While chatting with the editor just before I missed the last issue, I decided that as time has moved on, half the readership probably have no idea who the hell I am, and the other half probably can’t remember! I have decided therefore that this will be my last article for the magazine thus drawing to a close an association with it since its inception. An association that I have been proud of.

I think I can safely speak for Roger Wells too. In saying when we had the dream of making western riding a respected discipline (back circa 1983): a coloured magazine, major sponsors, instructors everywhere, shows and clinics the length and breadth of the countryside was in our dreams, and so it is amazing. I am so thrilled that this has now become a reality.

How do I see the future?  The future is bright (but not orange) if we keep pushing the sport. We need to see more of the up and coming trainers out there, not just doing their own thing and enjoying the fruits sown by us oldies, but getting out there, doing demos and talks to riding clubs, pony clubs, etc.  A splendid way of increasing the acceptance of western could be putting on a DVD night, and discussing the pros and cons with your local riding club on a dark winters night at a local pub?  I know some of you do it… (David and Sarah Deptford spring to mind!!), but more of you please.

Back in the boonies, I travelled everywhere to promote and talk western riding…. county shows, are a great place to start. After the start of WES, the Association even put pleasure and trail classes on at these shows to promote the sport.  BQHA as it was then, held halter, and some ridden classes at them too. Back in 1989, I travelled the length and breadth of the UK with Ian Stark (twice gold and once silver medalist three-day event rider), with demonstrations of his and my sport every other night for very little money (we both got ripped off by the organiser of the tour). Tiring? Yes. The first night was on the borders, next one in Essex, etc. However western riding was put in front of an incredible amount of people (thanks to Ian’s reputation). Tewy and Kio I showed how the western horse was started, pleasure paces, trail, lead changes, etc., finishing up with reining training and a pattern. It was not done to make people rush out, buy a quarter horse, and ride western (though many did), but to get people to respect western riding as a discipline, as good as any other, and to prove that you didn’t have to be a cowboy to ride western. Talk begets viewing, begets customers, begets sponsorship. It’s a win-win situation. Demonstrations and education are by example are putting back into the sport that has given many an income.

It is that previous work that some of us did that has given many the chance to be where they are today, don’t lose it, make it Bigger, then your children have something to go for.

On to another problem, I often hear about! The rise of the prima donna reiner! The disease seems to be spreading. I was one of the first group to start British Reining. I was, and still am, passionate about reining (I won my first reining in 1984), and wherever I could, I would partake or promote that discipline…. alongside the other disciplines. We didn’t worry about the surface, I’ve won reining on grass with the rain coming sideways!  On tour and in demonstrations, reining would be part of it; we had no choice as to surfaces, we just got on with it. I can remember having this conversation with Shawn Flarida’s parents, and they were in agreement with me.  So prima donnas - reining was brought to the attention of the UK public by people reining on any surface, and scoring well to boot! Now before you sharpen up your assegais, I know it looks better on good surfaces, but the only thing missing on a poor surface is the ability to have good slides….and I like them too! BUT the slide is part of a manoeuvre that includes an approach and or rollback or backup. In other words, it is just one-third of the total manoeuvre. On the average riding surface, you can ride super circles, spins, etc., so for most of a reining pattern, you can practice, in general anywhere, thus giving Joe public the chance to see good quality reining. In fact, the only thing in reining Joe public doesn’t understand, is a sliding stop. They can understand the rest! Get out there, promote the smoothness and finesse first, quality before sliding. Trust me; I’ve judged hundreds - no millions of runs - where a slide has been good or very good but marred by an approach, and or rollback or back up. I wouldn’t mind if this lack of promotion at other events were coming from 75 scoring riders, but most of these comments are coming from the people marking 65 to 67 runs on good ground. That means they have 8 manoeuvres marking mostly poor to very poor, but walk around thinking that they are superior horseman because they ride a ‘reiner’. To give an example, the other day I was asking students to ride correct circles. To help, I put four identically striped poles at north, south, east, and west to form an 18-metre circle. What I wanted them to do was jog the circle concentrating on stepping over the centre white stripe of each pole and getting there without moving their rein hand. You have to concentrate hard on the line and set up the use of your core weight and legs much earlier than people think. I was about to say that a lot of non-pros let themselves down on this manoeuvre by riding oval, squares and oblongs and missing centre markers ……before I could get this out, one student interrupted and said that they didn’t do poles because they were riding a reiner! Circles are the foundation of good horseman per se.

You get over 70 in a score because you have shown the judge that your pattern is above average, so from now on please celebrate the western horse/rider that is above average in any of the western disciplines, not by the type of discipline they ride.

On a final note, on trainers and training. I would love to see the powers that be in any of our three major societies with a plan to reward the trainers who take a young horse, born on British soil, train it and perform consistently above the 70 standard. Trainers and Breeders of homegrown horses deserve some sort of reward and recognition over those just brought in from overseas ready to compete. I have nothing against the latter, obviously, but it would encourage the breeding of and training of homegrown talent. I would love to help in that department.

Lastly, I would like to touch on a subject close to my heart... cheating. I am not pointing the finger at anyone. We have all seen what it has done to other sports, and quite honestly, I would ban the offenders for life. They knew the illegality and yet thought they could get away with it thus giving the ‘bird’ to everyone else. Involving animals is even worse because you are dabbling with another’s fitness and health.

Drugs are primarily used for medical purposes while a healing process takes place, not to mask pain, or enhance performance for personal gratification and financial reward. Both are cheating and taking awards away from people who have worked hard and spend a lot of money without this evil. Please, please keep our sport clean. It is your responsibility to know the facts.

An instance where cheating went against the rider happened while I was judging the futurity in Oklahoma. The rider’s horse refused to lope out of a rollback and was kicked so hard to lope that it ended up with the horse bleeding from spur marks on his sides, NO SCORE. When I naïvely mentioned this, I was informed that the rider had probably doped the horse a bit too much.

Someone once said ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’. I prefer to ask yourself if you must win by breaking the rules what on earth are you teaching the next generation? It can only go downhill. If you have to use drugs for a genuine reason, then don’t show and if you are unsure then check it out with those who know.

Anyway everyone, it is time for me to wrap up the article, I will still be around giving a few lessons, tips, and clinics, or just plain answering questions. Anything I can do to help the western rider and their horse to crank up a gear ….so don’t be afraid to ask. It’s been a great trip thanks to those who have been with Chrissie and me along the way. I look forward to meeting up with you wherever and whenever.

Onwards and upwards