California Riding Magazine • October, 2009

Randy Byers Horsemanship
Confidence is leadership in action.

Working with a trainer who knows horses is essential, but there’s more to finding the right match than just the trainer’s relationship with the horse. When looking for a trainer, riders should ask themselves the following questions: How does the trainer relate to you? Does he understand where you’re coming from? Can he explain what you want to know in a way that makes sense and stays with you?

After growing up with horses, Northwest native Randy Byers left the horse world to raise a family. Once his family was well established, Randy found himself working on a cattle ranch in Baja, Mexico. Surprisingly, there were no trained cow horses available so he set about to buy and train his own. For help he turned to the local vaqueros, but felt this particular group used methods involving too much pain and fear. From there, he found his way into natural horsemanship and after years of reading, watching DVDs, taking clinics and doing plenty of hands-on work with a wide variety of horses, he began to study under John and Josh Lyons, earning the proudest achievement of his horsemanship career: a Lyons certification.

Understanding and training horses is in Randy’s blood, but his passion is educating humans. “I like to use questions, analogies and object lessons to really make things stick. I also keep the lessons fun and lighthearted. We have developed a really productive lesson and clinic program, but more importantly, we have developed a wonderful learning environment,” says Byers.

The Randy Byers Horsemanship program offers the perspective of someone who has been in the same place and who knows what it takes to achieve his dreams for riders returning to the saddle after time away, for aspiring horse people who want someone who understands the hesitation, fear and triumph of coming or returning to horses as an adult.

As an example of natural horsemanship, Byers gives a basic overview of what is required to gain respect, one of the key elements in teaching good ground manners, from a horse. In order to gain respect, the rider needs to gain control of the horse’s feet. Control of the feet automatically establishes the rider as the leader and achieves respect from the horse. It’s important to understand how the horse thinks because the successful trainer thinks like a horse.

The Horse’s Thoughts

Most horses think the same way, regardless of their age. At birth, horses have all their instinctive behaviors, are fully developed (precocial), and are fully physical and ready to learn neurotically. If the baby gets out of line, the mother or the herd will put her back in line. The challenge with humans training horses is that the horse doesn’t know what is right or wrong in our world.

For example, in some cultures it is customary to belch at the dinner table following a meal to express satisfaction with the meal. However this behavior is considered rude in Western society. Likewise, when a horse pushes a person out of the way or steps on someone’s foot, she is being a horse and showing leadership by controlling the person’s feet. Remember this: leadership is a fundamental behavior in horses, and it requires a leader and a subordinate. In their world,
the one standing is the leader and the one moving is the subordinate.

Developing Control

Teaching the horse what is acceptable in human society is all about how to control her feet. The trainer’s job is to out-think the horse. She can outweigh a person by four or five times, so it’s not feasible to physically show her what is acceptable. The simple concept to gain a horse’s respect is to not just move her feet, but to have control over her feet at will. To simplify this, break the horse up into five body parts—head, neck, shoulders, ribs, and hips—then work out of a round pen or on a lead line.

Many people start using the round pen to get the horse moving forward at liberty and for getting inside and outside turns. When working off of a lead line, find a starting point such as disengaging the hips around the forehand without the horse moving forward. Once this is possible on both sides, start working on moving the shoulders around the haunches. Forward impulsion comes from the hips and turning comes from the shoulders. With control of hips and shoulders comes control of impulsion and turning. And that is the beginning of developing good ground manners.

Article provided by Randy Byers Horsemanship. For more information call 253-444-8946 e-mail or visit