Sunday, October 6, 2019


This is a true story and there will not be any images with this story. There was no time for taking pictures since the majority of this story took place in darkness. This is a story that simply must be told mostly, in my opinion, out of respect and admiration for the black dog. It is one of those stories that when on ones deathbed, and a loved one asks that you tell a story that was a powerful experience from your life, I believe this is a story that might be told. And at the same time it is a story that one deeply and earnestly wishes had never taken place. A story that tells of a life situation that was harrowing and dangerous and where a life was lost and where other lives were hanging in a very thin balance. Some men might beat their chests and howl at having survived the experience but because of the black dog I somehow did not feel like rejoicing at my own survival. 

The black dog was a stranger to us all. And since there are hundreds if not thousands of homeless street dogs in San Miguel de Allende Mexico (3 1/2 hours north west of Mexico City) this black dog decided to partner up with 8 cowboys on that dark night. All of a sudden he was simply there. I say he but none of us knew if the black dog was male or female. None of the horsemen on the ride from San Miguel de Allende (SMA) in Guanajuato Mexico back to our ranch 8 kilometers away had ever seen the black dog prior to this evening. On that evening we were approximately 70 or so horsemen all gathered in the city center for the reenactment of Mexico's liberation from the Spanish. As a gringo I was graciously asked to participate in the event and even though I had heard the reenactment could be and usually is a wild, crazy and even dangerous experience, I decided to see for myself. So my loyal Quarter horse Tatanka and I prepared ourselves for the experience.

The reenactment went well in as nobody was injured or killed as horsemen cantered on cobblestone streets past thousands of onlookers with cameras around the church (San Miguel Archangel Parish Church built in 1880) in the city center. Horses slipped and skidded on the cobblestones as sparks flew from iron shoes. The snorting horses, tightly packed together on narrow streets and between wide eyed tourists, bumped into each other as riders shouted and screamed Viva Mexico over and over and over again. As one of the 5 or 6 gringos participating I tried to imagine how it must have been to to be a part of the coup against the Spanish those many years ago. 

And then the reenactment was over and by the time we had all handed in our costumes and after we had put on our own clothes for the ride back to the ranch dusk was settling in over the ancient city founded in 1542 by Fray Juan de Sanmiguel. Our ride would be 6 or so kilometers of weaving our horses through the narrow streets of SMA and then north along Highway 51 in the direction of Dolores Hidalgo and back to Rancho del Sol Dorado where most of the horses were stabled and where a few of us lived. There was another route back to the ranch but it meant we would have to ride in the darkness through San Luis Rey, a village known to be dangerous especially at night. So, we chose to ride along the highway which was not a great choice either but that was the only other route back. Hindsight being 20/20, if there were to be a next time especially knowing and having experienced what I did this year, I would find a way to trailer horses and cowboys back to the ranch from the city.  

Of course, in what I was beginning to learn is somehow true Mexican fashion, nobody had really prepared themselves for the ride home in the dark. Meaning that I was the only one who had packed a few flashlights in my saddlebags and I wore a reflector vest since I knew we would be returning to the ranch along the highway in the dark. I guess I figured that others would do the same? Wrong! So, there we were weaving our way through the narrow cobblestone streets of the city soon to be riding alongside Highway #51 towards Dolores Hidalgo. And the moon, which I was hoping would be our illumination, would not come out for another few hours so this evening was a thick, heavy blackness. Many of the riders as well as many of the horses were hardly visible in the dark night as I would glance over my shoulder as we left the city. Three of us had the small flashlights I had packed and their light became almost instantly suffocated by the heavy black of the dark night. We all instantly realized that it was a dangerous situation especially since, at times, we were forced to ride on the very edge of the highway. At no time were we ever more than a few meters distance from the speeding cars and trucks coming towards us.

