Saturday, April 25, 2009

Three Strikes and We're Out

I normally don't tread into the horse rescue world in the blogosphere. I figure pretty much takes care of this much needed service. To tell the truth, I'm more comfortable with our gentle, intelligent discussion over here. The intensity of emotion over in Fugs world is more than I can handle. It doesn't mean I'm not aware or don't pay attention or support my personal favorite rescue, through my job as a writer for the Fountain Valley News. It just means I'm just happy muddling around with our stories and conversation on mugwump, so I try to stay there.

But today I have to say something. Fugs is currently in Nebraska working her butt off to help care for almost 200 head of starving mustangs which were confiscated off of the Three Strikes Ranch.

This is part of a story was written about Three Strikes Ranch by a Denver news station on 11/1/08.

ALLIANCE, Neb. - Two years ago, 29-year-old Jason Meduna left his eastern Nebraska home and traveled west. He landed at an old 1930s ranch just south of Alliance in the rugged sand hills of western Nebraska. It was the first time he left home, and he loved it. It was the perfect place for Meduna to train horses - wild horses...
Today he takes in dozens of wild horses that have gone up for adoption through government programs, but failed.
"I think coming here and being trained it gives them the chance to have a good life with another owner," said Meduna.
Three Strikes stands for the number of times the horses have been up for adoption. Meduna keeps 200 to 300 horses on his 2,000-acre ranch at a time and trains each one as they come in.

Here is another by the same station just this week.

ALLIANCE, Neb. - The sheer numbers of it can be staggering: as many as 100 horses dead on a ranch that was supposed to be a safe haven. It's being called the largest equine cruelty investigation in Nebraska history.It's centered around the Three Strikes Ranch, located outside of the town of Alliance in the Nebraska panhandle.

For the past two years, trailers full of wild mustangs have been unloaded at Jason Meduna's ranch. He adopts wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management. They are horses no one else wants.

This week, trucks came to take the horses away. The Morrill County Sheriff's Office is investigating whether Meduna starved his horses.

The story goes on. There is going to be a lot of coverage on this one. There are over 170 dead animals on this guys place. There are about 190 horses still alive being confiscated. Some look reasonably healthy, some have body scores of 1 or 2. We'll see fingers pointed and laws suits flung around and hopefully some jail time for the people involved in this nightmare. And I'm sure many heroic tales will surface from all of the support pouring in to help the horses who manage to survive.

But this is what keeps hitting me over the head. How did this kid create this mess? I don't think he got a bunch of dough for what he was doing. He had to have an insane amount of confidence in his ability to even attempt this operation. He was 29 years old or so. Was he stupid? Was he ignorant? I can't verify too much here because he's yanked his site off the net. But I got a good look at it before it disappeared.

I just let my thoughts fly as I cruised through his site. He presented himself as a young man who grew up training horses, mustangs especially. He says he comes from generations of trainers. He very clearly represented himself as a "horse whisperer." He had a very slick web site. He showed photos of himself hugging horses, kneeling with horses, galloping on horses with the Nebraska wind whipping through his hair. This was my fave...

My guess is he had big plans. He was hoping to become a clinician. He was hoping to have oodles of women come running to buy his horses and pay him to teach them or train their horses or both. Maybe, somewhere in there he was even hoping to help some horses. I hope so.

What I also saw on his web site was a young man who didn't fit his saddles properly. Not from cruelty mind you, his poor quality, too-small saddle, odd assortment of bits and improperly placed saddle pads smacked of ignorance, not meanness.

His seat in the photo above shows tension in his lower legs. The tension a second or third year western rider often exhibits. It's a tough habit to break, it pushes the rider out of his seat, eliminates contact with the horse and creates a hollow back from pressure from the thighs. You can see it in the way this horse is standing.

His seat as he galloped across the prairie on his mustang showed an unbalanced rider, jammed into a too small saddle, with his legs too far forward and an insecure seat as a result.

I bet he had watched a bunch of videos on ground work though. I bet he could put a horse through its paces in a round-pen.

Jason Meduna might even have had some ability. He had to have to put together his initial funding. He even had a pretty assistant, who was pictured on the site hugging yet another mustang.

This is what worries me about the "natural horsemanship" movement. It attracts more idiots and people who just can't wait to write a check than any other aspect of the horse world I've come across. I'm not sure why. I hate to have the western riding culture defined by the snake oil salesmen who seem to be lining up to jump on this particular band wagon.

Don't get mad at me guys, of course I don't mean all of the NHers. I have encouraged participation in this type of horsemanship too many times too diss the entire approach.

But it seems to me the clinicians with the most ardent followers are also very handsome. They exude a certain romantic air, fueled by a specific style of clothes, which involve chinks, their gloves tucked in the waistband of said chinks, a broad brimmed hat and usually, twinkly eyes and a good moustache. Their gear involves lots of hangy tassels and reins with slobber straps. Oh yeah, and a saddle with a really fat saddle horn.

There is nothing wrong with any of these things. But when clothes start to qualify ability I become concerned.

