New BHP Summit Logo Shines

Thanks to the input of the steering committee and scores of fans who commented here and on social media, the Best Horse Practices Summit now has a new logo.

It was picked by readers and then fine-tuned (per reader suggestions) by talented designer, T.J. Zark of Hello Zark, a brand and design company.

We hope you love it as much as we do!

The brand helps illustrate what the Summit is all about: horse questions, making connections, and the beautiful mountain setting of Durango, Colorado. The deep red color was preferred over the other options as it reminded many of their horses. At the suggestion of several fans, we made the horse’s muzzle a bit more realistic and swapped out the thought bubbles for clearer, more science-oriented hexagon connections.

Thanks everyone for your input!

Here’s a bit more about Zark, the BHPS brand creator and one of our new Patron Sponsors.

T.J. Zark recalls:

My mom moved our family from Southern California to the middle of cattle country in Nebraska when I was about five years old. While my siblings seemed horrified, I could not have been happier.

After a short while, I was cut loose on a 19 year-old, retired barrel horse to run and roam where I pleased. I rode her everywhere. I rode the pastures and the canyons. I rode to town and tried to keep the poor thing in the backyard, so she could be closer to me in the house.

This was big country and horses were a necessity. I was given real jobs on horseback and learned things I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. The summer when I was ten, we started a dozen untouched colts. What a thrill to watch them learn to trust and suddenly have them going “with” you. I thought this would be the trajectory of my life. Cowboys, cows, horses, and the hay field.

Life didn’t go that way and it wasn’t until my late 40’s that I realized I could have horses again. Then, I discovered how little instinct, trust, and connection I had as an adult.

At this stage, several horse owners lavished their advice on me. Most of it involved buying some device or piece of restraining tack. It only took a couple purchases for me to know I couldn’t go that direction. Their approach was coming from an impulse created by consumerism, where money fixes our problems, rather than time and effort.

Be the person my horse needs me to be – That’s what I wanted. So, I did what any obsessive person would do, I took a sabbatical from my career and headed back to cattle country. I planned to stay a month and I stayed for seven years.

On that first day, I was given copies of “True Unity: Willing Communication between Horse and Human” by Tom Dorrance,  and “True Horsemanship Through Feel” by Bill Dorrance and Leslie Desmond.

I spent those seven years riding with people who were better than me, working with cattle, horses, and cow dogs as often as I could. I emerged a tiny bit of the horseman I’d longed to be. (what years were these? And what happened after that – return to corporate world?)

TJ Zark

Why do I support the Best Horse Practices Summit?

I believe horsemanship is a beautiful and endlessly unfolding discipline.

I believe knowledge comes from many sources and sometimes from unlikely people and places.

There is wisdom found in folklore and science.

The Best Horse Practices Summit will advance our dialogue on what works for horses and their humans from an expansive knowledge base.

My old, retired barrel-racing mare offered me a really good deal. In many ways, she raised me. It’s my hope that we learn to offer horses a better deal every single day and that we strive for that continually.

Transportation at the BHP Summit

Durango, Colorado, home of the Best Horse Practices Summit, October 8-10, is a beautiful mountain town of about 20,000 residents.

The airport, the Durango-LaPlata County Airport, is located about 15 miles from downtown. Check out its website here.

The LaPlata Fairground Pavilion, site of the afternoon arena presentations, is about one mile from the academic presentations at the Strater Hotel. The Best Horse Practices Summit does not provide transportation between the two venues.

Here are some great options for getting around:

Rental cars, taxis, and Uber are all available.

Public transportation between the hotel and the fairgrounds is simple, affordable, and convenient. The trolley line runs every 20 minutes. Check out Durango Transit here. Visit their website here or view the routes and schedule here or check out the map below.



Help us nail the Summit brand

We’ve been working with the talented T.J. Zark of Hello Zark, a brand and design firm, to develop a great brand for the Best Horse Practices Summit.

Zark, also a talented artist and a gal who grew up on a Nebraska ranch, has developed many award-winning brands and worked for Apple and other entities in Silicon Valley. We’re lucky to have her!

Help us pick the best design for our equine conference. Bear in mind, we have strive to incorporate the ‘thinking outside the box’ element of the Summit and making connections between practical horsemanship and equine research. We also want to let folks know that this great conference takes place in the beautiful mountains of Colorado.

Check out the images below and comment on which one you’d like. Thanks!