And suddenly we all realized that the black dog was still with us. In the darkness he was invisible but as we would occasionally ride under a dim street light or when oncoming car lights blinded us and slightly illuminated our path - there he was like a panther, or a ghost leading our way. And then there he still was after some more hundreds of meters. And when the speeding cars flew by I would catch his blackness in the flash of headlights and then he would vanish as quickly as he had appeared as the headlights flashed by. As I have said he had joined us all the way back in the city center and now there he still was leading our group out in front like a shadowy, illusive point man in the jungles of Vietnam. Fearless, naive and innocent, like some brave dumb child pushing forward into he knew not what but proud at the same time. I found myself having brotherly thoughts of him as we plodded forward into the darkness sometimes able to see a few meters ahead and only seconds later blinded by oncoming headlights. I was thinking that when we would arrive back to my home at the ranch - I would give him a safe place to reside since I felt him to be a refugee brother somehow. It seemed to be only him and me out there in the dark since the other riders were behind us in the darkness.

And then, as we wove our way northwards, we came to a place on the side of the road where we had to venture onto to the highway for about 15 meters. Slowly the terrain nudged us closer and closer to the road and the passing cars and trucks. I was amazed and even frightened at how fast the cars and trucks sped by us only feet away. Then it happened. The black dog began to wander out onto the highway. I was suddenly filled with anxiety and fear as I desperately called to him and took my eyes for a brief moment off of the terrain where I was guiding Tatanka. As I guided my horse to the left in an attempt to draw the black dog towards me and away from the highway two things happened at that very instant. 

I heard a sound that I will never forget even if I live to be a thousand. A sound that instantly shattered my dreams of bringing the black dog home to be a part of my family. A sound that ripped and tore viciously at my heart. I heard a car or truck slam into the black dog with such impact that I felt myself jump in the saddle. As I said it was a sound that I will never, ever forget. There was no yelp or bark or sound made by the black dog. He was instantly and mercilessly crushed by flying steel and I remember that I felt an instant sickness to my stomach. And at the very instant I heard that sound my horse and I plunged downwards into a ravine that, as I found out two days later when I returned to investigate, was about 8 feet deep; a culvert where rain water ran in the rainy season. Crashing into the ravine filled with thorn bushes, like only exist I believe in Mexico, I only slightly remember my horse, like in a slow motion dream, attempting to get his footing and stomping frantically on my chest and head. It was Tatanka's desperate attempt to right himself and to exit the ravine. The other riders later said I had simply disappeared. One second I was there and a second later I was gone.

The other riders also said I had disappeared for about a minute before I came clawing my way out of the dark ravine. I guess that is about how long I was unconscious. My very first thought upon regaining consciousness was for my horse Tatanka, where he was and if he was safe. It turned out that Jorge, the ranch manager from Rancho del Sol Dorado, had jumped off of his horse, handed his reins to another rider, run out into the highway to, at the last instant, save my horse from being crushed by a passing car. I will be eternally grateful to Jorge for his courage and instant clear thinking. If not for him it is certain that I would have also lost my beloved Tatanka on that dark night. 

At the same moment I remembered the black dog and my heart filled again with sudden pain and anguish. It was as though that homeless black street dog sensed that just maybe these horsemen could be a new family for him. That if he showed us his loyalty and led us all safely home that maybe one of us would love him and take care of him and give him a home. I would have been that one since I felt a strong kinship with this homeless soul. As a matter of fact, at the very moment he got hit, I was having deep warm thoughts that I would gladly welcome him he to join my family. The black dog and I had much in common it seemed since I have always felt like an exile and stranger from another realm. But on that dark night he had another job it seemed. He was our forward observer, the eyes and ears of our group. He was out front where anything can and does happen - and life expressed its ugly ruthlessness on that dark night on the side of the highway. The black dog in a flash simply ceased to be.  

Two days later, after spending the next day healing myself physically and emotionally in bed, I returned to the ravine. My thought was to find the black dog and to take him back to the ranch and give him a decent burial, so deep were my feelings for him. But that was not to be since I could not find his body among the deep grass and thorns. I felt terrible that I could not find his crushed body. I will not forget his loyalty and his courage, ever.

