From the Editor: Alosha Moore is the Vice President of the Kansas Association of Blind Students. Moore was born in Russia, raised in Kansas, and now exploring the east coast. He currently attends law school at Washburn University. In his free time, Alosha spends time with family and enjoys horseback riding, but that’s not all. Join us in reading this month’s blog on training horses.
I sincerely do not know when my passion for horses began, unless it was borne the same day as myself back in Russia. Perhaps it stems from my Cossack ancestors, revered for their trick riding tactics in battle, including the Napoleonic wars. The first time it surfaced into comprehensible words was when my grandmother asked me what I aspired to be when I grow up. My response was, “I care little if I am an Indian or cowboy, as long as I spend the rest of my life riding horses.”
Although I was riding longer than I remember, my formal, yet inconsistent instruction, began when I was nine. Regardless, intense discouragement stemmed from my mother by my grandmother. I took riding lessons at the somewhat local stables and insisted on taking part in all aspects of horsemanship. This includes catching, releasing, and the lesson itself. I quickly realized that riding alone was not enough for me. In that moment, I decided that I wanted to become a trainer.
I searched everywhere for knowledge, but the best sources of information were videos of professional trainers. Trainer Clinton Anderson and, my personal favorite, Trainer Chris Cox articulated their methods clearly and concisely, yet I was unable to see these videos with my usable vision. I tried these lessons when I had access, though sporadic, to horses. Horses were physically expressive treasure chests; and the keys were confidence and experience. I had little of either. I received my big brake at 12 years old when I went to work on a ranch in Montana. I was taken under the wing of a champion competitor and professional trainer, Bobby Pecora.
Bobby was honest and tough on me, making me Chace lazy colts in the round pen with a rope halter, instead of a whip. He told me that I couldn’t expect to outride his younger kids if I was unable to handle a cantering horse in a 50-foot diameter circle without hands or a young spunky bucking colt prior to competing in cutting or roping cattle. Bobby was a horse wizard, but most importantly, he took the time to build my confidence, strength, and technique while keeping me humble. He taught me many things, including how to communicate and learn from the horse. He taught me out weighting and thinking rather than overpowering a horse. With time, I learned that a horse licks its lips, signaling its willingness to think instead of reacting. I learned that I could gage the sensitivity and reaction of a horse by paying attention to how rapidly it changed its gates. By being cognizant of the information passed through the tension of a lead rope or rains, I could tell whether a horse is giving to pressure or fear. Later, these lessons gave me the confidence to compete at a college and professional level, in both English and western events.
The result of Bobby’s lessons became quite evident at the end of that summer. My mane five-year-old riding mare, Cheyenne, put on a bucking demonstration in the middle of an unofficial race against a friend. I remember everything slowing down and the world shrinking to nothing but the living truth of Cheyenne’s immense power and energy and my efforts to match her jump for jump. Although that was the only time I forgot the lesson, that a horse was unable to buck unless it’s head was strait, I realized that I was fully in control of the situation and decided to perform a flying dismount to gracefully conclude the episode. As I stuck the landing, I recognized my ability to rationalize in the midst of a reactive situation, thus explains my passion for riding saddle bronks. Since then, I’ve competed in rodeos in nearly every event you can imagine, as well as non-western events such as dressage, hunt seat, and equitation. I have trophy buckles and saddles to prove it, although I’ve gifted away many. I’ve trained horses for cattle work, competition, and racing, as well as tricks like rearing, laying down, and bowing. I’ve shot off and swam with horses and learned to trick ride. Horses have always been grate teachers to me in life lessons and with people. Through them, I have learned patients, responsibility, work ethic, empathy, humility, showmanship and presentation, balance, both internal and external, and eventually business through marketing and selling. In my senior year of high school, I assisted in starting a nonprofit program that offered equine therapy to special needs children. I believe that instead of becoming a hindrance, my blindness kept me safe. It enabled me to stay focused and attentive to my mounts, rather than the irrelevant distractions such as fences. In fact, none of my horse related injuries have ever been permanent or resulting in broken bones. My experience demonstrated that with enough drive, patients, and passion, any blind individual can achieve their wildest dreams and live the life they want, no matter what success means to them.