The trainers who concern me the most make certain promises. Mainly that if you learn to work your horse in the magical way that they plan to show you, you can become a horseman without putting in the 10 - 20 hard years of riding the "other guys" have.

And I get it. Because it is magic. To learn to work a horse with body language, to send them away and bring them back without rope or halter is life changing. It's important. It creates partnerships rather than mastery, an aspect of horsemanship especially appealing to women. It's a beautiful, wonderful thing.

It's also only the first baby step in a long journey that creates a rider.

Too many of us stop there because we want so badly to be able to say, "I am a horseman."

And too many people are out there ready to feed on this desire.

I think Jason Meduna is one of them. He forgot to learn to actually fit gear on his horses. So he took his shirt off. It was enough to get the BLM to give him horses.

We have got to learn to be skeptical. Of the people who teach us and ourselves. We have always got to want more than a promise that we'll be horse whisperers at the price of a few clinics and a bunch of videos.

We need to fight the romantic lure of the old west, a handsome cowboy and a wild mustang. For that matter, I guess we need to fight the desire to ride bareback on an Andalusian stallion through the pounding surf straight towards the handsome riding master Julio.

Because in the real world, horses are a tough nut to crack. We can train a mustang, or ride an Andalusian, but we've got to learn how to first. The hard way. By riding. Preferably on a gentle, broke horse by a thinking, experienced instructor. I guess if we're lucky he'll be named Julio. There are no quick fixes.

The horse world is magical because we're never done learning. We can keep learning more about the animals we want so badly to be with and ourselves for as many years as we're willing to invest in the process. We also have to get it takes years of hard riding and learning to become truly accomplished. Years.

We absolutely cannot blindly follow any one trainer or method. I have made this mistake myself. I lucked out and came out of it a better rider, a better horseman and a better person, but I almost sacrificed too much. I found myself doing things because of this blind trust that I knew went against the very fabric of what makes me a trainer and a sympathetic human being. I got in this situation because I was enamored with the magic I saw happening around me. I wanted my horse to be like the horses I saw this trainer on. I wanted to say "I know."

What do I know now?
No one trainer has all the answers.
If it looks like magic it's probably all smoke.
Getting help is vital when it comes to horses.
Being told "my way is the only way" is not.

So what about Jason? Was he a young man who could kinda sit a horse and get people to open their checkbooks by taking off his shirt? Was he a naive kid who was convinced by a few videos and some time with the wrong trainer that he could handle the monumental task he took on? Did his pride stop him from asking for help? Is he evil or just stupid? How about the folks who supported the Three Strikes?

All I know is I plan on keeping my eyes open. I'm never going to kid myself into thinking either I or any single horse trainer has all the answers. I'm going to be very choosy about the causes I get swept up in. I'm only going to tuck my gloves into the waistband of my chinks if I need to stick them somewhere handy.

The gear I buy will be bought because I need it to accomplish a specific task. Not because it will make me look like the guy I want to ride like. Although I always liked those fancy bridles Trigger got to wear.

I guess that's all I got on this Jason Meduna thing. I hope the remaining horses get a chance.


HorsesAndTurbos said...

I really don't know what happens with this...when I did small animal rescue (rabbits, guinea pigs, "pocket pets) it was really hard to say no...especially when the shelters got your phone number from other shelters and called. Lucky for me I got divorced and realized I couldn't keep it up. There was one woman on the list I was on who seemed really nice...then someone went to visit and found she was living in a trailer with 100 rabbits inside...and all in poor condition, including herself (she also had an abusive/controlling husband). Same story...she was the victim when her "rescues" were removed. Maybe they all want is to have friends, as we all do, with the same ethics/beliefs, become part of such a group over the internet, get caught up in the fantasy of rescue, and then find themselves in over their heads and not want to destroy the fairytale image they create of themselves by asking for help. Even when found out, they are in such denial they continue with the fantasy they have created. Are they stupid? Who knows. Are they mentally ill? Obviously. Unfortunately, it's the animals who are hurt the most. It's sad all around. The only good that comes of it is that people come together from all over to help.

And Mugs, I'll keep listening to you as long as you keep your shirt on for photos on your horse :)


mugwump said...

Jackie - Absolutely no problem on that one....

Unknown said...

I was once called a "Natural horseman" cause I ride and train/re-train horses bitless. I don't think so. I ain't buying into the prrreeettyyy 500$ bridles and miracle saddles and all that sparkly, must buy to be able to train this horse, garbage.
I do like to watch the "natural horsemanship" clinicians. I think they have a lot to teach about how horses think for people who do not have a herd to watch. They also do have some very useful techniques that can come in handy a time or two. I also like to watch the traditional horsemanship clinicians. They all have something to teach and I think I use a little bit of both every single day.

I don't honestly think it's the clinicians, trainers or any special stuff you buy, it's the horses that teach you to become a horseman and not someone who just sits on a horse and looks pretty.

restoration42 said...