Black dog wherever you are
know this and be sure.
That on that dark night when you were no more,
I, a horseman, will not forget you.

I pray that I will meet you once again!



Friday, December 14, 2018


From what I have been told Mama Georgia (we'll call her for now) and her daughter were rounded up in Yakima Washington approximately 9 months ago. Mama Georgia was pregnant with her daughter during the round up and it is believed that Mama is approx. 8 years old - at least this is what we have been told. Of course, the rescue or adoption source did not keep records so a reliable history for these horses is unfortunately sketchy at best. But the information that we have been given is that the filly is about 5 months old, was born at the rescue facility and that Mama should be around 8 years old. I wish the rescue organizations (at least this particular one) would keep better records on the horses.

Anyway, I believe that, from her behavior, pregnant Mama was rounded up in a very rough manner to say the least. Imagine, she is pregnant and that she is being chased by a helicopter and some screaming yahoo cowboys out to prove their manhood and their brass. From the time I have until now spent with her I believe she was scared to death for her own safety and for the safety of her foal. 

I've been working with Georgia in a 24 x 24 foot panel pen now for about 4 or 5 weeks, 2 hours a day and 5 days a week. Progress is very slow. I have yet to touch her with my hand although I am touching her with a 6 foot bamboo pole and I am touching her all over. However, Mama has set her boundaries and she knows exactly how close I am at any given time. She is incredibly perceptive and on guard. 

The little filly is the cutest thing I believe I have ever seen. She doesn't have a name as yet but she seems to be enjoying herself as Mama is in the training pen and as she jets around like some sort of rock star. She is a lot of fun to watch as she kicks up her heels and rockets around the paddock. Richard and Cheryl, the sponsoring parents of these horses, have managed to be rubbing the filly all over but we have yet to get the halter on her. 

I have worked with and trained Mustangs and wild horses before in California and in Montana and the task is naturally totally different if compared to working with domestic horses - I mean - totally different. And I have to say that Mama Georgia is actually an exception to this rule - she is much tougher and less trusting than any other wild horse I have ever worked with - bar none. 

I will keep you posted as to how things progress with Mama Georgia and the little filly. Thanks for listening. Your prayers are appreciated.


Some days later:

As a horse trainer I believe I have never felt so bewildered. Somehow I am becoming aware that Georgia and I seem to have much in common that it touches me deeply. Only about ten months ago Georgia was aggressively and without any regard for her dignity and honor ripped away from her home, family and everything familiar to her. And I can in some odd way relate to her and how she feels. I think that many of us also at times feel foreign to this life, like a refugee from some other place. I also feel ripped away from something necessary and important to my survival, my essence and my joy - yet it is like a dream that I can no longer remember. Georgia somehow reminds me of that dream. Sometimes I almost catch a hold of that dream out of the corner of my eye but for it to only vanish around the corner before I can bring it into focus. If I could just grab it for a second that something absolutely important to my survival and to my joy could be revealed to me. And I sense that Georgia seems to be in the same situation at this point in her journey. Never before has a horse brought so many insights into my view as has Georgia. 

Five days of the week I arrive to spend a few hours with Georgia. Each day at 12:00 when I pull into the driveway she watches me arrive. And Georgia usually meets me with her usual snorting and her hesitation. But it is not always the same. Georgia is softening here and there if one has eyes to see. At first I'd never heard a horse snort so much and so loudly as Georgia. And there is no mistaking what the snorting means. It is her way of stating loud and clear that she is not ready to trust nor is she ready for a pow wow. But her snorting is softening and becoming less often as the days and weeks unfold. Many of the subtle strategies and techniques I've learned over the years are coming into question with Georgia. And it is staring me right in the face. I thought I had an understanding of what soft means - Georgia is teaching me otherwise. I thought I had a handle on what slow and easy means and again Georgia has proven m strategies and techniques to be brutish. Almost like comparing a whisper to a scream.  

