About Andrzej Makacewicz
Andrzej Makacewicz is a trainer and founder of the largest riding school in Poland, JNBT Horsemanship Academy. After a long time learning from the best, like Pat Parelli, Clinton Anderson, Chris Cox, Richard Winters, David O'Connor, Craig Cameron, Buck Brannaman, Steve Halfpenny, working for Monty Roberts, training with other great horsemen, working as a cowboy in Montana, studying wild horses behaviour and starting wild colts, training a few hundred horses annually, giving a show on the National Horse Expos in Poland and Italy, getting a judge license and serving as general secretary of PLWiR, finally he was inspired by Dr Robert Miller, DVM, to start his own multi-level training program for horse riders. The school grew within a few years to become the biggest in Poland and trains over 6000 riders from beginners up to national team level.
About the Author
Zuzanna Makacewicz is Andrzej’s 19 year old daughter. From an early age, she has been working with horses using the methods of the JNBT Horsemanship Academy. She studies at the horse breeding Technical school. Meanwhile, she is making her first trainer steps in several European countries.
Zuzanna Makacewicz interviews her Dad, Andrzej Makacewicz, the runner-up in this year's Mustang Makeover in Germany.
Mustang Makeover Germany is an annual event with its finals in Aachen, Germany. The main goal is to support the protection of mustangs, but one of its vital messages is the presentation of training techniques of some of the European horse trainers. The population of America's wild horses has nearly reached 72,000, which is almost three times more than the planned 27,000 to be kept in the reserves. For this reason, unfortunately, not all of them end their lives in a natural way.
The Mustang Makeover event exists to help change this situation. This year, 20 mustangs out of those caught by BLM in an Idaho reserve were selected to start a new life - far, far away from their homelands. In May 2021, these wild horses travelled by air to Frankfurt, from where they were collected and further transported by 15 trainers selected for this year's challenge. Trainers had 120 days to prepare a wild mustang for the shows at the finals in Aachen in August. The mustangs were to be prepared to cooperate with any rider, as they were intended for the auction closing the finals. One of the coaches was my dad, Andrzej Makacewicz, competing for Poland and represented his school JNBT Horsemanship Academy. He became the runner-up of this year's (fifth) edition.
Z: Dad, it was your second Mustang Makeover contest. How was it this year?
A: Different and even more interesting than last year. I got a mature 8-year-old mustang with the number 6417, a beautiful but extremely dominant animal. In nature, he was a wild stallion with his own herd, mares and children, and he knew just too well how to deal with other individuals. For the first two weeks, his house was a round pen next to my horses. I started working on the first touch, which took me eight days, while the calm acceptance of a training halter took me three weeks! In the beginning, as soon as he saw a halter on his right, he kept exploding and threatened to bite or kick. He was distrustful, independent and did not seek any communication or contact.
Z: So, how did you manage to break through such a distrust?
A: I took my time. I am a supporter of techniques in which we give each horse as much time as it needs. Then the training effect is more permanent. I tried not to force anything while waiting for his approval. After three weeks, he started chewing and licking, communicating, focused, and guessing my suggestions. Of course, it was just groundwork which as you know, is the foundation of my Relation Based Training Program, and step by step, everything started to work. With my 10 Golden Minutes ® technique, I built this wild horse's strong trust in me as a herd leader. We created such a powerful bond that he turned to me and not the other horses when released into the herd. He followed me at liberty, so together, we went through the first obstacles. Trust gives the horse a great motivation to cooperate with the human. And training was slowly becoming fun - for both of us!
Z: What's the crucial point in your program that gives such effects?
A: The 10 Golden Minutes ® technique is related to the herd dynamics used at every contact. In short, it establishes first communication using the power of sight and the body language - based on the natural communication of horses, and related to the Makacewicz Triad ®, and energy juggling. In my opinion, these are the foundations of building strong relationships with horses in a way that is understandable to them, since they have developed it over millions of years through evolution.
Z: Yeah, but you were supposed to compete in a dressage test, trail and ‘Mustang Magic’ freestyle show during the finals.
