Host: Saltriver Horsemanship
Written by Heath Stewart – Owner, Saltriver Horsemanship and Performance Horses.
Teaching horsemanship is one of the most inspiring things I get to do, particularly station horsemanship. When I was younger we were all doing the best we knew, but thanks to information becoming more freely available we have learnt much more successful ways of working with horses. Kellie is an avid student of the late great Ray Hunt and this allowed me access to methods that have vastly improved my horsemanship. More recently I have become more interested in human behaviour as I realised that this was my biggest limiting factor.
I conducted my first clinic about 14 years ago. I’m pretty sure I did a crappy job, but I was hooked! The last few three or four years I feel that I have improved greatly and I am very fortunate to return several times to stations, which is very fulfilling to see the ongoing improvement from year to year. Stations we have had the opportunity to teach at include Mardie, Urala, DeGrey, Roebuck Plains, Myroodah, Blina, Meda, Jubilee Downs, Louisa Downs, Bulka/Yougawalla, Carlton Hill, Moola Bulla, and Ruby Plains.
Much like Low Stress Stockhandling and the like, I have really focussed on trying to help people work with nature and the instincts and needs of the horse. Over the years the biggest change for me is to have more appreciation and understanding of the horses needs, rather than only being focussed on my own. Using this principle has enabled myself and our students to get what we want, in this instance working cattle efficiently and effectively, while the horse can also get it’s needs met, a win/win.
Typically the horsemanship clinics are conducted in the early part of the season as to get everyone on the same page for the bulk of the season. We can adjust to fit the requirements of the individual riders as well as the individual stations so as to get the greatest outcomes. Some experienced riders may be on a green horse whereas the newer riders are always on older horses to build their confidence. The cattle working clinics are my favourite and we also do some colt starting clinics.
I also factor in important concepts such as teamwork, good habits, technique, biomechanics, feel, timing and balance, efficiency, and the benefits of feedback as a learning tool. Using feedback from your horse, your boss, or the cattle to find out what worked and what didn’t so you can improve for next time.
I make sure I really explain things and encourage questions, the funniest one I got at the end of a session was “Is it true if a goanna runs at you that you should lay down so it doesn’t run up you like a tree?”