Methodically and with great care I work on ever so carefully closing the gap on the last 24 inches between me and Georgia. Even the slightest mistaken movement can send us back to square one. Only to begin once again with the inching closer and closer. If you've ever seen a cat about to pounce on its prey then you have seen the stillness, stealth and concentration that is present. Even though I am standing only a few dozen inches from Georgia she seems constantly ready to pounce away from me. this is why this process demands such prowess and concentration. An attention to details that I never even knew existed before. Her survival techniques honed by hundreds of years in the wild in comparison to my more and more obviously limited experience of that world. Yet I continue to attempt to win her over in order that she begins to trust me.  

I want to be the person that Georgia finally says yes to. It is my wish to find the way to gain her trust - to be the one that finally touches her and shows her that we can make things better once again. Because when you think about it the very first touch is the "Jesus moment" for the traumatized and fearful horse. And let's make no mistake fear rules in Georgia's world at this point in time. Much of the fear and pain that has transpired up to the moment of the touch to a great extent disappears with the touch. The touch will change the horses world entirely and forever. But, as I have said, getting to that moment, closing the gap of the last 24 inches then the last 12 inches and the last 6 inches and finally to the last centimeters prior to that first touch - that takes a dance technique that is difficult for me to explain. The trainer must be soft, slick, quiet and matter of fact and yet hesitant all at the same time not to suddenly realize that boundaries were overstepped and now we begin once again with the dance.

Until now Georgia and I, during those two hours a day, can get within 24 inches. Both of us at that point are very soft and quiet standing next to each other. Her ear is locked on to my whispers as she watches intently for any move that she could interpret as untrustworthy. That's where I usually leave the session. Once I close the gap to 24 inches these days I softly walk away only to begin our dance again the next day. Hoping that those 24 inches will the next day maybe and hopefully shrink to maybe 20 inches and then the next day to 18 inches - until the day of the touch. 

In the meantime, Georgia's daughter, whom I believe has been named Princess Coco Chanel at this point (and this filly is truly a divine little creature), is offering up oodles and oodles of joy and kindness to everyone at hand. I have to say that little 5 month old Coco is the cutest and most rambunctious little horse I believe I've ever laid eyes upon. As I work with Georgia in the round pen Richard and Cheryl slowly learn to educate little Coco for her future with brushing, picking up her feet etc. What an incredible blessing this little horse is to everyone. Richard is like a little boy when he is with Coco. Don't tell him I said that :)

Thanks for reading this post and I'd appreciate it if you could put Georgia and me on your prayer list. Thanks! 

... and I whispered to the horse; 

"Trust no man in whose eye you do not see yourself reflected as an equal." 
Don Vincenzo Giobbe circa 1700


A few days later:

And so the training days continue as the days and weeks slip by with little progress. Pushing or cutting corners to speed up the gentling process is not an option because this will only cause a greater distrust so working slow and easy is our only agenda. There has been progress when comparing today's Georgia to the Georgia of day one. However, I think it is fair to say that we have been somewhat stuck now for some weeks. Even though Georgia shows obvious signs of becoming more and more gentle as time goes by, closing the gap between the last 24 inches to arrive at the final touch seems to continue to elude us. Often horses in training will get stuck in the gentling process for a few days or even a bit longer however, I believe the trauma that pregnant Georgia experienced during roundup was more than extreme for her. And for this reason Georgia is fearful that another such experience could transpire. It is quite amazing and sad how damaging and traumatizing one such experience can be for a horse. But I believe that time and patience will win Georgia's heart in the end. After all Georgia was and still truly is a wild horse.   

But meanwhile Georgia's little filly Princess Coco Chanel continues to take steps forward in her training. To watch this little horse running and jumping around in the paddock is truly joyful for her and for us. There is no mistaking her joy.   

Thanks and stay tuned!



