I started my first colt at 13 yrs old. Prior to that we were always horseback. Riding everything we could from green colts to seasoned saddle horses. Dad started us early helping move cattle, roping, and working the ground at brandings. When my brother and I were young we would have fun chasing and roping coyotes. Our colt starting methods were traditional and typical of the horseman of that period. Being successful was getting them rode when needed (and most of them did). I got pretty good getting by rank horses so I started a successful career in rodeo, riding bulls and bucking horses. I had a great career - riding and competing at the professional level for more that 20 years.
During the early 1980's I had a chance to learn about a man named Tom Dorrrance thru another horseman and rodeo rider named John "Witch" Holman. John told me some unbelievable stories he'd seen Tom do with horses. He suggested that I call him and visit with him when I needed help and advice with my colts. Well, I did just that. My first conversation with Tom about a tough colt I was working was a lesson in patience for me. I kept asking questions - Tom kept telling me about things that I thought (at the time) were totally unrelated. Only after several days, months and even years did I understand the precious information that he had made available to me. The answer and understanding I received only when I was ready to understand.
From 1984 to 1990 I was hired by Hartnell College (Salinas, CA) to teach rodeo techniques, animal science, horse training and horsemanship. During the classes Tom and Bill Dorrance would often come in as quest teachers and work with the students and staff. We were all so fortunate to be able to benefit from their depth of knowledge and experience with horses. After spending those 5 years at Salinas I moved back to Baker City, Oregon.
Tom spent a few days with my wife and I while he conducted a horsemanship clinic here in Baker City, Oregon back in the early 1990's. At night after the clinics he would spend time with me and my own colts at home. I was amazed at the little things Tom showed me that meant so much to the horse. At the end of Tom's stay I told him how much I appreciated what he shared with me. I also told him something else that I realized that I regretted but that was true. I saw so much of a difference in the way the horses would have respond
and repect without all that fear that I was used to seeing in my colts. But I was pretty impatient at that time. Setting things up and waiting for a response was going to be real tough for me. I realized this and told Tom that the thing that I probably needed was to change my attitude about things before I could become more effective. I had lots of horses to start and work with in the 1990's. I was applying things that Tom had helped me with and also things that Ray Hunt had done at the clinics of his I attended. I started to see the horses I work with become "gentler". THey weren't near as afraid of me as they used to be. There was a lot less fear there and quite a bit better feel & response. I liked it - It was also easier to like my life. I found that preparing the horse was a lot easier on me and the horses.
The next influence to come along in my life was Dennis Reis. I knew Dennis in earlier days when he and I were both on the rodeo trail. Dennis put on colt-starting and horsemanship clinics here for 3-4 years. Dennis filled in so many spots for me. He helped me to become more effective in getting colts ready for the first ride as well as supple and responsive thru his whole body. My 30 day horses began feelling like horses with 60-90 days training on them. All of my horses got quieter and gentler. I strive to have the horses I work with develop into safe and responsive partners for their "pilots". I enjoy and take pride in helping people become more effective with their horses in a safe way.