Several important themes here. Don't know that the theme of narcissistic, horse abusing, scam-artist AKA Jason Meduna necessarily mixes well with the theme of questioning the field of natural horseman practitioners. Questioning is fine, healthy, and contributes to growth. Just don't see how horse abusers fit in the natural horseman category. On the other hand, the theme of "We absolutely cannot blindly follow any one trainer or method" is always a useful reminder that can be applied to any theory, movement, or approach.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

You know what I find interesting - my boss, who has ridden hunter/jumper since she was a little girl, and has had horses in her care all her life (as opposed to boarding them), has suddenly discovered Parelli, and is in love with him.

I can't figure out why, except with all the training/showing, etc., (she had a German trainer), somehow she missed on the basics of horse partnership.

She does have two 30 plus horses, and seems very experienced. She even used to break out young horses and resell them. She just got a young horse and is training her with a mix of Parelli and what she learned over the years showing. Maybe it's because she's older and feels safer with the slow Parelli approach? I dunno...but I do find it interesting.

manymisadventures said...

Thank you for writing this.

I think, especially when first getting into horses, people will grasp things they can understand.

Knowing when to push and when to give, when to push them forward and when to let them work through things, how to hold your body in the saddle to get what you want -- that's hard for a beginning rider/horseperson. Or for a non-beginner even.

But a video which tells you to swing the rope until such-and-such happens, then stop, and drive your horse back and forth until he can walk over the tarp? That you can do.

I know this because I've been there, sort of. I never religiously followed any one trainer.

But I had a hot, opinionated TB. When I could get him going back and forth and finally get him over that damned tarp, it meant something to me. When I could tack him up in the round pen, chase him away from me whenever he tried to kick, let him come back in, and eventually build up to being able to tack him up without risking bodily harm to myself -- it meant something to me.

Somewhere in there, blindly following the steps laid out for me, I learned a little feel. I learned a little timing and a little bit of where to put myself to be effective.

So gradually I kinda left the NH stuff behind, because I wanted to ride. I learned from it what I needed to, and moved on.

I guess I can just someone who once had her back up against a wall and way too much horse, I understand the desire to have a confident, smiling clinician tell you exactly what to do and what results you'll get. Is some of it horse manure? Oh yeah. But it gave me a little confidence and I learned through doing.

I don't know about getting caught up in it and blindly following someone, right or wrong. But when you're new and ignorant, sometimes it's hard to tell. A lot of it's luck, I think.

I guess I can't come to a good conclusion here. You've given me some food for thought, though.

mugwump said...

HorsesandTurbos said - >>I can't figure out why, except with all the training/showing, etc., (she had a German trainer), somehow she missed on the basics of horse partnership.<<

I had quite a bit of experience (not 30 yrs!) before I learned about Ray Hunt and John Lyons. I was blown away. I spent 2-3 years immersed in it. It's a door a lot of horse people don't get to see. I can see her fascination.

Redsmomn - You sound a little huffy. I didn't compare Meduna to any specific clinicians. My concern about the NHer routine of ground work and creating a partnership is it can give the impression of knowledge that isn't really there. It is a very simple, albeit amazing concept. And it works.
In the wrong hands it creates people like Meduna. It gives an impression of expertise that isn't neccessarily there. It gives them credentials they shouldn't have.
My point is to teach yourself to recognize these people.
And to not get completely sucked in by ANYBODY.

mugwump said...

manymisadventures- I still don't know exactly how I feel either. Except that every hoarder/phsycho/ scammer seems to have a round pen. It somehow gives them street cred.

Justaplainsam said...

"And to not get completely sucked in by ANYBODY"

Prime example CW...

I cant help but wonder who thought it would be a good idea to put one guy in charge of 200 horses?

rockysgirl said...

Masterfully put, mugs. I don't think he was a willful abuser, but I do think that his narcisism got the best of him. The ease with which we can expose ourselves (or rather, the version of ourselves we wish to expose) on the web is a catch-22: we can connect, and we can learn from others regardless of distance, but we can also get greater fame and attention than perhaps we deserve. Mr. Meduna had a beautiful website, and through it could let others buy into his utopian vision without anyone having to set foot in the reality of his ranch. Kudos to those cleaning up his reality.

Anonymous said...

Although early reports put him at 29 years of age, they have been corrected. He's actually 42.

Anonymous said...

Good points made by all here. I don't think many people realize that being a horseman requires a lifetime of learning.

Today's culture encourages speed; "Anything for Dummies" can be learned almost instantly if you read the right book or get the right trainer.

I suspect one doesn't realize what one doesn't know until after the first 10 years or so. The "take a lesson-give a lesson" people often really do think they know what they're doing.

I also have to question why he was allowed to take on so many horses, with no one checking on how he was handling the previous 100 or so. Lots of closed eyes on this one.

restoration42 said...

Just a second, gotta climb back up on my huffy little high horse so I can share a couple more thoughts.

IMO Meduna is slime, probably a pretty manipulative & exploitive fellow, and possibly much worse. I'm guessing he would be these things with or without the existence of natural horsemanship (NH). Also guessing there would be folks who would be taken in by him if NH did not exist. Hey!! Just amazing - the guy talks about cutting of manes as a bonding exercise? Oh Please.