Well, training is going quite well with the little one. By the little one I am speaking of the 6 month old, absolutely cute as a button but not so little anymore Coco Chanel. What a cute and energetic and curious little thing she is as she brings oodles of chuckles and laughter to everyone on the ranch as she runs, jumps, tosses her head around and then just walks right up to us as though to say "well, what do you think of me so far?". To experience this animated and joyful creature is truly to make a person into a witness of something alive, unique and uplifting as heck. One can't n

I'm happy to report that Cheryl and Richard and I are picking up her feet daily and we have also managed to have her take the halter. We did have to make a squeeze in order to get this done because otherwise she just simply would not hold still long enough to get the halter on. Plus, what makes the entire process even more difficult is that the halters for these little horses are not made understanding the reality that they have to go on and off quickly. So, after scratching our heads and wondering what to do about the situation Cheryl duck taped magnets to the buckle ends of the halter and voila - bing, bang, boom - the halter went on. And off. And on again. 

Not only is she taking the halter like a little champion but just yesterday I snapped a long line onto the halter to see how she would or would  not respond to coming off of pressure and I could hardly believe how quickly she figured it out. So quickly did she grasp the pressure thing that I would hardly even ask for her to respond to a tiny bit of pressure when she would step towards the pressure. And immediately the release would come as the reward. 

As for Georgia, Coco's mama, it does not cease to amaze me how deeply the round up, the obvious rough handling and what appears to be a blatant disregard for another creature by those managing her care has left her. She continues to be terrified even months after the ordeal. That human beings can be so calloused as to leave another creature on the planet trembling in fear at the mere sight of another of like kind should be an insult to a persons character - such behavior astounds me.   And I have never pondered this issue so much as I do now since meeting Georgia. And I pray that I might be so honored to help Georgia make that huge step into our world even though most likely the world we offer her is far less perfect than the world she left behind.  

And that we humans might become ever more conscious of the impact our behavior has on the wonderful creatures, large and small, that share this world with us. 

For we shall know that we are growing in the right direction when we no longer wish to bring pain or suffering to any creature. 

Thanks for listening!



Friday, February 12, 2016



"Russell is truly an inspirational and wise horseman. People and horses are fortunate to learn from his experience and skill. We hired Russell to start our young stallion and filly and within three weeks he had the horses loading quietly and confident under saddle. In my forty years of experience as a trainer, breeder and presently the owner of a Fresian facility I found Russell to be not only a most accomplished horseman, but also a man of the highest integrity".

Owner of Fresian Facility
Bend, Oregon

 I received a phone call one morning inquiring as to whether I could meet to discuss the possibility of putting two Fresian horses under saddle; a 4 year old stallion named Lammert and a 4 year old filly named Janneke). We made a time to discuss the proposition. I'd worked with Fresian horses before and was excited at the possibility of another opportunity to meet and work with more of these majestic, sensitive and special horses.

The day came for our appointment and as I drove up the driveway of the ranch I found myself getting excited. Even though I have worked with and trained many horses during my time as a trainer I somehow, and for some reason, still feel like a young boy when I'm about to come face to face with more of these honorable creatures. 

This turned out to be a very special day in my life as a trainer I have to say. The ranch is a classy ranch - I could feel the special ambiance as I drove up the driveway on that first day. There was a feeling of quiet and calm and order about the place that floated above the ranch like a soft silver cloud. For the first hour the owners and I sat by a pond on deck chairs, in the shade, while discussing horses in general.I figure they wanted to see if I would be the right person to work with their horses and I certainly appreciated that. It gave me a clear picture that they cared for their animals and that they were not just going to allow anyone to interact with them.