Gerd Heuschmann: A good cowboy IS a classical rider

We hear this week from Andrea Haller of Wellborn Quarter Horses. She will host Dr. Gerd Heuschmann following his appearance at the Best Horse Practices Summit. She submitted a multi-part feature to help us learn more about Heuschmann.

Haller writes:

What does good riding have to do with any specific discipline? This is the rhetorical question that Dr. Gerd Heuschmann often asked audiences.

His response:

For me, a classical rider is able to train his horse for what he wants to do, without damaging the horse’s body or mind. A good cowboy can be a classical rider, if he is a good cowboy.

Heuschmann gives us this example:

“I was visited by a cowboy from Montana a few years ago. It was his first time out of the United States. He is a great horseman, and has spent his life with cattle and horses. This cowboy worked my horse on the ground, and, I saw he was doing exactly the same thing as I do, which my biomechanical explanations say that I ought do:

➢       what happens while moving laterally?

➢       what happens to the back?

➢       what happens to the shoulders?

➢       what happens to the poll?

He’s doing the same things I do– working with his rope and he says, ‘now we open the poll,’ and he says ‘this brings the mind to the ground.’

I say, ‘Oh! He stretches the upper muscle system and the neck.’

At the end we recognize that we are both right. When the horse relaxes the muscles and starts chewing, his mind gets ‘to the ground.’ This is why we should talk more with horsemen from different disciplines.”

There are “properly-trained” Western horses who can compete Hunter under Saddle, Hunter over fences, lower-level Dressage, jumping, and 3-day eventing with no additional “training.”

How was this possible?

Heuschmann’s new book, Collection or Contortion? Exposing the Misconceptions and Exploring the Truths of Horse Positioning and Bend” is a critical examination of two concepts—flexion and bend. And it explains why this “untrained” horse with a Western background transitioned so easily to English disciplines.

In this new book, Heuschmann cites the many masters of classical dressage who wrote essays and even entire books about flexion at the horse’s poll and longitudinal bend of the horse’s body.   Dr. Heuschmann strives to fuse the complex classic literature with the results of his own studies as an expert in equine anatomy and biomechanics.

He meticulously describes various movements used, their desired effects, and the truth behind the rider’s role in each. In addition, he unveils his recommendations for dealing with the horse’s “natural crookedness” and “false bend,” providing basic guidelines for schooling that ensure correct movements with the end-goal of a more athletic, collected horse, and happier, healthier horses in the long run.

Dr. Heuschmann will be speaking at the upcoming Best Horse Practices Summit, Oct 8 – 10, in Durango, CO.

He will also be appearing Oct 21-23, 2017 in Florida, where he will present his Equine BioMechanics Lecture, Demonstrations and lessons. Please contact Andrea Haller for further information on this symposium. andreajhaller at gmail dot com Or click here.

Other clinic locations are Washington, Colorado and North Carolina.   The 2017 USA Clinic Tour is sponsored by Omega Fields (makers of Omega HorseShine) and Photonic Health of Ocala.

Temple Grandin Supports the BHP Summit

Dr. Temple Grandin, a pioneer in animal welfare and in the reform of livestock handling, likes what she sees at the inaugural Best Horse Practices Summit, October 8-10, in Durango, Colorado.

Grandin, author of numerous books, subject of an award-winning movie, and recent inductee to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences said the conference undoubtedly will help humans improve their connection with horses.

Read more about Grandin here.

In a recent interview, she said, “We humans communicate to each other mostly with words. But if you want to understand horses, you need to get away from verbal language. Animals are sensory-based thinkers, not word-based thinkers. Their memories are in pictures, audio-clips, smell or touch sensations. Theirs is a nonverbal, sensory-based world.

“The Best Horse Practices Summit, with its ingenuous blend of academic and arena presentations, will help people understand horses’ world. It offers the horses’ perspective.

“With the Summit presentations on brain science, biomechanics, and hoof research, owners and riders will come away with new information to make their horses’ lives better because they will understand their perspective better.

“For decades, I’ve traveled the world helping humans understand animals and giving people tools and mandates for improving animals’ lives. We raised them. They deserve our respect. The Best Horse Practices Summit has the same goal and mission. I applaud their efforts. “

Thanks, Dr. Grandin!

Calling all BHPS Volunteers!

Interested in volunteering to help at the Best Horse Practices Summit?

If you’ve been keeping up to date with developments, you know the Summit has many moving parts. There are academic and arena presentations featuring horsemen and women from around the world. Attendees will come from far-reaching corners, too.

We’re dedicated to putting on a great conference AND allowing our volunteers to gain as much as they are able from it.


