I'm smiling. It really is a new era for horsemanship, and that just makes me happy. It has been about 12 years ago that I started this little journey and things have really changed.
I remember being snuggled up in a hotel room after our OQHA Year-End awards banquet. I was surrounded by a mountain of trophies, saddles, buckles, blankets and assortment of awards after a very successful year. I was happy and bothered. Talking to my "trainers" at the time and being very immerced in achieving my AQHA goals in the show pen, it seemed that the more successful "Team LaChapelle" became, the more I felt there had to be a better way. A better way to achieve top performances without all of the pain and punishment. I remember saying that there had to be a way to communicate that was "horse first" and that the movement would be lead by committed amateurs that really loved their horses. I was viewed as an eccentric and a maverick. I was accepted because we won.
Leaving the show pen on the cusp of achieving my life long goals with great horses that I knew would not be around and in peak condition forever, was one of the most difficult decisions in my life. I did it anyway. Friends asked what in the world I was doing and why NOW! Why sacrifice so much to do the "cowboy" thing. All I could answer was that it just felt right.
I had already started to do my homework. Several years before I had attended a clinic with Ray Hunt in Eugene, Or and witnessed some pretty amazing things. Although the information did not really click, something about the whole thing struck a cord, and I was hooked. I actually participated in a clinic with Bryan Nuebert and watched the "cowboy" stuff in more detail. I thought they were pretty good "tricks". I didn't really yet understand the nature of the horse and why this approach seemed so seamless and natural. I kept at it.
Thanks to Jet aka "Nothingbutbluesky" and Ricky Quinn my horsemanship education went from wandering in the dark to light bulbs and laser beams. I wanted to start Jet, but not the way I had been doing it my whole life. Spending time with Ricky that first winter was intense. I was seeing things in such detail, things I had never seen. Why had it taken me so long to find this information? This way of being, acting, and interaction with the horse was something I had never been exposed to, and yet it made so much sense. It was a hair on fire experience and I could not figure out why my little arena was not packed with all of those people looking for a better way.
Ricky left. I felt a bit like a toddler having taken my first step and then realizing that there was no coffee table in sight, nothing to grab a hold of. It was lonely. Just me, a rope halter, a whole bunch of thumbs and two left feet. After day one, I had bruised my face, calves and behind just trying to get a handle on ground work. I was trying to get my twelve foot, tree line, lead rope to behave! I hadn't even touched my horse yet! I had no one to call. No friends that would understand. No one that knew how the heck to spin that rope, yield those hind quarters, face-up and one rein stop. It was just me, my horses and a whole lot of guessing.
Things are so different today. One by one you have all come. There is a network now of colleagues, friends, teachers, students, horsemen and women that are just as passionate as I am about finding a better way for the horse. Ray told me once that we are all in the same stream, its just that some of us are a bit further along than others. Thank heaven for that. What a gift for those just entering the stream. What a gift for all of us to know that someone has been this way before and can point out the rough spots and offer support, direction and guidance.
So here's to all of you, CHEERS! I'm not alone out here anymore! People that are searching and trying to offer something of quality and meaning have a ready source of information, and help. Thanks to Ricky Quinn, Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman, Bryan Neubert, my teachers. Thanks to Laura Lillie, Nick Donohue, colleagues and professionals that have made a life's commitment to this style of horsemanship. Thanks to all of you dedicated horse owners and lovers that knew there was a better way and pushed to find it. And above all, thanks to all of my horses, those patient teachers that just knew, I too, would find it.