After we leisurely discussed horses as well as other things for about an hour the owner asked if I would like to see the horses - and - of course, I said yes. I won't forget what happened next and the impression I had when I walked into the spotless barn. Soft classical music was playing in the background and otherwise the barn was unusually quiet. It is quite normal that when one walks into a barn housing 9 horses that there are lots of sounds - horse related sounds. But here all was extremely quiet. As I looked around I noticed 9 gorgeous, unblinking, Fresian horse heads looking out of their stalls; all eyes were on me yet there was not a sound. It was as though I was being watched by 9 magical Unicorns in all their wisdom and grace; no pawing, no snorting, no movement at all - just 18 beautiful eyes looking deep into me. Even when I approached a horse he/she simply stood still and continued to study me. I knew then that there was something very special about this ranch and these horses; my excitement grew.

I hit it off immediately with the ranch owner and we set about making a schedule for beginning training.

Training began on the following day. During the next five weeks I would park my truck next to the round pen - sharply at 11:00. The owner and friends that were invited to watch pulled-up chairs beside the round pen. I would train and work with one horse for the first hour and then, punctually at 12:00 I would begin the next hour with the other horse. Some days Lammert, the stallion, would be first up and on other days I would bring Janneke, the filly, in first. Five days a week the horses went to school for one hour per day and it didn't take long for them to be anxiously awaiting the training time. I always find that interesting. Most horses, once the training starts, anxiously await my truck in the morning to begin the training session.  

The horses were kind and well-mannered as a result of their breeding - and - due to the care, attention and affection they received from everyone at the ranch.  In all honesty I'd have to say that I've hardly met horses that wanted to please and get along more than these horses. Yet still they were not started under saddle as yet and the task of desensitization through familiarization - sacking out - would, as usual, be the first order of business. We did the usual: walking over tarps, flagging, ropes and objects around the legs, moving hind-quarters, loading, noises, umbrellas and even a vacuum cleaner and hair dryer plus more. Through the skillful use of these objects close to and around the horses they learn not only to trust that particular object and sound but somehow their trust and relaxation in relation to human beings grows. 
Each time the horse says "o.k., I'm fine with that" he's also saying "I trust you a little more". I should once again say that these objects, noises etc. are introduced to the horse in what I call a soft and artful manner. My job is to set-up a safe learning circumstance/environment and then to assist the horse to be successful, in a soft way, to accept the various objects etc. The lower I can keep the horses energy the faster he will learn so it behooves me to be very alert and sensitive to the emotional nature of the horse at all times. If the horse begins to get excited I simply drop my energy and back off. Then I once again approach the horse, talk to him a bit to calm him/her down and then I proceed in an even softer way. Again, my job is to help the horse come to terms with these various objects not to scare him or force him to "get over it". This is the heart connection that I believe every "good trainer" knows intuitively. Otherwise it is a game of exploitation, ego and control which I personally have no use for - and - it just doesn't work if we're attempting and desiring to establish a working relationship based on trust and partnership with our equine partner. And so I proceeded with the sacking out or the familiarization process! 

 Saddle pads and saddles pretty much went on during the first two days. I think the filly jumped out from under the saddle once (the second time I put it on her) but both horses accepted the saddle with little issue. I prepared them by placing blankets and other objects lightly on their back in preparation for the saddle - plus - if ones timing and energy and technique are all working properly one can sit the saddle on the horse in a way that the horse hardly even notices it being placed there. On the other hand, if one attempts to place the saddle without having ones timing, technique and energy in order - the horse can become overly concerned and nervous and will become fearful. 

I should state here something that could sound a bit strange at first to some while others would understand immediately. For me training a horse is a dance. And there is a tempo and even a silent music to this dance. There is a cadence and a timing and movement and a rightness of action that is always present - or not. The job of the trainer, my job in this case, is to become a master at the music and the dance which the horse and I establish in the round pen - both the horse and I participating in the conversation. My job is to guide the horse into greater levels of acceptance and willingness. If the trainer can accomplish this, putting a horse under saddle can be a magical and even mystical dance to witness. The music of these two horses was playing so loud and clear that I was simply overwhelmed and happily accepted the opportunity to join in the dance.