Volunteers dedicating 5-9 hours of time before or during the event will receive:

  • $100 Discount to the Summit
  • Complimentary BHP Summit shirt
  • Swag bag with goodies and additional discounts
  • Automatically entered into Volunteers Only giveaway of 5 Star saddle pad
  • Redmond Equine product for your horses

Volunteers dedicating 10-20 hours of time before or during the event will receive:

  • Free admission to the Summit
  • Complimentary BHP Summit shirt
  • Swag bag with goodies and additional discounts
  • Automatically entered into Volunteers Only giveaway of 5 Star saddle pad
  • Redmond Equine product for your horses

We’ll need help with welcoming registrants, taking care of presenters, hosting sessions, staffing trade show booths (selling goods, using credit card swiper, etc), and more.

Let us know about your availability and talents. Let us know of any specific talents – are you are a great people person? Team leader? Audio-visual savvy? Salesmanship? Do you have excellent administrative skills?Don’t be modest. We’d like to take advantage of your abilities and charge you with tasks that suit you best.


Eclectic Horseman Sponsors the Summit

This week, the Best Horse Practices Summit board of directors and steering committee excitedly welcomed Eclectic Horseman Communications, Inc., the renowned brand offering a wealth of education opportunites in the form of a popular magazine and DVD subscriptions, to our growing family of sponsors. It’s a natural fit as Eclectic Horseman and the BHP Summit are deeply invested in improving the horse-rider connection through education.

Eclectic Horseman President Emily Kitching writes:

People want to do right by their horses. I believe this to be true. At Eclectic Horseman, we do our part to make the world a better place for horses by offering well-illustrated alternatives and ideas. I firmly believe that in the horsemanship world, continuing education is the answer.

That’s why we have decided to sponsor and support the Best Horse Practices Summit. With its mix of research and common sense presentations, it’s an event your horse would want you to attend.

How do we learn what is best for our horses in their training and in the whole of their lives? Our horses did not choose to be in our care. We chose them. We are responsible for their well-being, both physical and mental.

EH President Emily Kitching

Educating humans, however, can be a tall order. Some people learn by observation, others through reading, and many of us through the age-old tradition of trial and error. Unfortunately, while so many of us are open to ideas about how to ride and build a relationship in the saddle, we overlook all the pieces that led to our being up there.

The Summit is the kind of conference that will pull back and look at horsemanship with a wide lens before diving in to consider details. That’s our approach, too, at Eclectic Horseman.

See you in Durango!

Thanks Emily and Eclectic Horseman. We appreciate your thoughtful and enthusiastic support!

The BHP Summit welcomes Eclectic Horseman

Register now for a chance to win 5 Star Saddle Pad!

Dear Horse Friends,

I would like to suggest a fun, enjoyable To-Do list:

  • Visit the Colorado’s beautiful mountains in October.
  • Hear presentations from world-renowned horse presenters, enjoy great hotel fare, and mingle with good company. Be inspired and come home an improved horse owner and rider.
  • Enter to win a free 5 Star Saddle Pad.

What a fun and exciting trifecta. Let’s do it!

The great folks at 5 Star Equine Products in Hatfield, Arkansas have made it possible for the Best Horse Practices Summit to offer one lucky registrant a free saddle pad! Register by August 1 to qualify. Register now!

Anyone already registered or who registers before August 1 will be entered to win one of their world’s finest, wool felt pads, valued between $250-300 (depending on style). The lucky winner will choose and take home their 5 Star pad at the Summit headquarters in the Strater Theater.

Register now!

Already registered? You’re automatically entered.

Taking advantage of the Bring Three, Get in Free special? You’re still automatically entered.

See you in Durango!


Riders: Mean What You Say!

Editor’s Note: We welcome Juliana Zunde of Hillsborough, North Carolina as a BestHorsePractices guest columnist.
Zunde was born in Germany and moved to the United States in 1981. She has managed large horse facilities, competed at high levels, and taught extensively, especially to hunter/jumper enthusiasts. She runs Trakai Farm in Hillsborough.
Zunde coaches harmony and balance for the hunter, jumper, and dressage ring.
She has studied with George Morris, Joe Fargis, Jeff Cook, Ann Kursinsky, Dr. Gerd Heuschman, Maclain Ward, Buck Brannaman, and Martin Black.
Read more about her here.

Zunde writes:

I’m with an acquaintance and she looks upset. I ask what’s wrong. The answer is, “Nothing’s wrong.” But the words coming out of her mouth don’t match the look on her face. My answer to her answer is often: “Which would you like me to believe, your words or your expression? They don’t say the same thing.”