A: In my relation based training program, relationships are always the first. Having a trustful animal closely bonded with me, starting him under saddle after 1.5 months of the groundwork, took me 5 minutes. I mounted a trusting and safe 'wild' horse, well prepared from the ground. We went for a trail ride only on the halter - in all gaits on the third day. In my program, time for riding aids and techniques comes after establishing communication and balanced relations. So, after the fifth halter training in the saddle, I was cantering bridleless in the open on a focused and confident horse. I wanted him to understand my seat and balance before I introduced a bit. After gaining lightness and softness, it was a time for vertical flexion and developing impulsion and back muscles. We also did some jumping training. He surprised me with the beauty and freedom of his jumping.
Z: Last year, you competed with a mustang named Geronimo of a similar age. How would you compare him to Free Spirit?
A: Both mustangs were mature and tough horses, but I am very proud of them. Trained in my program for a similar amount of time, they both behaved identically. I could lay down each of them, and they would calmly fall asleep on my knees. They were safe and light, focused on a human, easily ridden on a halter, bit or even bridleless. This is what opens up huge training opportunities where mutually balanced relations are the guiding force.
Z: Both Mustangs sold for 16-19k Euro. What did you feel after the auction?
A: Don't ask, you saw my tears, and your eyes got wet too.
Z: Right, most of the coaches felt the same.
A: Well, Mustang Makeover is a highly emotional event.
Z: This year, you and the sponsor Katja Krause - Osteopathie Zentrum, called your mustang Free Spirit. Where did this inspiration come from?
A: Of course, from our dear fans who perfectly read the character of 6417 by watching the videos of his training process.
Z: And what was important for you in this edition?
A: Meeting great people and friends (to name a few: Ludovic Fournet, the winner of this year's edition, Gilianne Senn, Thomas Günther, Silvia Wölk, Honza Bláha, and many others). It is important to me that it was a challenge for trainers and horses, and not just a competition. Hence the fantastic atmosphere, humour and cooperation, not to mention that all the horses have found a new home.
Z: Do you think the winning three: Ludovic, you, and Gilianne rode your mustangs bitless is just a coincidence?
A: Well, the use of the equipment was up to the trainer, although with some restrictions, e.g. the use of spurs not being allowed. The judges also scored the horse's lightness and willingness to cooperate. So, these results show how groundwork and the use of light communication give a quick training effect. I think these wonderful wild horses can be an excellent inspiration for the entire equestrian world, just like the whole event. These magnificent animals deserve our attention and support. The Mustang Makeover fits this message wonderfully.
Z: Do you see any differences between horses born in a stable and mustangs raised in the wild?
A: Of course, they are different. In favour of the mustangs, although they are more difficult initially and you have to gain their trust, you work with a ‘blank card’. On the other hand, many stable horses that come to the Academy already need correction training. They are 'difficult' mainly due to human mistakes. It is gratifying that the JNBT training concept based on relationships and the horse language is so universal that it works well for every horse, including wild brumbies or thousands of domestic horses - with the same positive results. However, it's worth mentioning that the work with wild horses requires more knowledge, awareness and reflection on every movement. Every achieved (or messed up) thing is visible immediately. They are clear about it.
Z: Well, it was incredibly educational from the spectator's perspective. You could clearly see the effects of each training session. Have you noticed anything else that made the mustangs different from the horses we usually deal with?
A: One big difference is how many everyday things for domestic horses and us are potentially dangerous for a wild-grown mustang, like the unfolding rope - at the sight of which Free Spirit used to explode. Extreme caution and consideration of each movement had to be exercised. Another interesting thing is that apples or carrots, a delicacy for our horses, were of no interest to the mustangs. However, it's a good thing because, as you know, we avoid and warn about the problems arising from hand-feeding with treats and the risk of ruining the relationship with humans. Mustangs also differ in the forms of communication in the herd, e.g. not neighing. For the first weeks, when our horses neighed loud at every opportunity, the mustangs could not understand why they made themselves such an easy target for predators, and so, they kept very quiet. To sum up, no matter if it is a mustang or a stable horse, you can be sure of one thing - "They know when you know, and they know when you don't".