And So The Saddles Went On


So Did The Chains, Bags, blankets and Bells!

Let us not forget what we said earlier. When we introduce foreign items and sounds and circumstances into the world of the horse we have a great responsibility "to help the horse" move past his/her fear. If we really and truly care about the horse our dance will be calculated and precise both of which stem from a heart connection with the animal. Without the heart connection we are lousy dancers indeed. To be a good or master dancer is to care, deeply.

There is a quote from John Wayne which goes something like this " Even though I am scared to death, I saddle-up anyway". Well, no matter how well the training goes and no matter how confident we feel in our dance i.e. technique, timing, feel and heart connection with the horse when it is time to throw our leg over the horse - we just never REALLY know what will happen even though everything feels right. It takes courage and guts and possibly a little insanity. Don't let anyone kid you - starting colts is an extreme sport!

Teaching to Load

The owner also wanted the horses to learn to load so we placed a horse trailer beside the round pen and each day would begin and end with loading and unloading. When this is put into the training program as a regular procedure I've never met a horse that didn't load without difficulty - especially if done with low energy and consideration for the animal. Again, the trainer is there to help the horse be successful. The trainer is there to help the horse overcome his/her fear - not to add to the horse's fear and dis-trust. These horses were not terribly excited to enter the confinement of the trailer but through patience, kindness and technique they both loaded and never once had a problem.

 The gentle and artful use of a butt-rope can be a great help!

And sometimes the buggers don't want to come out!!!!

Now Back to The Riding - And So We Mounted 



The stallion, to a great extent, was a perfect gentleman and didn't want any trouble but still I was very careful not to ask to much of him at a given time. Of course, that's a general rule - not getting on the bad side of a horse you're soon going to ride - a no-brainer! The filly, on the other hand, as is often the case in my experience with the females, was not quite so ready to accept whatever I asked of her. Don't get me wrong, she was kind and very much a lady but she was just not quite as ready to trust as was Lammert the stallion. So, we slowly and methodically worked around her occasional skepticism and hesitation in order to help her to trust the process.

I worked with these two horses for five weeks. When I finished my work I left the ranch with reluctance and with a heavy heart. I have to honestly say that I have grown deeply attached to each and every horse I've trained or worked with and these horses at were absolutely no exception. I'll miss those horses more than I can put into words. And I'll certainly miss those beautiful days at the round pen with the ranch owners and friends all observing the beautiful sight of these majestic horses and their journey.  Life is somehow bitter-sweet I guess.

One of the ranch hands with my wife Christine on the last day of training. 

Thanks for tuning in and remember there is a portal/access into your horses mind and heart. This portal opens as a result of softness, timing, feel, heart and an absence of noise!!

Russell B. Hunston

See you down the road!!

