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In February, over 1,000 people gathered to participate in a benefit for Tom Dorrance in Fort Worth, Texas. Dorrance is a horseman who has gained respect and admiration for helping to popularize a gentler style of working with horses. Called Natural Horsemanship, it is a logical process of establishing a relationship with a horse through understanding rather than by using force.
This once-in-a-lifetime event began early Saturday morning when Ray Hunt walked his horse into the center of the W.R. Watt Arena at the Will Rogers Memorial Complex. Ray was one of Tom’s students and is an extraordinary horseman and teacher.
"We’re here to honor my friend," he said, explaining that Tom could not attend because of poor health.
For the next two days Ray served as the Master of Ceremonies and Instructor for a Colt Starting and a Horsemanship Class. The audience had the rare opportunity to watch 68 world-class Natural Horsemanship Clinicians become Tom’s students. The list of Clinicians read like a Who’s Who of Cowboys and included Buck Branniman, Brian Newberg, Joe Woelter, Craig Cameron, Lester Mc Clorey, Lee Smith, Michael Richardson and Pat Parelli.
As 40 two-year old horses were ushered into four round pens, Ray said, "Tom’s here. He’s watching, so make him proud." His voice cracked, "Now, do a good job boys."
Then each Clinician concentrated on his assigned horse, using Natural Horseman techniques to catch and get it "started." "Breaking" is considered a dirty word in the world of Natural Horsemanship.
"Remember, it’s feel following a feel," Ray said. Even though I had a sense of what he meant, I was puzzled. What’s “feel following a feel” supposed to mean? Is it possible to explain that concept to a new rider who wants to have a good relationship with a horse?
The Clinicians did not talk to their horses, they didn’t even whisper—instead, they worked by feel; carefully coordinating their movements with the horse, getting its attention, then getting it to move in the way they wanted, gently controlling, always working on establishing a one-to-one relationship.
At times it looked like a four-ring circus and was difficult to watch all the Clinicians. It was a circus without whips, shouting or loud music. In fact, it was more like a symphony of motion, with each Clinician displaying an extraordinary sense of feeling, timing and balan .....
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