Decades before the concept of natural horsemanship existed, when I was 13 and had my first horse, there was this good looking guy at the stable who was pretty flashy, and enjoyed the status as the ranch "wrangler". I recall he liked to wear his shirt unbuttoned almost to his navel. This guy hurt some horses and was a little too friendly with the young teens. He was exploitive and may have been a bit of a predator. Looking back, he oozed sleaze. I imagine I see the same sort, or a real similar sleaze when I see Meduna. Full of himself. More into feeding his ego than feeding his horses. Horses got hurt.

Thought about this and am still having a hard time tracking the connection between Meduna's horse abuse, neglect, and folks who teach natural horsemanship clinics. Guess where I got crossed up was this sentence, " I hate to have the western riding culture defined by the snake oil salesmen who seem to be lining up to jump on this particular band wagon." "Snake oil salesman" Seemed an accurate phrase to describe Meduna - guess I have a wasn't clear if you were referencing just him, or NH trainers, or both. Sorta thought it was both. Agree 100% regarding Meduna. Guess I see things differently when it comes to the HR crew. I did get the sentence a few lines later where you clarified you aren't talking about "all the NHers". Still.

Seems like the diversity of folks flying the natural horsemanship flag includes some pretty decent, well meaning folks who are far from snakeoil salesmen. It also includes some fancy, polished marketeers who have pretty pricey wares and I never got how the kind of breeches you wear is going to help you work with horses. Charging hundreds (thousands?) for special tack may be formally classified as exploitation. But IMO Jason actions take him far, far beyond the land of exploitation into the realms of abuse. This is why I wrote my "huffy" little opinion. The dots don't connect for me, but no biggie. This is just my little opinion, humble, huffy or otherwise.

There were Jason Medunas in the world long before there was such a thing as natural horsemanship and natural horsemanship marketing schemes. I'm guessing that if there was no such thing as NH, Meduna would have found some other slick label to bottle and sell his evil brand of snake oil.

Ok, time to ride little huffy high horse into the sunset.

mugwump said...

Reds Mom - Take a breath.
You said >> There were Jason Medunas in the world long before there was such a thing as natural horsemanship and natural horsemanship marketing schemes. I'm guessing that if there was no such thing as NH, Meduna would have found some other slick label to bottle and sell his evil brand of snake oil.<<
and you said...>>Decades before the concept of natural horsemanship existed, when I was 13 and had my first horse...<<<

I'm not sure how old you are, but Ray Hunt just died.He was 79? I believe. He was considered the first travelling clinician who promoted what is now flying under the "NH" banner. I do believe he simply considered it common sense. And no, I am not saying he invented the training style by the way.It bagan many years before him, some say with Tom Dorrance, others would push it back even farther. So I'm thinking it was around during your youth.
That's not my point.
The point I am trying to make is any type of "movement" which claims to have all the answers attracts people like Meduna.
It also attracts enough novices to follow people like him.My point is not that NHers are only people like him. My point is that when a training system or philosophy reaches cult-like status it's going to pull in every low-life scammer out there who can figure out how to make a buck.
Does that mean I think Ray Hunt was a snake oil salesman? Of course not.
It does mean I think there are many people out there who use the basics of a simple and fairly easy to understand training concept to try to elevate their own status.
Guys like Meduna? I still don't know if he was evil or stupid.
I think he fell prey to his own hype. When he fell on his face because his own lack of ability caught up with him he tried to hide it.
My point is if you want to learn from a clinician or trainer, which I have obviously reccomended over and over again, then be careful. And never, ever accept what they say as gospel.

mugwump said...

Sorry, I'm confusing One Red Horse with Red's Mom.....certainly didn't want to do that. Obviously I'm causing enough trouble as it is...

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful post.

It sounds like there's two possible profiles Jason Meduna could fit - he could be a hoarder, well intentioned and loves his animals, but totally out of touch with the reality that they are starving to death.

The other profile - the snake oil salesman for whom animals are just a way to enhance his image - is more worrying, and I think more likely from the image he was presenting on his website and in the media. He saw other people get rich and famous quickly as horse experts, and wanted to do that himself. When he tried, it ended in what I can only describe as an 'epic fail'.

In the end I guess it's irrelevant. Your intentions or feelings or personality don't matter when there are 100+ dead horses on your property.

Good thoughts on trainers, becoming a horseman, and snake oil salesmen. I for one understand that you're not bashing natural horsemanship, just pointing out that that is where the frauds are gathering right now, for a number of reasons. I also lol'd at your comment on saddle horn size. I can't believe I'd never made that comparison before!

What I'm getting out of this post is that becoming a horseman is not glamorous. Anyone who projects an image of glamor (outside of the show pen) is probably not the real thing. Jason Meduna was definitely not the real thing, and probably never knew what the real thing was to begin with.

restoration42 said...

Gotta laugh, some folks go as far back as crediting Xenophon for using "natural horse" methods and I'm definitely NOT that old. Mugs, I'm just going to take myself into a sunny corner and "go take a breath". Sure didn't intend to enter an argument here. Seem to have pissed you off. Not my intention - gonna keep my opinions to my self and enjoy your stories from now on.