As humans, we are very good at covering up how we really feel, saying one thing when we really mean something totally different. The strategy doesn’t work with horses. Their communication is literal and direct.

In training and riding horses, we need to use this inherent part of their nature and their way of “talking” with each other to communicate our needs to them. Horses don’t ever show one thing and mean something totally different. When ears go back, it means move or there will be a consequence. There are no discussions at the water trough as to who would go first. The alpha goes first unless he decides to let another join her. Either way it will be very clear. There is no saying one thing and meaning another.

This also holds true for our communication with them. If you inadvertently use your leg when it should just stay quiet, your horse will respond. He has no clue that you did not mean it.

I see riders and horses get frustrated because there is too much extra clutter in conversations:

  • a leg in the wrong position
  • a sequence started wrong and not in rhythm with the footfall of the horse
  • aids clashing rather than working in concert with each other
  • asking too little or too much at the wrong time

In order to truly have a conversation with your horse, you have to first be in a position to really listen. Read more here.

You have to unclutter your mind, tune into your horse, and feel where she is at that moment.

Secondly, you need to start asking questions. If you don’t get the right answer, look to yourself:

  • Did you ask the right question in the correct sequence?
  • Was it loud enough for him to respond?
  • Did you ask too loudly, causing him to overreact?

The well-trained horse can give you the right answer if you ask the right question with the right meaning and the right intent at the right time. In the same fashion, the green horse will never learn correctly if your aids keep changing or if you are giving him different cues at different times for the same thing. As you can see, there are a lot of things you must do correctly.

In your horse’s world, the right question asked in the right way with the proper intent, and then rewarded with the soft relief when it is willingly answered it something more gratifying, more satisfying than any food treat.

Horses know if you are truly their leader and with them all the way. They won’t believe you unless words, actions, and intent all say the same thing. Horses will always take you at face value. They have no ego that needs protection.

Learn to be true in your communication with yourself and the world around you. The same can hold true for human interactions. The next time someone asks you how you’re feeling, make your words and facial expressions match. Our relationships might improve if we tried to say what we mean honestly and politely.

Think Riding is Hard? Try Teaching It

In a recent BestHorsePractices post, we wrote about Why Riding is the Hardest Thing in the World to Do. It discussed the challenges of thinking, balancing, and connecting with your equine partner.

We then heard from several clinicians who talked about the challenges of nurturing that complicated, multi-faceted horse-rider partnership and communicating effectively enough to be understood and appreciated.

West Taylor, who with Dr. Steve Peters will present at the Horse Science Seminar next month in Park City, helped articulate the challenges.

Taylor shared these thoughts:

My horse training program broken down to its simplest form is: Pressure, Release, and Seeking Relief.

  • Pressure motivates the horse to “find something.”
  • Release tells the horse “you have found the answer.”
  • Allowing the horse the time to “seek relief” after the release of pressure puts it together with a reinforcing dose of dopamine.

From the time I release pressure, that horse is the seeking relief. I don’t know how much value there would be in the release if there weren’t time for that relief. However, if at that time the horse and rider are in a getting-something-done situation, then it’s different. As horsemen, we tend to toggle between these two situations.

I focus on Timing, Balance, and Feel.

Read more about Mastering the Elements here.

There is timing with pressure, timing with release, and timing with balance.

What does the balance of pressure mean? That’s knowing for example when to put on a little pressure and when to add more.

West Taylor’s client at work with her horse

Feel is everything, right?

As in:

  • What do I feel like this horse needs right now?
  • What’s the feel in watching the horse seek relief?

I might ask a horse at liberty to walk across a tarp. The feel to me here is in the observing and reacting:

  • Do I have to step back one step, two steps, five steps?
  • What do I need to do for the horse to be able to do what I’m asking it to do?

Will I need to take two big steps away in order for it to lick and chew?

That’s the feel to me. I see a lot of clients that miss the feel. What I want my clients to find is that feel, that observation. Rather than tell them A, B, and C, I’ll ask them, ‘What did you see?

With clear communication, you will see the results. But can the clients see it?

When something happens with the horse, I like to say:

  • How did you cause that?
  • What did you not support?
  • What did you not adjust to?

From a pro-active standpoint, we need to see how we set it up or how we got in the way. How did we cause an action or behavior? I just keep asking them. Often clients just don’t know. That’s why they are here. That’s what they learn. Teaching horsemanship is the most masterful game of chess that we can play. It’s leading the horse and person to the right moves.

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