"The Scottish Horse Whisperer"
Check out a series of articles about my natural horsemanship journey and the things I have learned about horses and humans that has changed my experience from one of fear, frustration and feeling like a failure to the most enjoyable experiences of my life.
Some have said that the term "Horse Whisperer" originated in ancient Scotland. My Scottish ancestry and the fact that I live in Lunenburg, no not the one in Scotland but the one in Ontario, Canada leads me to refer to myself as the "Scottish Horse Whisperer". I guess I have always had a passion for horses. Perhaps it comes from some inherited trait since both my parents were born on farms and had horses growing up. Many of my uncles had horses as well, but I was seldom allowed to get close enough to them to even touch them. At a very young age my hero was Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger and I can remember saving my meagre allowance in order to go to the theatre on Saturday morning to see my hero in action. That was my early impression of horsemanship. "What a wonderful thing it would be to have a horse like Trigger", I dreamed.
But soon I was introduced to the reality of what horses often experienced. On one occassion we visited my Uncle Howard's farm in Massena, NY. He had a beautiful pair of Belgian draft horses. He used his mares in horse pulling competitions and was very successful at it according to my father. On the day of our visit, I remember being excited about being invited to go down to the barn to watch my uncle harness up his team for pulling practice. As he was harnessing up the team, one of the mares became skittish and suddenly my uncle picked up a two by four piece of lumber and struck the mare over the head with a loud thud. That was the first and only time I ever heard my dad swear in his life span of 94 years. "What the h... did you do that for?" he said.
My uncle replied, "That was just to get her attention." I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach and remember thinking that I had better pay attention around this place.
I never went near my uncle or the barn on any subsequent visits from that day on.
Sometime later, a relative gave me a copy of Black Beauty and I read for the first time about the mistreatment of horses and vowed to someday save all the abused horses in the world. Of course I had no idea how to do that, but it was a good fantasy and it kept me dreaming of having a horse one day for a very long time.
My dream would not come true until I purchased my first Horse at the age of 50, that is me not the horse. I don't know why I bought him since he could be a rather mean spirited fellow, but he was a joy to ride. I should have known that with a name like Shotgun there would be trouble ahead. I learned quickly that he could bite and kick faster than you could fire a shotgun. I had no horsemanship knowledge so I had to rely on anyone for advice. As they say, you don't know what you don't know until you know it.
Before I knew what was happening, I too was becoming what I hated, a horse torturer. I was taught to punch him, push him, pull on him, all the wrong things and it took a long time before my brains kicked in (in fact I think Shotgun tried to do just that a few times) and I began to think that there had to be a better way.
Fortunately for me, I met Pat and Linda Parelli at one of their early tour stops and my life with horses changed forever. I am still learning how to be a true horseman and expect that I will be at it the rest of my life. The journey I am on has had many ups and downs, but it is an interesting trip. I am dedicated to giving every horse I meet the best deal possible and to being the best version of myself that I can be.
Garry "Horsetalker" Meek