Monday, May 19, 2014


Alice called me one day saying she had a Mustang mare that she did not feel confident with. She had only had the mare for a few months and decided she needed some help establishing a confident relationship with her horse. I was delighted to find Alice a very caring, intelligent and concerned horse owner so it was a delight for me to tell her that I'd be very happy to see if we could remedy the situation.
Alice didn't know a lot about Sienna's past history and since she was, according to her BLM records, approaching 20 years of age that means she had quite a bit of history that we just didn't have access to. And even though it is good to have some history (the more the better) on a horse in training it is really not that important as long as one can simply read the horse that is in front of oneself - period. Sometimes too much history is too much information especially when that passed-down history can often times not be accurate.
Sienna was a very sweet mare that had some issues with accepting her role while under halter or under saddle. If she was simply allowed to live out her life with her buddy Mr. Bean then she wouldn't give anyone any trouble - but - when the halter went on or especially when the saddle went on she just didn't want to accept her role. And it could also be that she'd never really been properly trained to enjoy her job and her place in life. When horses are properly trained and find themselves living with owners like Alice that truly care for them and look after them let me tell you that those horses can be a true delight in a horse owner's life. Horses that live without the previous care and attention and training can be unhappy animals indeed.
Alice and I decided that we'd start from square one with Sienna and that we'd slowly and systematically look for holes in her training so that we could address those holes one at a time in order to build a strong foundation right from the beginning - even though Sienna was 20 years old. In my opinion there is really no other way to proceed in such a situation - otherwise without starting from the very beginning those unseen and unrecognized holes can come back to haunt a person in a fury. For this reason I usually begin at square one with all my horses in training just to see what needs solidifying or establishing.
So, desensitization through familiarization was the way we began and although Sienna had some difficulty with some of the tarps, plastic bags etc. in the beginning she learned very quickly in her clever Mustang way. Even though Sienna had been captured almost 20 years before I came into her life I have to say that much of her savvy was still incredibly present. In a matter of days she showed her intelligence and decided to get along and to even enjoy doing it.
At this point I should say I consider myself a soft trainer. What I mean by this is that even though upon occasion I have to demand certain transitions from my horses in training (which means to gently push the horse through it's own default barriers) I generally and fundamentally believe that the more relaxed the horse is during training the more the horse can learn and absorb in any given training session. My job is to help the horse enjoy the learning process by being interesting and curious myself thus keeping the horse out of his/her survival thinking; to help the horse enjoy and even look forward to interaction with me as the trainer. In addition, I choose to be instrumental in building this same scenario into the relationship between the horse and the horse owner. If it isn't fun and exciting for horse and horse owner then what's the point - and - the horse will figure that out and become bored and disinterested way before most people come to the same conclusion.
Alice is a courageous and loving horse owner and I developed a lot of respect for her during the time I spent assisting her with Sienna. It was a true pleasure for me.
At this point in time Sienna has come far in her training and Alice is spending quality time with her each and every day - the perfect equation for success. I look forward to hearing from Alice as she continues her kind and caring relationships with her horses. Keep up the good work Alice.
May all Mustangs find themselves in the loving and caring hands of an owner like Alice - this is my wish. Thanks Alice!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


To the wind out on the prairie
There's a wondrous place it's born to dwell.
It's smack between the Mustang's ears
And in his flowing mane and tail.

For thousands of years or more these two
Have shared their circumstance.
Where one was found you'd find them both
In a magic poetic dance.

In the very beginning when God was contemplating
"Now let me mold a special pair
Two noble brothers fast and wild
One flesh and one of air."

The flesh one He shall rule the plains
He'll run like He has wings.
Tight muscled, wild with dignity
He'll be the prize of Kings.

His brother, He shall be called Wind
And He shall not be seen.
A Master's force of subtlety
He'll fill the inbetween.

The Natives always knew this lore
They live amongst these two.
The Indian ponies and the wind
Across the prairies flew.

They danced and played as eons rolled by
As flesh and air merged into one.
In sunshine, rain or freezing cold
Their Alchemy, through time, was done.

Then slowly white men lost their way
Dumbstruck and drunk with pride and greed.
They'd roundup all the Mustangs
And for pennies do the Devil's deed.

The Judas horse is how he's called
To trick and lead the steeds astray.
As pathetic cowboys crouch and hide
And all for sport and pauper's pay.

And all Light Children of the earth
Observe and weep the Mustang's plight.
As Brother Wind is horrified
No longer Mustangs in His sight.

The prairie's now dead silent
No hoof beats on prairie floor to hear.
So Brother Wind is left alone
As Hopi's know end times are near.

This darkness has been prophesized
By the Seers of the past.
This battle between Light and Dark
Soon will end at last.

The Wind and the Mustang will be re-united!

An Original Poem by Russell B. Hunston
April 2012

I wrote this poem because I am, like many, terribly saddened by what is taking place on our Federal lands with the violent removal of our wild horses. These noble creatures who have served and contributed so much to this country are not being given a fair shake and the bottom  line is greed and ignorance. May we be forgiven for our part in this injustice.

Russell B. Hunston