Opening Remarks at the Best Horse Practices Summit

Director Maddy Butcher

Best Horse Practices Summit director Maddy Butcher offered these remarks as she opened the inaugural conference on earlier this month in Durango, Colorado:

The whole idea for this conference bubbled up about two years ago after I attended a horse expo in New England. I was frustrated and confused about what I’d seen and experienced. There wasn’t any serious take-away. If my horse-owning mind was a mouth, I felt like I’d been eating fried dough all day.

The people were great, don’t get me wrong.

But…What was in it for the horses?

That simple question has carried us to where we are right now.

That simple question has helped shape a mission and has attracted internationally renowned clinicians and academics. It has attracted you, our attendees, from right here in Durango and from as far as Nova Scotia, Alberta, Maine, Washington, and Hawaii.

Jim Thomas visits with Summit attendees

The question, “what’s in it for the horses?” has resonated with all of us.

Here’s another question that helped shape this movement:

Can we offer them something better?

Today, at this inaugural conference, we confidently say YES.

We believe this is the conference your horse would want you to attend.


At the Summit, you will hear about what’s going on inside the horse’s brain, what’s going on inside its digestive tract, what’s going on inside its feet.

In the arena presentations, you will get straight talk on how best to translate your requests and how best to communicate with your equine partners.

You will learn about how everything we do – from what we feed our horses to how we touch them – has an impact on their well being.

Summiteers Bryan Neubert, Fred Holcomb, Steve Peters, Martin Black, and friends

We believe the Summit can seriously enhance your knowledge toolbox and add to your horsemanship skill set.

We believe that by bringing together academic and arena work, highlighting the legacy of good horsemanship, and the evolution of domesticity, we can expand your comfort zone and help you improve your connection with horses.

We believe that with these new insights, every one of you will be able to make your horses’ lives better.

I don’t mean that in a warm and fuzzy way. Too often, I think we humans are tempted to believe that stuff – equipment, goodies, or some kind of purchased item – will solve our problems and make horses’ lives better. But really, progress happens when we give ourselves time to listen, to observe, to absorb new information, and to experiment.

Our interest is not in creating a cult following, but in cultivating critical awareness – because critical awareness best serves our daily, ever-evolving work with horses.

I’d like to suggest that the success of the Summit will not be measured in trade booth sales, but in how it impacts your daily interactions with horses. Our success will be measured by how Summit strategies and insights, offered by our presenters, impact your lives and your horses’ lives in a positive way.

This is the mission of the Best Horse Practices Summit.

The Summit would not have been possible without our Session sponsors: Patagonia WorkWear, Redmond Equine, Lucerne Farms, and Darn Tough as well as many other generous sponsors. We thank them.

Please support them as they have supported us.

I want to keep this short because we have so much to hear and explore. It’s going to be a very, very busy two days. But here are a few additional bits to keep in mind:

  1. Thanks to our great audio video team of Soulfolle Creative and Lightning Communications, all these presentations will be online and available to you for free in 2018.
  2. Take a deep breath and get ready. (oh, wait, that was a note to myself)

Randy Rieman once told me that if you’re not stretching your comfort zones, you’re actually shrinking them. I believe this to be true in life and in horsemanship.

This Summit will undoubtedly stretch your comfort zones. I hope you embrace that feeling and the new information in a way that might make you a bit uncomfortable, but in the end will expand your life and your life with horses.

Welcome to the Best Horse Practices Summit!

Summit director Maddy Butcher visits with Summit presenter Bryan Neubert

Posted in BestHorsePractices Summit.


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