lot of money made on those two categories of folks.

Yet there’s lots of people out there, well-known and not so well-known, that do a fabulous job working with horses because they have an open mind and they love working with them. But because they’re not as well-known, they don’t hold as much as weight as the ones that have made a big name for themselves. Does that mean they’re not as credible or they’re not as good a horseman? We tend to think so but I don’t agree.

Circle C Clinic pen 1

There’s a saying that I see from time to time floating around Facebook that basically says that horsemanship is about realizing that everything you think you know about horses can completely change with the very next horse. I love that saying because to me, that’s exactly what it’s all about. You never know it all and there’s never any one way when it comes to horses.

Through the years, there have been many training methods that I’ve latched on to for a few years only to come back full circle to what I originally used. Maybe it took a while but after trying something different I realized that the original way was better. But the neat thing is that I learned something new that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had an open mind to try something different.

There’s also been things that I’ve been skeptical about that I’ve tried any way that wound up working so well that I changed how I did things. You never know where a good training idea is going to come from!

Speaking of open minds and horsemanship, I have to share the link to my other blog, Talking In The Barn.  I interviewed Sam Finden who is a young author that loves horses as much as he loves to write. He’s also a humble horseman that will get you thinking about horses and horsemanship.

SMGH New Cover Art

Have you ever been closed-minded about a training idea? What was it? Have you ever changed your mind about a training idea? How did it make an impact on you?




The Loss Of Versatility

When the AQHA was started decades ago, their goal was to promote a horse that could do anything. In fact, in the early years it was a expected that horse be sensible and useable. For many years, the motto of the International Arabian Horse Association was the “The most versatile horse on earth.” In the early years, it wasn’t uncommon for both of these breeds to spend their week days doing jobs such as cow work, pulling buggies or even plowing fields, and their weekends running races or showing. Legendary ranches such as Al Marah and the 6666 Ranches were producers of such horses, especially in those early years.

While both breeds are still extremely multitalented if given the chance, it’s rare to see a show or competition horse that gets to do more than their assigned discipline or event. In addition to that, show horses are often kept in the pen and rarely get a chance to step out of the show environment to a herd of cows or an open trail. Sadder still is the acceptance that it’s ok for these horses not to behave well in a non-show environment because they are show horses. In a lot of cases it’s expected. For instance, Show Trail horses aren’t expected to be ok with throwing a rope because that’s not part of the show trail requirements.

A discipline shouldn’t limit a horse but enhance it. Yet in today’s world, that’s pretty much what specialization has done. We’ve created horses that are limited in what they can do, and even where they can go. Show horses spook on the trail or barrel horses run off in an open field or jumpers bolt at the sight of a cow. It didn’t start out this way but our attitudes about the ability of these horses were different.

While I can appreciate the fact that today’s horse business and level of competition requires more specialization than it ever has before, I also think there is still a place and a need for a certain amount of versatility in all horses. I also realize the fact that few horses are going to be national champions at everything they try, but I also think that shouldn’t keep us from at least trying it on a small level. Furthermore, I believe that when done correctly, versatility can in fact enhance the skills that are used in their specialized event.

I have a good friend that puts on Horsemanship and Ranch clinics. He also breaks high dollar colts for a dressage trainer. I’ve been to several of his Ranch clinics where he’s used a young Trakehner or Oldenburg to herd cows. It’s also not uncommon to see a couple of english riders at his clinics sorting cows because they know the value of versatility in their horses. While they may not be the best or the quickest at cow work, in the end the horse has benefited from time doing something different.

There are plenty of low key and inexpensive opportunities out there to let your horse try something different. Trail riding, open and schooling shows, cattle sorting practices, and ranch clinics are all ways to let your horse try something new. Try your barrel on a ranch trail pattern at an open show. Try showing your jumper in a training level class at a dressage schooling show. Try your pleasure or dressage horse on cows at a sorting practice.

By including some versatility in your horse’s routine, not only will you see your horse’s attitude improve since they’re doing something new but you’ll also get a chance to work on the same skills they use in their main discipline but in a different way.

What event or discipline is the main focus for your horse? What other events can you try that are similar to his main event that will offer your horse a chance to do something different? If you feel that you can’t try a different event, why? What training can you do with your horse that will improve him so that he can do that different event?

Sorting on a barrel horse & an Arab hunter horse

Sorting on Barrel Horse & Hunter Horse

The Joys Of Judging Horse Shows

Judging a horse show at any level is no easy task but it’s one that most of the time I thoroughly enjoy. I enjoy seeing the different horses and spending time with horse people. I also enjoy getting the opportunity to impart any nugget of information I’ve been blessed to pick up and sometimes I’m the one that gets to pick up a new nugget or two of wisdom.While it’s true that you can’t always please everyone you can always use judging as a learning experience. Sometimes the riders learn, sometimes you learn and sometimes you both learn.

Last year I judged a horse show at the Tri-State Exhibition Center in Cleveland, Tennessee. The show was hosted by the Reinbow Riders to benefit the Therapy program there. You can get information about the Reinbow Riders at:

To my surprise, there were several draft horses that were shown under saddle in Western Pleasure and Saddleseat. While I knew that draft horses could be ridden, I had never seen a full blooded draft horse shown under saddle. Just thinking about judging them gives me cold chills. Not only were they extremely well mannered, but when they jogged or trotted out it was almost magical. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horse present with as much power and presence as those horses did. To make it even more special, some of them showed in both Western and Saddleseat. They managed to adjust their strides and headsets beautifully for each, which is no easy task.

Photos courtesy of Christina Stewart –

Saddleseat Clydesdale Reinbow Riders Show
Saddleseat Clydesdale Reinbow Riders Show
Western Belgian Reinbow Riders Show
Western Belgian Reinbow Riders Show

This past weekend, I judged for the Smoky Mountain Horse Show Series at Stonegate in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was a full day starting at 8 in the morning. The day started with Hunter and Jumper classes and then progressed into Trail, Western, and Gaited classes in the evening.

This show is one of my favorites to judge for several reasons. One is the friendly atmosphere. The show management is always a lot of fun and the contestants are always very friendly and gracious. Another reason is the complexity of the obstacles. They offer more than the typical course set for trail and jumping which also provides an even greater atmosphere for horses and riders to school and learn. It’s not often that you see a course of this caliber at open shows.

View From The Judge's Booth
View From The Judge’s Booth

Another reason, and probably the main one, that I enjoy this show so much is the opportunity to help riders learn.  It’s not uncommon to see kids less than 5 years old in the ring. They’re generally very eager to learn and I tend to have a lot of fun with that. But it’s not always just the tiny kids that I get a chance to help. Sometimes it’s the teenager that’s never shown before that’s obviously a nervous wreck and isn’t sure what they’re supposed to do. This show lets me take the time to help those kids smile and relax and learn how to enjoy showing horses and in the end, that’s what is important.

If you’d like to see some pics from the Smoky Mountain Horse Show you can visit Keith Mooney Photography:

Smoky Mountain Horse Show series is run by Matt Lawson , Ashley Jenkins and Krystle Bridges. The show is located at two farms in West Knoxville. If you would like to see Keith Mooney’s pictures from the Smoky Mountain Horse Show Series you can visit:

Do you have a favorite show that you like to compete at? What is it about the show that you like?