Tag Archives: Ray Hunt

Enlightened Horsemanship’s Favorite Posts of 2009

If you blog, what was your favorite post from last year? I’d love it if you posted it here in the comments, so we can all go and read it.
If you have a favorite from EHTT in the past year, let me now what it was.

January 2009

Mindful Monday: On Mistakes

February 2009

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor: The Missing Disclaimer
Verse Thursday + Completely Un-Horse-Related Ramblings of a Buddhist Nature

March 2009

How and Why Did Popular Natural Horsemanship Get So Far From Its Roots?
Handler Independence and Calm, Secure Learning in T.T.E.A.M.
Ray Hunt, Rest In Peace
Just Hold Your Horses!

April 2009

Horses, Shamans and Autism in Mongolia
The Mindlessness of Equestrian Vanity
Sally Swift, Godmother of Mindful Horsemanship, Dies At Age 95

May 2009

Another Bridleless Riding and Communication Tool: The Tellington TTouch Balance Rein
Ever Thought Something Was Too Good To Be True?
Guest Blog Contest Winner: Lost Trail Ranch’s High Mountain Muse
You Asked For It, You Got It: The Liberty Neck Ring

June 2009

The Nose Knows
Toward An Equine Bill of Rights
Embracing Groundlessness

July, 2009

Petition to Allow Bitless Bridles in USEF Rated Competitions
The Dominance Model and Horsemanship by Equine Ethology Are Dead
I Need Your Help and I Need It Fast! (Mongol Derby Animal Welfare Violations)
Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: On Perception
Another Post About Demanding Your Horse’s Attention
Do You Demand Your Horse’s Complete Attention?
The Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare A Solid Foundation For An Equine Bill of Rights

August 2009

What can I say? Some months, you just don’t hit your stride. I should have gone on vacation. Go back to July. It was a good month. Or check out September.

September 2009

Styles in the Horse World: Trailer Loading
Parelli Parade of Preposterousness
Science Friday: Heart Rate & Heart Rate Variability And Emotionality in Horses
Verse Thursday: Puerhan on Hurt
Unprecedented BLM Mustang Roundup Hearing Tomorrow: Please Make Your Voice Heard

October, 2009

Eye Contact: Necessary for Catching Your Horse?
Reader Dilemma: Catching A Horse In The Field
Backing Up; The Holy Grail of Horsemanshp?
Parelli Natural Horsemanship Cake Recipe

November 2009

Mindful Monday: Don’t Just Do Something–Sit There!
Interpretations of “Pressure”
Routine Tasks With No Inherent Meaning Diminish the Spirit of the Horse
From Gallop to Freedom: Do we REALLY Know What We Do?
Horses In Transition: A Call To Action

December 2009

We Are All Made of Stars
Sage By Nature: Horses Drawing Out Our Goddess Force
I Ride/A Simple Statement
Dressage Derailed at Horses for Life
Another Brick In the Wall: Trainers Eschewing Rope Halters

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How and Why Did Popular Natural Horsemanship Get So Far From Its Roots?

How and Why Did Popular Natural Horsemanship Get So Far From Its Roots?

Ray Hunt changed the relationship between rider and horse from a battle for dominance to a dance of gentleness, communication and mutual trust. He taught riding as a path for both human and animal to realize their true nature.

Ray Hunt and his horse Hondo

Ray Hunt and his horse Hondo

The recent death of Ray Hunt has got me to thinking. With the assistance of reader Shoshin, I have been learning anew of the basic roots of Natural Horsemanship and finding that it was once quite different from the style practiced today by such popular trainers as Clinton Anderson. What seems to have filtered out through the horses and the years is the fundamental application of mindfulness.

An article in Shambala Sun, a Buddhist publication called Ray Hunt, The Cowboy Sage, by Gretel Ehrlich, follows Hunt through a clinic and explores the Buddhist roots of his work with horses. Hunt may not have agreed with that characterization, but there are some strong parallels between the way Hunt approached horse training and the way a Buddhist approaches life: “giving, discipline, generosity, patience, compassion, skillful means, wisdom, harmony, that’s what Ray has been teaching.”