Londoner said...

I'm sure she doesn't mind ORH - after all, I don't think she expects her words to be taken as 'gospel' either.
I don't have much to say about this guy that hasn't already been said - however, some of the comments over on FHOTD did alarm me a bit, especially the one about 'putting tyre tracks across his chest.'

However, the idea of a 'cult' that mugs puts across is very interesting. To an extent, every trainer, every barn, every style of riding exerts a certain cult-like grip that can suck you in if you're not careful. I always compare riding to christianity, where there's one, monolithic belief and a million different splinters. Somewhere along the way we got torn apart and now stand fighting our different corners, no side willing to acquiesce.

If only people could reconcile themselves to the fact there's no one absolute way to do anything! Its so easy to get drawn in - I know I did with my boss and luckily it wasn't a bad thing, but once I took a step back and 'saw the light' so to speak, I understood that common sense, a little bit of intelligence and a lot of reading will get me further than any one trainer will.

Unknown said...

All I really have to say about this is that he is or was 29 when this started. Who in there right mind thought that a 29 year old man could handle all of that pressure and responsibility?? Seriously people, think of a 29 year old man that you know...could they handle that? Most 29 year old men are still thinking with the lower half of their bodies instead of the top half...its genetic, its human. Whoever kept handing that bastard the horses and saying OK...they will be fine is just as much at fault as he is. Not to mention the people that knew about what was going on. You know that horse people have to be inside everybody elses business...its just part of the horse world. And if you say its not...your crazy. Anyone one of you can walk into a show or a barn and say something that you know or heard about anyone else there. People knew about this...and they kept giving him horses. He was a royal idiot for thinking he could actually acomplish this feat, however, there are other idiots out there who thought he could handle it.

As for the NH'rs....I think the basic principals are solid...its the romanticized parelli type people that make it look "easy" and stupid people get horses...

What happened to horsmanship? What happened to old time trainers that would eat you alive for breakfast if you pulled anything remotely stupid? Its scary...

anniebanannie said...

I used to train... not wait, I used to train for money but don't. Now I'm an other "professional" who owns horses and I interact with a coworker who is "over-horsed." He's a NH horseman who has poor riding skills and little confidence. The issues he has are associated with a reasonably well trained horse who knows he can get away with murder. I am constantly telling him to get lessons, however he doesn't listen.

He's having what I call "fresh" or "spring" issues with his horse. Meaning that the horse needs to have some NRG worked off and a reminder about what work is about.

So against my promise to myself to not ride for others ever again, I rode his horse for him. Took him to a big arena, tacked him up, did some suppling exercises and clambered up top. I didn't fight him when he wanted to run. I just kept him bent and kept him moving. When he wanted to slow down I asked for work. Turns out he's a nice horse with a good handle on him, but he's got his owners number and he's going to use it.

Long story short: Horse is better (for a while at least. Coworker wants to pay me to train his horse. I could take his money, but I'd be stealing. I told him to take lessons and ride more.

There is nothing that replaces wet blankets... for the horse or the rider.

Whywudyabreedit said...

Agreed on the life-long equestrian education. I can't wait to get finished with school so I can get a job and get back into regular training.

I would not be surprised if your musings about Jason being misguided and over confident are correct. The fact that he was allowing "3 strikes" horses to breed demonstrated his ignorance. I always shudder when I hear of unridable and or otherwise rank horses being "relegated" to breeding. Don't people realize that they are just making more?

Oh geeze, that turned rant. Sorry... Going now.

Laura Crum said...

I think anniebananie has it right when she says there is nothing that replaces wet saddle blankets for horse and rider.

There is something about the NH movement that is very polarizing. For those of us who knew these basic principles long before Parelli and his like made a cult of them (I knew Tom Dorrance, and showed cutting horses with his wife), the fact that people clean up (monetarily) on this stuff with out ever teaching their students what it takes to be a real horseman is supremely annoying. The tendency of the NH types I know to pose as experts when they really can't ride much is also annoying. But there is absolutely a lot of truth in some techniques they use. They just leave out the "wet saddle blankets" part, which is the key ingredient. At least, many of them do--I don't want to generalize too much here.

There are snake oil salesmen in very horse-oriented discipline. I think mugwump's big point is don't buy into any trainer/clinician hook, line and sinker. Keep your judgement intact.

i know nothing said...

I'm with you Mugs, too many snarky opinions accomplish nothing but further snark. I don't care to stay in places like that (lit. or fig.) for long, it tends to stick on you.

I am amazed that seemingly normal, reasonably intelligent people will follow and bow down to someone who barely knows more than they do. It probably has to do with looks and charisma and belonging. And maybe laziness or (nicer) naivete because they don't want to research and work hard enough to find out that any real accomplishments in life are just that - hard work and research.

Nosnikta said...

One ultra hot day (approximately 10 degrees in the shade) I stripped down to just a sports bra on a trail ride with my husband. It was disgusting lol. But I was cooler and my husband didn't seem to mind!

