Horses have been part of my life since the day I was born. My father and grandfather worked with cattle and horses all their lives and I, in turn, grew up working with cattle and horses.
In my late teens, I started competing in campdrafts. In 1976, when I was twenty, I began training horses for a living. Around this time, I bought a1964 Ford V8 five-tonne cattle truck to transport my horses. We’d often load four or five campdrafters on Friday afternoon and drive for hours on end to arrive late at night in a country town somewhere. We’d unload the horses in the dark, sweep out the back of the truck and lay out our swags. After competing all weekend, we’d drive home Sunday night.
There was no internet or mobile phones back in those days. To enter a campdraft, we made a long distance phone call and sent a cheque in the mail for the entry fees.
Through the week, I rode between eight and fifteen horses each day, for paying customers. When my day’s work was done, I rode my campdraft horses.
I spent all day every day riding horses. Six or seven days every week. People sent all sorts of horses for me to train or re-train or start under saddle. There were plenty of terrified four and five-year-olds that hadn’t been handled and I often lay awake at night wondering how I’d get them going. I know I made plenty of mistakes and I did a lot of things that I wouldn’t do today.
There were no videos or internet in those days and not many books on horse training. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise because I didn’t blindly follow anyone or get sucked in to any “method”. Back then, there wasn’t much hype to get involved with.
I benefited greatly from my father’s and grandfather’s knowledge. Though my father stepped away from a lot of the harsh methods that Grandfather used, his approach to training horses was still fairly crude.
When I first started training horses full-time, my father argued that some horses would buck when they were first saddled and there was nothing that I or anyone else could do about it.
I was never satisfied with this. My argument was that there must be a way around every horse. My aim has always been to find a way to start every horse without chasing and bucking and fighting.
I’m often asked who I learned from, which trainers I follow and who I’ve worked with. Everyone always seem to think that I must have learned from another trainer and many people don’t like it when I say that I learned from all the horses I’ve worked with.
Though my father and grandfather taught me a lot and started me thinking, most of what I know came from going out into the yard every day on my own and working with ten or fifteen different horses. Day after day, month after month and year after year.
Whenever I walk into the yard with a horse, I try to see every situation from the horse’s point of view. I don’t follow any fairy stories and I don’t follow a set method. The horse I’m working with always lets me know what works and what doesn’t. And horses are the only critics I care about.
Read more on this subject here