At the heart of Ray’s teaching are lessons about giving, discipline, awareness, compassion, stillness, concentration, and intelligence, the Buddhist paramitas spoken in a western dialect. But how did a rough-hewn cowboy learn these things? Ray answers: “It didn’t come easy. I didn’t just scrape off the top and there it was. I dug and dug and tore my hair out. But I owe it to the horse to work this hard, because I used to do things the true grit way. Not out of meanness. Just ignorance. I guess I saw too many Charlie Russell paintings. I didn’t know there was another way.”

When asked how he made this happen, he answered, “Oh, I just work with the mind.”

Hunt often gathered trainees around at the end of a clinic to tell a story:

A guy said, ‘There’s no use going to those Ray Hunt clinics, all he does is work with the mind.’ Well what the hell else is there? I like to think it’s 80% mind. You might have to do quite a bit physically, but once the mind is in tune, it takes almost nothing at all.

Inherent in Hunt’s “working with the mind” is an awareness, a stillness of his human agenda that would ordinarily cause a trainer to rush to achievement, to push the horse to accept more and more intrusions from the human world. In Hunt’s case, he remained still. He didn’t force an agenda.

I don’t have a time limit on this. It might take a minute, it might take five years. Sometimes you have to keep offering different things. You don’t want to drag it out of them and kill their desire and grit; you just turn it around, you turn it into life,” he says as the young sorrel stops bracing against Ray and turns smoothly. “There he goes,” Ray says, making sure the students see the change.

I am reminded of a basic Tellington TTouch® tenet, don’t force your agenda. When working on the basic body exploration of a horse, or when working to relax the body and the mind, it doesn’t pay to have a specific goal in mind. Erasing what you’d like to accomplish from your mind and being open to what actually occurs leaves open a huge window for success. You just have to be mindful enough to see when it occurs. A lick, a chew, a subtle drop of the head. The lowering of the eyelid. A sigh. Slowing respiration, cocking a leg. All the signs a massage therapist or skillful trainer looks for when waiting for a release. These are the proof that relaxation and acceptance have occurred.

I’m wondering how this attitude and Hunt’s transformed into the thinly veiled dominance and force based on “equine body language” one sees on RFD TV today.

In a training last week at Cedar Creek Stables and RIDE WITH PRIDE, there was a horse who would not allow any work on his right side. He would barely allow a person to approach him from that side. He had a history of injury to a right front leg, and this was causing difficulty going to the right, making it difficult to work in the arena as a therapy horse. Many current NH trainers might say, “I’m going to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing very hard for you,” which is a politically correct way of saying, “I’m going to force you to move to the right using these handy-dandy natural horsemanship steps.”

In last week’s training, a participant unwittingly demonstrated this tenet. At first she expressed frustration at not being able to work on the horse’s right side. Sandy Rakowitz assured her that all things come in time, and left it at that. The lady stopped trying to get to his right side and continued with the next steps in the clinic. Toward the end of the day, she reached over the horse’s back and began to TTouch him from the left side. She slowly worked his right withers from a non-threatening place at his left side. She noticed two things.
1) He allowed it, even seeming to enjoy it, and
2) his muscles, which had been extremely tight and tense in the early part of the day, had relaxed with all the work that had been done on him during the course of the day.

This isn't a really great photo, but it shows the clinic participant reaching over the back of the horse, TTouching the withers on the right side. You can see that the area has undergone some stress in the past because there are areas where hair is missing and others where the hair has turned white. The musculature beneath was very tight.

This was a perfect illustration of the cumulative effect of Tellington TTouch and the fact that if you allow yourself to let go of an agenda (getting to that right side come hell or high water), you just might achieve it at some point. It also reveals how beneficial it is to try something different. Sticking to dogma rarely produces those serendipitous results.

I am again reminded of a story Linda once told me about a training in Europe. Someone brought her a horse who refused to be saddled without resorting to extreme measures. They had tried everything. What could Linda add to the mix that might allow them to saddle this horse without suffering grievous bodily harm? Linda took the saddle, walked to the off (right) side, and carefully placed it on the horse’s back, and attached the girth. No muss, no fuss. A simple demonstration of the benefits of doing things another way. It wasn’t some magical training dogma. Linda had no idea whether this was going to work. if it hadn’t, she would have had to come up with another idea. Her flexibility in dealing with the issue was the magic. Her observation of the horse’s issues with being worked on the left side was the magic. The mindful observation of the horse. Her willingness to open herself to the horse in front of her without a particular “fix” in mind.