My downfall was when we blasted through some trees to one of the small towns on the trail, the priest of the local catholic church was outside on the steps waiting to make some sort of entrance. I swear I saw him cross himself when he turned and saw me.

My point is... very RARELY do you see a horseperson riding around without a shirt on. I think he had another agenda going on there. "Julio" fits the bill in my book.

I am a Nebraskan. I know people who know this guy. They do not speak favorably. I'm told he's been scamming on things long before this.

It's very sad. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

hi mugwump, i have been reading your blog for a while now but i've never posted before. I must say i like your good sense and practical horse knowledge.

I think this whole NH craze started with the movie "The Horse Whisper" and the book by the same name. Not a great movie but let's face it Robert Redford looked really hot. Before that book the cowboy was considered a thug on horseback to the women who are now part of the NH cult.

I have no clue really but from my small window watching our Parelli instructor at our barn it is about 99% women but not all middle age, and just one man.

Are these middle age women looking for that romantic experience that only a sensitive cowboy can provide even if it isn't real. I don't really think so but it certainly is part of it.

In my opinion it is not the romance or the hot man with the cool clothes but rather it is fear. I think there is a lot of fear to riding. I think the cult members are afraid and working the horse on the ground allows them to have a relationship with a horse without actually having to ride that horse. they are missing the real fun riding but it isn't all the bad for the horse. the horses seem kind of bored and checked out but i guess there are worst things for a horse, like starvation.

I am at a large public barn and it the men who are the worst to the horses. I've seen men buy fancy beautiful show horses and they can't even ride. They don't have a clue. People who think if something looks easy it must be I guess. I have watched them ruin the horse, not listening to anyone until someone ends up getting hurt. I have seen this twice but for some odd reason it was the women in their lives who got hurt not them.

I think jason maybe a narcissistic opportunist type. One of those guys who saw a way to make some money plus get the attention and fame he desired. He was looking for women to come and worship him. wow he reminds me of men i used to meet when i lived in places like Laguna Beach, Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara.

The picture of him without his shirt is a dead giveaway to the type of person he might be.

Jenny Hill said...

Fantastic discussion. I don't post to blogs much, because I don't feel that my four years of riding has given me the experience to attempt tell anyone what to do.

I will say, however, that I am incredibly lucky to have found a local trainer who is worth her salt. She runs a small, safe, sane barn and training program. She is well-known throughout our region because of her nearly 30 years of successful experience in many disciplines, and I whole-heartedly feel that she could be just as notable as the big-name trainers. However, she prefers to work with the small group of fun, friendly people that have been lucky enough to find her.

While I do train with her weekly, I'm always reading about horses and training. I also pop in to check out clinicians at local fairs (though I rarely pay the big ticket prices to see one specifically). It's always my goal to take away one nugget of knoweldge from each experince, no matter how much I like or dislike the trainer in question. This allows me to remain open-minded to all points of view.

This method has served me well and keeps me grounded. The best part is: the more I see of other trainers, the better I like my own.

HorseOfCourse said...

Good post once again, Mugs.

Problem is that the people who get dazzled by the snake oil salesmen often lack the experience to look at the merchandise with a critical eye. And they get hooked on something that looks like magic and seems easy, trapped by their own dreams.
I believe a part of the problem lies in the world all around us.
The wheels are turning faster and faster. We get gadgets that help us solve the problems that earlier made us sweat and took a lot of our time.
We are used to get results, quick, and without much effort.
Horses are not things; they are living beings where each and everyone are unique. What worked on one might not work on the next.
I agree with the rest that say that you need wet saddle blankets, but it is more than that, isn’t it?
It is the understanding that comes with handling the horses too. Over years.
Riding (and horses) is so much about the road, and not the goals.
And it is a long and winding road too.
Other people’s experience and good advice when handling horses can make that road easier, just as a good riding instructor can help you to improve the riding – but in the end it is your own effort and experience that will create results.
Because each situation differs somewhat from the earlier ones. Each horse differs from the one before.
You have to build a bank of experience for yourself, and train that feel.
Some of us are more gifted than others. The rest of us just have to put in all those hours of dedicated work and stepped on toes to get there. And it doesn’t come without sweat.
As you said Mugs: “The horse world is magical because we're never done learning.”
That’s where the true magic lies.
Frustrating sometimes, yes, but a healthy counterbalance to the rest of the world that surrounds us.

Redsmom said...

Just got back on the internet this a.m.
Very, very well said, Mugs. You really expressed the moral of the story in clear-eyed terms.

I'm going to email you about the clinic, etc.

Redsmom said...

Oh and this is very important. You called "One Red Horse" "Redsmom" by mistake. It wasn't me!!!!! I wasn't even here.

horsegenes said...

completely off topic here... but did you all get your America's Horse mag and see the article about training on the trail. It occured to me that they have been reading mugwump chronicles. :)

Shanster said...

"It's also only the first baby step in a long journey that creates a rider."


