I was not friends with Ray Hunt and probably spoke less than 100 words to him. I rode in one of his clinics once. I spent many hours watching videos he had done, read everything I could about him, and listened to and watched many of people who had spent time with him.
For what I do with a horse, this is the person who I feel had the information and skills which best matched my desires more than anyone else I saw. What he did with a horse to prepare it fit my athletic ability first and the way he rode a horse fit with exactly the jobs I wanted to do horseback. This is why I decided to really study what he did. I noticed his horses and his ability while on those horses was very different from a lot of the people and wanted to understand this difference.
His horses seemed to take so little effort to engage movement or control movement. They always seemed to be in balance and ready for the next move and he seemed to be in the perfect spot to encourage and not get in the way of the horse’s balance.
I did an intense study for myself on what it appeared to me made him so much to my liking. What I came up with was some things that led me to some horsemanship ideas that upset some folks. Some of these people even accused me of going against the principles of Ray Hunt himself. I think I made some mistakes on how I went about sharing my ideas which really offended some folks. I would maybe change the way I presented the ideas, but I still believe in what I translated from the study.
It is not the purpose of this writing to get into a bunch of horse training discussion. What I think is important here is to understand what made Ray Hunt so good and how can this can improve your communication and skill with animals and maybe humans.
This is all speculation on my part and not what Ray Hunt may have thought or did. I am just using him as an example to help you see things from the way I see them.
At his clinics it seemed like he only did things that fit the horse mentally and physically, and if you did not have the ability to ride through it, you were in over your head and it might not work out so well. Many people felt this was wrong, but I don’t think he asked them to sign up. There was no pre-screening of abilities. That was your job before you signed up for the clinic.
So many people who were starting colts were in over their head, and in the horsemanship classes you had to be able to think and ride. If you were not at that level you might get a little confused. There always seemed to be several people who did fit the skill level required and they really benefitted. The good thing about the ones who did not have the skills at the time was he made such a huge impression on them and he had all those great teaching sayings. When the person’s skills did improve the things from the clinic surfaced. I think it is pretty amazing to teach in this way, yet never compromise the horse while doing it.
The greatest inspiration I got from Ray Hunt was learning how to make changes in an animal by applying pressure and a release of some or all of the pressure. To watch him work with a horse in the round pen and how much he could influence a horse with so much feel, timing and balance was very inspiring. He could really communicate with the horse using a rope, flag and halter and halter rope. He also was very good at communicating with the spectators with his voice and emotions.
Another place which I think had a huge impact on me was how he worked with a group of horses outside in the arena after saddling them in the round pen. With his flag and saddle horse he could get 15 or so horses which had not been together before, studs, mares, geldings or who knows what, and get them to getting along. He would be in control of their movement enough to keep the riders safe on the first ride. That is if the rider left the horse alone and let Ray control the situation.
At first when I watched this I could not see what he was doing and thought he was just getting movement. Not until I started doing it myself and watching Buck Brannaman do it did I start to understand how much influence you can have on a single or herd of animals.
This skill is one of the highest forms of stockmanship I have seen. This is not about running horses around the arena or getting cattle up a chute. It is about putting someone’s life on the line with your stockmanship skills. The real good colt starting clinicians that start several colts with several riders have to be good at this.
So of all the people I have tried to learn from Ray Hunt seems to fit me best. I am happy I did not spend anymore time than I did with him. I don’t think he liked me all that much, or I might have been around him more. But I got to see just enough to inspire me to start searching. Anymore and I would have been trying to copy and I can’t do that.
I wish he would have been more involved in the cattle handling movement of today. I think of anyone else he had the greatest impact on influencing my ideas on all stockmanship. It would have been interesting to see what direction he would have taken cattle handling in a for-profit mindset. In my mind his cattle would have handled as good as his horses, and that was borderline amazing.
~ Curt Pate
I had to smile when reading the writing from today, Curt, because your statement about Ray Hunt, “This is why I decided to really study what he did. I noticed his horses and his ability while on those horses was very different from a lot of the people and wanted to understand this difference.” is exactly why I started studying what YOU do with a horse, and now with cattle. I’ve recently begun doing some art-based teaching, and it is very difficult to feel as if I have something worthwhile to offer. I imagine the same was true for our legendary horsemen, such as Ray, and for those who are putting themselves in a position to offer their knowledge and experience currently. We, who are learning, appreciate the willingness of those who put themselves behind the microphone and under the microscope. While our focus may be on better stockmanship, the result is often better humanship ;> Thank you for sharing.
Interesting read, did you give him a reason not to like you, you seem quite easy to like.
I have to agree with your characterization of Ray Hunt as my experience at the one clinic I went to was that he was not terribly fond of or concerned with the human end of the equation. His horse-sense was astounding though…and a lot of his success was based on how well he let his horse do most of the work starting the colts. If people went away with a sense of the possibility of that kind of partnership between horse and human, then his clinics were a success. What very few realized was the time, work, and dedication it takes to develop it.
Interesting piece Curt. I’ve heard and read your comments before about how some of your ideas have upset folks, without sharing any of the specifics. Now I’m not suggesting a “he said..she said” kinda thing, but it would be interesting to hear about some of the differences in approach that got folks hot n bothered. I understand that the way we introduce ideas can upset folks, but that aside, I’d be facinated to hear about opposing philosophies or techniques you have uncovered. Do you run classes or seminars on this stuff? When’s the next book due? 🙂
Nicely said Sir. Quite a lil too think about actually, good way to spend the spring I reckon. Thinking outside the box is always good, otherwise we would all be doing the wrong things 100% of the time. Then WRONG becomes NORMAL. I personally am glad you took the time to really study. Thank You
I was fortunate enough to have had a chance to ride with Ray at one of his clinics. When Ray spoke, everyone listened. He was such a good teacher and his horsemanship teaching could well be applied to how we teach and interact with each other. I gave his book to a teacher friend of mine who does not own horses and has no interest in livestock. After reading Ray’s book he thought that every teacher should be required to read it as it applies to teaching children. I respect this friend as a teacher very much and thought his opinion spoke very highly of what Ray was trying to teach.