“I don’t have a time limit on this. It might take a minute, it might take five years. Sometimes you have to keep offering different things. You don’t want to drag it out of them and kill their desire and grit; you just turn it around, you turn it into life,” he says as the young sorrel stops bracing against Ray and turns smoothly. “There he goes,” Ray says, making sure the students see the change.

I am puzzled by how the horsemanship world has moved away from this revolutionary method of horsemanship to a more results-driven approach that subtly encourages dominance. Is it expediency? is it a fundamental character of human nature? Are we just lazy and in a hurry? I am very interested in your take on how and why natural horsemanship has changed over the years and across the continents.

For the complete article, click here.

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Ray Hunt, Rest In Peace

Ray Hunt, Rest In Peace

Ray Hunt, a pioneer of natural Horsemanship, died on March 12. He took the reins from the Dorrance brothers and furthered the revolution that put horsepeople on notice that the negotiation between humans and horses might better be accomplished form the horse’s point of view.

To read more about Hunt, visit the AQHA News.

RAY HUNT learned to transcend traditional ideas of working with horses. He wasn’t the first to do this, but he’s the man responsible for spreading the gospel of modern training and horsemanship techniques literally around the world. Ray Hunt is the source of the modern genre of horse clinicians.
He’s the man who taught students at horsemanship clinics before they were even called “clinics.” At age 75, with only one lung, he still holds schools for groups of people around the globe who want to know something of what he knows about horses. With his wife, Carolyn, at his side, Ray travels and teaches, and still turns down far more requests for clinics than he could possibly provide. Yet he doesn’t want to be remembered as a clinician and has little regard for most clinicians today. A bare handful of them get a sincere nod from the master.
For all that he knows about horses, Ray credits his life’s journey to the late Tom Dorrance, a modest man, likeable and quiet, who understood horses as no one before or since, and who saw in Ray a person who’d listen and learn. “Tom Dorrance is the man who made it possible,” Ray says. “Hondo is the horse that made it necessary.” …
We should all take a few minutes to honor a man who was more comfortable on horseback in the pasture than standing in the limelight.¹


Most of us probably aren’t even aware of ways in which we use techniques first taught by Ray Hunt. I’m not a proponent of the adoption in toto of natural horsemanship, but Ray Hunt made some great contributions to the world of horse training, and for that he should be thanked.

¹ excerpted from the January, 2005 issue of Western Horseman. Western Horseman of the Year (2004)–Ray Hunt by Mike Laughlin and Randy Witte

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Every Yokel With A Rope Is A Clinician

Every Yokel With A Rope Is A Clinician

OK, so maybe that title is a little sensationalist. But it got your attention, didn’t it? Let’s explore the subject.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of eating lunch with a friend at our local country store. Two miles from home, this is, for our tiny town, the center of the universe. Attached to the post office and adjacent to the only stop sign in town, this is the meet, greet and eat stop for all of us. While enjoying a lunch of homemade lasagna and salad, I happened to look at the community bulletin board to discover two new posters for natural horse trainers. Each offered round pen sessions and intensive training, as well as demonstrations, for a fee. I’d never heard of either of these guys. Even in this terrifying economy, the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and flourishing.

I’m not saying that, because I’ve never heard of them, they can’t be good at what they do, or that they have no right to advertise their services.

Turquoise Buckle Training Special Now $10,000!

Turquoise Buckle Training Special Now $10,000!

Their posters do, however, indicate a disturbing trend: every dude who’s watched a Parelli video or attended a Downunder Horsemanship clinic, experienced some success with the method and put his own spin on it seems to start putting out posters, advertising himself as the new natural horsemanship messiah. No wonder some horse people (and their horses) are confused.

Since I assume that they aren’t offering their help for free, I’d like to round up a few of these guys and gals and ask them some critical questions:

1. Why are you taking your skills to the masses?

Is it that

a. you have something radically new to offer?
b. you have a unique spin on the major players’ material that dovetails with the needs of your local community? how?
c. you want to cash in on the natural horsemanship training craze?

2. What makes you think you can teach other people what you do?

3. Are you ready to assume the enormous responsibility of training the horses that other people will ride?

I don’t know. What do you think they would all say if Ray Hunt lined em up and made ’em talk?

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