"Because in the real world, horses are a tough nut to crack. We can train a mustang, or ride an Andalusian, but we've got to learn how to first. The hard way. By riding."

Yes! Absolutely! A LOT of hard work goes into making our horses what we want them to be... never 'poof' - magic - which goes for every single discipline out there. Tho' I get what you are saying about the draw to a "new technique" in the horse world.

This rang so true to me because during my lesson on Sunday, I asked my trainer to hop on my mare to evaluate how she is going and the work we've been doing.

Mostly it was good! However, we have "issues" with the canter pirouette... she worked my mare and my mare fought. Oy she can be opinionated! After a lot of sweat and a wet saddle blanket, she finally gave it up for my trainer. I got on and rode it to experience the "correct" way.

I absolutely appreciated my trainer's knowledge and experience to help me. She told me when it was all over and I was cooling my mare out that no horse in it's right mind WANTS to do this hard work and when you see the lightness of a schooled Dressage horse, no one sees the hard work and wet saddle blankets behind the "efortlessness"!

There is never a quick fix. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Anonymous said...

Jackie - this rabbit rescuer was up in WA state by any chance? And the hubby was from the UK? I was involved in the early stages of that one (hubby hated me because I never trusted him) but there wasn't enough evidence to remove the bunnies. I got busy and lost track of what was going on, so I'm glad to hear the bunnies were removed eventually.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Laura Atkins...I do know that name :)
Yes, that one. I thought someone got in there and removed them...but that was so long ago and I was starting to get out of it then (divorce sucks). I had The Warren House Rabbit Sanctuary and Guinea Pig Rescue...I still find articles I wrote floating around the internet and it's been I think over 9 years since I stopped ;)

Remember Petbunny list? Whatever happened to that one?

Okay, back to horses ;)


fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Kaptkaos - Jason is 42. He just TOLD people he was 29! LOL!

>>I am a Nebraskan. I know people who know this guy. They do not speak favorably. I'm told he's been scamming on things long before this.<<

That's what I heard from every single local I talked to. The neighbor had been trying to shut him down since October. It is frustrating how many horses have to die before law enforcement will act.

Mugs, really appreciated your analysis of Jason's riding from the pictures. It is just so sad to me how many people he scammed and how many horses were hurt or killed. I think horse training is like politics - sadly, looks/charm/bullshit will often get you further than intelligence and talent. If you aren't a great talker, people may overlook the fact that you're an awesome trainer.

LuvMyTBs said...

This post hit on a couple very astute observations and opinions from different views which is why I so enjoy reading this blog.Here's my 2 cents worth.

The Three Strikes and Paragallo Horses: I applaud and am greatful to all those who helped and aided all of those desperately neglected horses. However I really struggle with WHY the Jason's and Ernie's and others like them are somehow in the end NOT really held responsible or accountable for their horrific deeds.Ernie Paragallo has been doing this (and not getting caught) for several years and it seems Jason was reported MANY times. It always results in the horses paying with their lives and many other people paying the price to save them. Most of these types then move on to someplace new and start it all over again.

Guru's/NH Trainers/BNT's...pick one. I am always willing to learn new things and improve my abilities with horses but I think in todays world most people who get involved in all the crappy stuff that's out there don't have any horse skills/sense to begin with. I have been riding for almost 50 and I don't know it all but I was raised around horses and learned most all of what I know by the actual being with them,watching them and caring for them daily as well as learning how to ride correctly from the beginning.I would imagine that today an adult or middle aged horse newbie with a full time job will never get that kind of feel,experience,knowledge/education. It's not something one does weekly or by buying a "special" rope halter and leadline.Mostly I think all the gimmicks and quick fixes continues the perception that horse trainers are "Snake Oil Salesmen".Plus I think in todays world most people want it all NOW.The concept of learning and mastering horsemanship is getting lost when people dispose of horses like they do today.I'm always amazed when people think riding is so easy and effortless.

Nothing replaces wet blankets:AMEN!
I know alot of people who have horses and never ride them or ride them very inconsistently then whine about all the problems they are having when they do ride!!And I know alot of horses that are really well trained that pull all kinds of crap on their owners because they CAN!! I still teach so I have quite a few clients who think I'm the greatest when really all I do is ride their horses correctly and then help them to do the same. I see them on their horses with big smiles when they understand how it should feel and that they are actually enjoying their ride and their horse. Isn't that the point??

Amy said...


"I would imagine that today an adult or middle aged horse newbie with a full time job will never get that kind of feel,experience,knowledge/education."

I started riding when I was about to turn 23. I'm 25 now. You're right, I will never have the kind of education you have about horses. But my experience with NH trainers has helped me quite a bit. My first lesson instructor (and friend) loves Parelli. She broke her horse, and is pretty successful showing in multiple disciplines at local levels. Her horse is healthy and happy. She helped me to understand why a horse behaves in a certain way, which to me is a much better education than just "press this button, get this response" type of instruction. I also just started taking lessons from a local NH lady who has been around horses for 30 years. I suspect that a lot of her insights come more from experience than from a Parelli DVD.

