Summiteers: Come Early for the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Coming to the Best Horse Practices Summit?

Come a few days early to check out the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

This year’s focus is “Laughing Stock” and, as words suggest, is all about humor. Check it out here.

The Durango Cowboy Gathering Parade, one of the largest motorless parades in the country and the largest in Colorado, will take place on Saturday, October 7th at 10:00 a.m.

We heard from Parade Coordinator, Pam Jacobs. She writes:

The fun-filled morning starts with a hardy chuckwagon breakfast at 5th and Main which benefits the Gathering and its youth programs. Local music groups perform up and down Main Street beginning at 9:30. The parade kicks off with an old fashioned gunfight in front of the historic Strater Hotel.

This parade does its best to celebrate the lifestyles of rural people and to focus on various organizations in the community, giving anyone who is interested a chance to get their “cowboy on” by participating in the event. Wagons, carriages, horses, mules, miniature donkeys, llamas, dogs, buckaroos on stick horses, fashionable ladies and gentlemen dressed in period costume, and even a genuine performing Texas longhorn are all part of what has become a popular Durango tradition for the past 29 years.

We hope to see you there!

Interested in riding in the parade? Contact Angela.fountain at or at 970 382 6465 

For more information, contact Pam Jacobs, Parade Coordinator at collegeplanningservices at or call (512) 517-5619.

Historic Host Hotel Opens Rooms to Summit

This just in!

The historic Strater Hotel, host to the Best Horse Practices Summit, has made available a limited number of rooms for attendees of the Best Horse Practices Summit. We’re thrilled to offer this option for attendees during what is a very busy fall season for the Strater.

Interested parties must book directly by calling (800) 247 4431 and ask for the Best Horse Practices Summit (BHPS) special, available October 8-11.

Discounted price for a single without breakfast, $159.

Discounted price for queen and twin (for two or three guests), $182.

Check out the Lodging page here.

Register for the Summit here. 

See you in Durango!

The Summit will be held at the Strater Hotel and nearby fairgrounds

Bring Your Spouse to the Summit!

Are you passionate about riding and horses, but your partner isn’t?

Steering committee members have fielded requests for “May I bring a non-horse-y spouse?” and have answered the call.

Beginning this week and for a limited time, those registering for the Best Horse Practices Summit may click on the option “My Spouse Will Join Me For Meals.”

We have reserved 20 spots at the Strater Hotel for those partners not interested in the presentations but who would nonetheless like enjoy Durango, the visit, and the Strater’s fine dining.

The cost to those spouses is $120 and payable upon registration, Sunday, October 8, at the Strater Hotel.

Head to the Summit Registration page here. 


Board limits BHP Summit attendance to 200

As the Best Horse Practices Summit approaches, the conference’s board of directors has voted to limit attendance to 200 registrants. This recent move will ensure that participants enjoy an intimate, resonant experience from the academic and arena presenters.

The Summit takes place at the historic Strater Hotel and the LaPlata Fairgrounds, October 8-10, in Durango, Colorado, just after the annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

A stunning roster of speakers include: Randy Rieman, Bryan Nuebert, Wendy Williams, Martin Black, Warwick Schiller, Jim Thomas, Dr. Sheryl King, Dr. Robert Bowker, Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, and Dr. Steve Peters.

Summit presenters are excited to offer talks that stretch beyond the typical and that weave holistically into a greater take-home message. Collectively, these presenters – men, women, academics, stockmen, best-selling authors, and international clinicians – are deeply invested in improving the horse-human connection.

“It’s going to be an amazing experience,” said Peters, co-author with Black of Evidence-Based Horsemanship. “I’m as excited to attend as I am to present.”

Read more here.

Patagonia to outfit BHP Summit presenters

Patagonia, the clothing company characteristically associated with surfers and rock climbers, has chosen the Summit as a vehicle for introducing its fall WorkWear line. It’ll be outfitting BHPS presenters with its new Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Barn Coats and colorful Western Snap shirts.

Stay tuned for reviews and details later this week.

Visit the Patagonia WorkWear landing page here. 

“We wanted to put WorkWear in the hands of people who will test it, challenge it, and appreciate its utility,” said Chris Gaggia, marketing manager. “Riders, ranchers, working cowboys, and clinicians – they are outside, working hard in the elements every day. WorkWear is well-suited to the demands of the Summit presenters and attendees.”

Iron Forge Hemp Canvas is made of 55 percent hemp, 27 percent recycled polyester, and 18 percent organic cotton.  The material is supple but tough. Third-party testing has shown that the fabric is 25 percent more abrasion-resistant than cotton duck canvas like you see in Carhartt jackets.

Whoa Podcast Features Summit

We had a great time talking with John Harrer, the host of Whoa Podcast, a popular podcast about horses and horsemanship.

Maddy Butcher was joined by Dr. Steve Peters in talking about the upcoming Best Horse Practices Summit, the development of Evidence-Based Horsemanship, and the new site, HorseHead: Brain Science to Improve Your Horse Work.

Check it out here.

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.

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