For many years, horses have been beloved companions of humans. Initially work or war animals, horses have now evolved and been bred for a variety of different disciplines or recreational purposes.
“In Alberta, it’s a Western and/or English focus,” says Kent Williamson, horse trainer in Bragg Creek, Alberta. “[In the English tradition] examples include dressage riding [and] jumping. Then in the Western events, it’s more cutting, cow horse, rodeo, or recreational.”
But despite the variety of disciplines, at the centre of every skilled riding duo is a well-trained horse. And every well-trained horse begins with the fundamentals. In human terms, this would be equivalent to grades K–6 and includes training such as halter breaking and foundational training for horses of all breeds, shapes, and sizes. This is Williamson’s specialty. “They often do better [with fundamental training first], than trying to make a horse an Olympic athlete right from the beginning,” says Williamson.
Foundational training relies on understanding a herd animal’s pressure and release mentality. “You have to understand the nature,” says Williamson. “It’s pretty much paying off for the right things at the right time. Any type of behaviour that you want a horse to do, being a herd animal, if they’re released for it, it becomes a reward.”
When asked why he became a horse trainer, Williamson responded that his joy of horse training comes from a compassion for the horses themselves and a curiosity for understanding their nature. “For me it was the puzzle of their mind,” says Williamson.
To learn more about horse history and training, watch our interview with Kent Williamson here.
This has been a Home Grown segment, brought to you by connectFirst Credit Union, showcasing Alberta producers, artisans, and farming communities.