To me, anyone who takes time to understand a horse's motivation is practicing NH. My friend gave me her level 1 and 2 Parelli DVDs, I watched the level 1 stuff... some of it made me roll my eyes, but some of it was really helpful.

And, when I tried a more "traditional" trainer, who is a well respected WP trainer around here, I got lovely tidbits of advice, such as- I should "beat the shit" out of my mare, when she turns and nips my leg if I'm riding I should beat her in the face with a crop, I should ride her hard until she's hot and sweaty, tie her up without water to think about it, then go and get her and do it all over again... the horses at her barn are very successful in the show ring, and they mostly sell for $7k and up, but at what price?

I think I'd rather muddle along and take my time myself, and fix problems conservatively. But maybe that's just because I ahven't been around horses long enough to view them as a commodity?

I'm not trying to be bitchy, but just maybe showing the attitude difference. For someone like me, who was a city girl, who always wanted a horse but my mom couldn't afford lessons, to me it's still magic to be around a horse, to be on a horse, and I can't imagine running them into exhaustion, tying them up, and then doing it again just to get submission. The lead mare doesn't tie other horses up to get submission, and I think it's quite possible to establish authority without beating and witholding water.

JMO, uneducated as it might be. And I'm not suggestion anyone who isn't a NH trainer does these things, but rather that maybe trainers are doing a lot more NH than they would like to admit because that term has some kind of stigma about it.

LuvMyTBs said...


I was in no way trashing NH training in general. The topic was about people's perceptions/abilities/and the sometimes bad choices that happen.

As someone else posted previously,Ray Hunt,Tom Dorrance almost anyone from ANY discipline has learned,gleaned and taken things from directly engaging with the horse and becoming aware of how it thinks and reacts.That by no means makes them a "magical guru" with all the right answers.

As for those who advised you to "beat the shit out of" or tie your mares head to her side I don't care who they are or where they show and train....that is not something that I condone or think should be tolerated on any level. I'm well aware that there is good and bad in every area of the horse world which is why I stated ....Pick One at the beginning of my post.

I'm an opinionated sometimes bitchy old horse gal and have seen more than I could ever comment on.
I LOVE horses,riding,everything about them.I'm glad you got the addiction at age 23.I wish you many years of enjoyment and devotion to your horses.Be a good steward of your love for horses and riding,always put your horses well being first.

mugwump said...

Still Learning - I think this happens with Mustangs a bunch. There are too many of them, they can be tough projects, any answer is considered a good answer.
I'm not sure what kind of watch dog groups need to be in place or how they will be organized.

I do agree with Justaplainsam >>> I cant help but wonder who thought it would be a good idea to put one guy in charge of 200 horses?<<<

Redsmom-I'm Sorry!!!! Really!

Londoner - I loved this. Being a recovering Catholic this truly rings a bell!>>>However, the idea of a 'cult' that mugs puts across is very interesting. To an extent, every trainer, every barn, every style of riding exerts a certain cult-like grip that can suck you in if you're not careful. I always compare riding to christianity, where there's one, monolithic belief and a million different splinters. Somewhere along the way we got torn apart and now stand fighting our different corners, no side willing to acquiesce. <<<

AnnieBanannie - I love this, this was my "Annie's" nickname.

Laura Crum - You and Anniebanannie hit it spot on..wet saddle blankets and sore butts...

jeniferb - I think you have a very valid point. Now we need Brad Pitt to star in a "Practical Horseman" movie, it could turn the tide....

fugs - I'm glad you picked up on that. It was kind of a standout for me.

LuvmyTBs - You answered that better than I would have. Thanks.

mugwump said...

kel - saw that, Horse and Rider covers it too. I'd love to think it's true, but, well, you'd think they'd call me and buy an article if it all my idea....anyway, I'm glad you saw it here first!

LuvMyTBs said... about a Practical Horseman movie with Sam Elliot and Brad Pitt!!! I'm there!

Redsmom said...

LuvmyTB's - My man, Robert Duvall, has to be in it too, although I love me some Sam Elliott!

LuvMyTBs said...

Redsmom: Oh a big Hell Yeah on Robert Duvall.I think if we also include Viggo Mortenson we have got ourselves a movie!! Now if we could only bring Ben Johnson back from the dead.He was a truly gifted horseman.I think if I ever met Sam Elliot in person I would be a blithering idiot (more than I am regularly)!! Boy does the man do it for me in every way!!!

gtyyup said...

I'm way late on commenting...most everyone has made very good comments. Yes,wet saddle blankets must be accompanied by sore butts, it's part of the program!

But, I'm glad you posted this Mugs. As with anything that looks like a fad, you're going to find the low life's that are going to be there to get a few bucks from some unsuspecting individual. I remember about 12 years ago when this guy we knew who couldn't keep a job or a girlfriend for any length of time, was handing out business cards in the bar at the St. Paul Rodeo...his new profession was NH...fixing problem horses was his specialty...I don't think he knew the difference from the front end to the back end of a horse!

Everyone needs to be aware. Always keep an open'll die before you know it all~~

Follow by Email